Jack Kerouac Was a Secret, Obsessive Fan of Fantasy Baseball


Bear in mind, fan­ta­sy base­ball fans, that with the sea­son about to start up again, you should­n’t feel like you have to take any grief for enjoy­ing the game. It counts among its enthu­si­asts no less a lumi­nary than Jack Ker­ouac, author of On The Road and The Dhar­ma Bums, and he did­n’t just enjoy it, he arguably invent­ed it. The New York Pub­lic library devot­ed an exhi­bi­tion to Ker­ouac’s near-life­long hob­by called “Fan­ta­sy Sports and the King of the Beats,” reveal­ing how the writer invent­ed an elab­o­rate means of expe­ri­enc­ing the joys of Amer­i­ca’s Nation­al Pas­time all on his own.


He also cre­at­ed an entire world of imag­ined teams, imag­ined play­ers, and imag­ined ath­let­ic and finan­cial dra­mas as well. The New York Times’ Charles McGrath writes that Ker­ouac “obses­sive­ly played a fan­ta­sy base­ball game of his own inven­tion, chart­ing the exploits of made-up play­ers like Wino Love, War­by Pep­per, Heinie Twi­ett, Phe­gus Cody and Zagg Park­er, who toiled on imag­i­nary teams named either for cars (the Pitts­burgh Ply­mouths and New York Chevvies, for exam­ple) or for col­ors (the Boston Grays and Cincin­nati Blacks).”


Rather than a dis­trac­tion from his writ­ing, all this proved to be “ide­al train­ing for a would-be author,” since his ver­sion of fan­ta­sy base­ball also required him come up with volu­mi­nous cov­er­age of the action which “imi­tates the over­heat­ed, epi­thet-stud­ded sports­writ­ing of the day.” Fan­ta­sy base­ball has since turned into a nation­al (and, to an extent, even inter­na­tion­al) phe­nom­e­non, but the game that thou­sands of base­ball nuts play today, which uses the real sta­tis­tics of non-made-up base­ball play­ers on actu­al teams, does­n’t demand near­ly as much cre­ativ­i­ty as did the one Ker­ouac played by him­self.


Ker­ouac’s fan­ta­sy base­ball even achieved a kind of pre­science, not just in terms of pre­fig­ur­ing fan­ta­sy base­ball as we now know it, but events in base­ball prop­er: “As befit­ting the author of On the Road, the nar­ra­tor of which jour­neys three times to Cal­i­for­nia with a pil­grim’s zeal,” says the NYPL’s site, Ker­ouac “brought his fan­ta­sy base­ball league to Cal­i­for­nia. In this instance, fan­ta­sy trumped real­i­ty, since Ker­ouac’s Cal­i­for­nia teams are estab­lished at least one year before the Dodgers and Giants aban­doned New York for Cal­i­for­nia.” One won­ders what the vic­to­ries and tribu­la­tions of the Ply­mouths and the Chevvies, the Grays and the Blacks, their fates decid­ed with mar­bles, sticks, com­plex dia­grams, and cards full of now-inde­ci­pher­able sym­bols, might fore­tell about the fate of Major League Base­bal­l’s teams this com­ing sea­son.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jack Kerouac’s Hand-Drawn Map of the Hitch­hik­ing Trip Nar­rat­ed in On the Road

Jack Ker­ouac Lists 9 Essen­tials for Writ­ing Spon­ta­neous Prose

Jack Ker­ouac Reads from On the Road (1959)

Jack Kerouac’s Naval Reserve Enlist­ment Mugshot, 1943

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (6)
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  • KG says:

    So the guy was nut­ty enough to make up a fan­ta­sy base­ball uni­verse? Point­less.

  • Braun Rodman says:

    Not only that Ker­ouac also invent­ed a horse rac­ing and foot­ball game (which he describes in Visions of Ger­ard; that also includ­ed rac­ing forms/imaginary players/jockeys/ and teams), one of his fan­ta­sy Base­ball note­books were stolen in mex­i­co, which he referred to as the “lost sea­son”. There is also a sto­ry (I don’t remem­ber exact­ly what col­lec­tion it is in) where Ker­ouac nar­rates one of the base­ball games he’s play­ing.

  • Alfred says:

    Point­less? Your com­ment is this, KG.

    Its a great relief to know that the rest­less writer also needs to close the gate and play. Old greek Lucianos wrote about this. Rest is as impor­tant to the thinker/reader as it is to the ath­lete after hard train­ing :) Words to live by.

  • Gary B Trujillo says:

    I’m not sure what YOU are doing every day that is so intrigu­ing, but tech­ni­cal­ly EVERYTHING is point­less. Remem­ber that every time you try to place impor­tance on human fol­ly.

  • WUDI says:

    He is real­ly an inter­est­ing per­son, the father of fan­ta­sy base­ball, haha

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