Cieradkowski: Jack Kerouac, manager of the Pittsburgh Plymouths

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski at Studio Gary C on February 20, 2020:

I needed a literature course one semester in college and after discovering all the other options were taken, had to enroll in a poetry class. Now I was a big reader, always was, but poetry seemed such an elitist indulgence to me. I had never tried or even considered writing a poem before and the thought of taking an entire class in that really scared the hell out of me. What do I write about, flowers and trees, love and longing? Hell, I was from Jersey and we were taught to keep all that stuff to yourself.

Fortunately for me, the head of the poetry department at my college was an old beat writer by the name of Joe Carderelli. He was a big, bearded guy, built like a football player, not your stereotypical idea of a poet. For one of my first assignments, I had written a piece about listening to a baseball game on the radio. My reading to the class received many blank stares followed by comments that no one understood baseball and some even asking me why I had written about such a stupid game. I was in art school, a real legit ivy-league art school, and no one was supposed to like sports, let alone write poetry about it. During a break, I went outside to have a smoke and up comes Ol’ Joe Carderelli. To have him spend the smoke break talking with you was kind of a unwritten honor only awarded to the students whose work he liked.

So Joe walks up, fires up a Lucky and asks me about baseball. What team did I follow?, do I go to many games?, did I play?… and then he said something I always remembered: Baseball was the poets’ sport. He went on and on talking about the beauty of a centerfielder racing to catch a fly ball, the quiet moment during the time between a pitcher’s stretch and throw to the plate. The feeling of indescribable joy walking towards the well-lit stadium before a night game. Over the course of the semester we talked often about baseball and writers who were fans of the game. I knew Hemingway followed the White Sox fan as a kid and Joe told me that all the beats he palled around with back in the sixties were big fans. The more I immersed myself in poetry, the more writers I found who mention the National Pastime in their work. But the one writer who I think embraced the spirit of baseball more than any others was Jack Kerouac.

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Originally published: February 21, 2020. Last Updated: February 21, 2020.