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Totally Random: John Updike, Ted Williams, Shaq

January 27, 2009 |  6:00 pm

Ted Williams 1 Ted Williams 2 Ted Williams 3

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Updike, who died Tuesday, was a baseball fan pure and simple. Anyone doubting the depth of his feelings for the game need only refer to a New Yorker magazine piece he penned in 1960 on Red Sox legend Ted Williams.

It was a 5,880-word essay, each sentence perfectly crafted. Here are just a few of them about watching the home run that Williams hit in his final at-bat. Williams was 42 at the time. Updike was 28.

"The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. ...

"Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs -- hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted, ‘We want Ted’ for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back."

One man could hit. The other could write.

Trivia time

Who is the youngest golfer ever to take part in the Masters tournament at Augusta?

Sizeable error

Noting that Shaquille O’Neal’s middle name of Rashaun translates from Islam as Little Warrior, O’Neal biographer and Washington Post writer Mike Wise once asked his mother if she ever regretted the choice.

"I knew I made a mistake when the train conductor wouldn’t believe his age and tried to make me pay more money," Lucille O’Neal said. "Shaquille was so big, I used to have to take his birth certificate everywhere. I think I put it in his pocket at Halloween because none of the neighbors believed a boy that large was 10 years old."

Trivia answer

Tommy Jacobs, who was 17 years, one month and 21 days old when he appeared as an amateur in 1952.

And finally

When the New Zealand cricket team arrived in Sydney on Wednesday (Australia time), it was greeted with a photograph of the team in the Daily Telegraph under the headline: "Even this useless lot say they can beat us."

-- Grahame L. Jones

Photos: Ted Williams is shown in sequence, left to right, hitting a home run against the Kansas City Royals in 1956. Credit: Associated Press.

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