My Red Smith books took a beating at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. A coffee ring on the cover of one and chocolate-glazed fingerprints on another. There is also the ripped jacket and warped cover from a crash landing in a slushy puddle.
These books are now, as Smith once said, “As beautiful as a well-read newspaper left in a heap on the D train.”
His baseball stories were to be consumed on crowded trains, and they were enjoyed daily for more than 50 years.
“I punch the clock every day,” Smith said. “Over the years people asked, ‘Isn’t it dull covering baseball every day?’ My answer: ‘It becomes dull only to dull minds.’ If you have the perception and the interest to see it, and the wit to express it, your story is always different from yesterday’s story.”
It’s hard to find fresh insight on the train these days. Sometimes an armload of books is best.
“The question of what to do with old newspaper columns isn’t quite the same as how to dispose of used razor blades, but the difference is negligible,” Smith said. “This is especially so in baseball where today’s defeat makes yesterday’s victory meaningless. Why preserve dead columns for public display? The answer, if there is one, is: Because everything written is part of the record of its time. Everyone who writes reflects the age in which they live, and this is no less true of the baseball writer than of the dramatist, essayist or historian.”
Red Smith would have been a great blogger.