Archives for posts with tag: Babe Ruth

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CHRONICLES, Volume One (Excerpt)

Memoir by Bob Dylan

“[In 1961] I didn’t follow baseball that much but I did know that Roger Maris who was with the Yankees was in the process of breaking Babe Ruth’s home-run record…Maris was from Hibbing, Minnesota…On some level I guess I took pride in being from the same town. There were other Minnesotans, too, that I felt akin to. Charles Lindberg, the first aviator to fly nonstop across the Atlantic in the ‘20s. He was from Little Falls. F. Scott Fitzgerald, a descendant of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and who himself wrote The Great Gatsby, was from St. Paul…Sinclair Lewis had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first American to do so. Lewis had written Elmer Gantry and was the master of absolute realism, had invented it. He was from Sauk Center, Minnesota. And then there was Eddie Cochran, one of the early rock-and-roll geniuses who was from Albert Lee, Minnesota. Native sons—adventurers, prophets, writers, and musicians. They were all from the North Country. Each one followed their own vision, didn’t care what the pictures showed. Each one of them would have understood what my inarticulate dreams were about. I felt like I was one of them or all of them put together.”

Note: This quote from the final pages of Chronicles, Volume One, by Bob Dylan called to mind other favorite artists from Minnesota, though Dylan wouldn’t have been aware of them in 1961. A nod to filmmakers Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Fargo) and Terry Gilliam (Brazil), author Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), cartoonist Charles M. Schultz (Peanuts), and musician Prince.

Published in 2004, Chronicles, Volume One, by Bob Dylan has met with critical and reader acclaim — and was one of five finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Dylan is currently working on Chronicles, Volume Two.

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Since I don’t own a TV and haven’t been watching the Olympics, I don’t know if the coverage has included segments about Jim Thorpe, the star of the 1912 games in Stockholm, Sweden. In a recent poll by ABC sports, Thorpe was voted the greatest athlete of the 20th century (besting Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jordan).

Of Irish, French, and Native American ancestry, Thorpe was born in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1888 and attended high school at the Carlisle (Pennsylvania) Indian Industrial School, where he excelled in baseball, football, lacrosse, track and field, and even ballroom dancing.

At the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathalon — but a year later the Olympics committee stripped him of his records and medals. The committee contended that Thorpe was not qualified to compete as an amateur because he’d earned a few dollars per game when playing baseball during summers as a youth. After many attempts by many individuals, Thorpe’s Olympics records were reinstated in 1982 and his children were awarded commemorative medals (the originals were stolen from museums).

I first learned about Thorpe when viewing Jim Thorpe All American, the 1951 biopic starring Burt Lancaster. It’s a tearjerker, but enjoyable and elevating in its way. Find out more about the movie here.

I have avoided using the “R” word in this article — but you have to wonder if a European American would have been so treated in the wide, wide world of sports, even in 1912.

Note on the above photo: On the day Thorpe competed in the decathalon, someone stole his shoes. At the last minute, he found two worn-out shoes in a trash bin — and won a gold medal wearing the mismatched shoes, one of which was too large and required extra socks.