Reising: Revisiting Ernest Hemingway and baseball: sanity, success, and suicide

From SABR member Robert Reising on June 6, 2016, at the Journal of American Culture:

The suicide of Robin Williams on August 11, 2014, sparked a barrage of analyses, the bulk of them allying him with Ernest Hemingway, who died by his own hand in 1961. One indisputable conclusion appears among those controversy-filled analyses: the reasons the two geniuses moved to life-ending decisions remain unknown. In anticipating queries from readers of Papa Hemingway, authored in 1966 by Hemingway’s “close friend for fourteen years, right up to the end,” A. E. Hotchner confessed that “I cannot tell you why”(xi). Forty-eight years later, a doctor of Clinical Psychology with almost half-a-century of experience sounded similar while declaring TV’s popular Dr. Drew “wrong” in his conclusions about the comic’s suicide: the Idaho professional argues that “Certainly we can never know the thoughts and emotions he [Williams] privately experienced that eventually led him to end his own life” (Hueftle). A later analysis, “Madness and the Muse,” while mentioning Williams and Hemingway in an impressive review of research on its topic, is forced to end with a frustrated and frustrating indecisiveness (Bartlett). Appearing even more recently, “The Persistent Myth of the Mad Genius” merely reinforces that same indecisiveness (Tavris).

Yet, neither controversy nor uncertainty disguises an interest that the two shared. Both the writer and Williams enjoyed baseball. The latter was a committed fan, and a long-time admirer, of his adopted city’s National League team, the San Francisco Giants (Cassavell). But Hemingway was different. He “fancied himself an aficionado of baseball almost as much as he regarded himself as the American expert of the bull ring…” states Paul Hendrickson (317). That belief, he harbored and cultivated over the bulk of his lifetime until it emerged—full blown—in the last novel of his creation published before his death. The Old Man and the Sea was “an immediate success throughout the world,” proclaimed Charles Scribner, Jr., in his “Introduction” to the 1952 edition of the work, adding that it was “specifically cited when the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Hemingway in 1954” (9).

Read the full article here (subscription required):

Originally published: June 13, 2016. Last Updated: June 13, 2016.