A Platform in Brooklyn

Two Jacks and Baseball.

Jackie Robinson day has passed in a year with unrest, uncertainly, and a whole bunch of cranky people. But when I remember Jackie’s legacy I like to think of this “old” rookie, waiting on a platform in Brooklyn, preparing to start his journey in history. That journey would be recorded and become part of American history. There was another man. Weathered more of life than his contemporaries, that started a journey on a platform in Brooklyn. Around the same time and perhaps in the same week. His journey would also be recorded and be moved into the history of American.

In 1947, while Robinson was hitting the field, Jack Kerouac hit the road. His travels and tales, which like Jackie Robinson, included a wide range of characters. Some villains, some heroes, but most that included a little bit of both. Kerouac’s novel On The Road was published in 1957 and, like Jackie’s debut 10 years early, was praised and vilified but had a lasting effect. Both Jackie and Jack have lasting effects in their chosen careers and American history. 


Hardcore Fantasy Baseball


Jackie and Jack also shared baseball. Jack Kerouac invented his own Stat-o-Cast-like game creating entires seasons. He started this early in his life as a way to comfort himself after the death of his brother. Each year, until the early ’60s, he would create sheets for players, tallying attributes good and bad. Darts tossed at the cards to simulate the game. Seasons were 40 games long, which included an All-Star game and the postseason.

Using the name, Jack Lewis, he wrote about the season. Jack Lews would tally trades, give a history to players, describe the game. Off-seasons would be written with labor disputes, front office changes, and player issues. 

This was a hardcore version of fantasy baseball. Yet, a private passion that he hides from Sal Paradise, his alter ego in On The Road and any of his other writings. Kerouac hid baseball from the emotions he poured into his books, while Robinson spent part of his career hiding his emotions from baseball. 


Baseball ain’t for you kid


In 1961, Jack Kerouac and a friend were coming out of a movie. Kerouac encouraged his friend, a former college football player, and former minor league baseball player, to pursue his acting interest. Paul Gleason would go on to a successful acting career, including starring in movies like Die Hard, Trading Places, and Johnny B Good. He co-starred in Johnny B Good with Robert Downey Jr. who, as Iron Man, would share the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman also played Jackie Robinson in the recent movie 42 and passed away this year on the day MLB celebrated Jackie Robinson. Gleason’s teammates in college included Burt Reynolds and Robert Urich.

That special place that Jackie Robinson shares with American history is part of what makes baseball special. Baseball is an amazing sport with an amazing history. It is easy to forget just how engrained in life baseball used to be. 

Mat Kovach

Despite being an Indians fan in the late 70's I grew to love baseball. I started throwing spitballs when I was 10 and have been fascinated with competitive shenanigans in baseball ever since.

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