Kerouac: Can you dig it?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

You must understand the idea is Beat.

Dig? Beat as Beat itself. Beat as Jack. And who was as Beat as Jack? Ginsberg, maybe? Burroughs, possibly? Everyone wanted to be like Jack. All those cats and chicks be-bopping and freight-train hopping; all those beret-wearing-hipsters in fog-induced hazes.

Jack was Beat. Beat in life and Beat in words and, you know what, my incense-burning-cigarette-smoking-and-wh atever-else-you're-rolling-in-that-button-down-peacoat, friends? Beat in baseball.

Jack Kerouac (like I had to give you the High Priest of Beat's last name) will be honored tonight in his hometown of Lowell, Mass., with a bobblehead doll. That's right, my little seamhead-loving, split-fingered-fastball guys and dolls, Jack on a bobblehead. Given to the first 1,000 who file into LeLacheur Park to see minor league baseball's Lowell Spinners play the Williamsport Crosscutters.

Can you dig that, my all-in-black, bongo-thumping, finger-clicking Beats? Jack on a bobble-induced trip? Breathing in the hot dogs and fresh-cut grass? Yeah, Daddy-O. A little piece of green heaven. Soak it down and breathe it in.

But, wait a minute. Is this cool? Is this subterranean hip? Would Jack be-bop to LeLacheur Park as high as on a Benzedrine haze?

"Jack would love it."

You know who says that, my little hipsters? John Sampas, Jack's literary executor and brother-in-law. That's right, bobble buddies. In fact, Jack might have thought this the hippest of anything anyone has ever done. Not only was Little Beat Jack a native of Lowell, the Beatest little town north of Boston, but he played sandlot baseball, excelled in football and track at Lowell High School, and even played a little football at Columbia.

But Jack loved baseball. He was Bill Lee before Bill Lee, all into base-on-balls, hitting-for-the-cycle, hit-and-running, playing-to-win. In fact, Jack was digging the diamond so much he created an intricate baseball game when he was on his way to Beatdom back in the 1930s that included more than 100 handwritten cards involving a six-team league. The teams were named after automobiles (Boston Fords, Philadelphia Pontiacs, Pittsburgh Plymouths) and Jack's hippest-of-minds made up rosters that included players like Charley Custer, Wino Love and Pancho Villa.

You think your Strat-O-Matic is the end? Guess again, you box-score-studying-over-your-morning-cereal baller. Jack's game was played in real time, right down to foul tips, involving toothpicks, erasers and marbles. And he kept hundreds of pages of statistics and standings (Pancho Villa led the league in steals). Even gave each team's fiscal data.

"He couldn't have been more than 12 or 13," Sampas said.

Oh, yeah, Jack was Beat into sports. He played football. Ran track in high school; even medaled at the New England Scholastic Meet at the most be-bopping of buildings ever, the old Boston Garden. But who knew about the baseball?

"I have to admit I wasn't aware about the baseball game he invented."

That's Jon Goode, who will be referred to as the Daddy-O of the Beat High Priest Promotion. Knowing Jack's roots, Goode, the Spinners' media relations dude, thought of renting the 120-foot scroll that is the original manuscript of the King of Wanderlust's On the Road, purchased at auction, in a cosmic-trip-of-hip, serendipitous way by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for a cool $2.43 million. But Goode, the Dharma Bum of all original thoughts in promotions, wondered, "What about a hip-shaking, head-bobbing Jack-on-a-spring?"

Working with Sampas and Hilary Holladay, a Kerouac scholar and University of Massachusetts English prof who directs a hip little conference on all things Jack, Goode's cooler-than-cool idea of the Jack bobble is shake, rattlin' and rollin' to being the hottest bobble ever.

Makes me wonder, my curious-in-a-Dharma-kind-of-way readers (who, like me, might find inspiration in T.C. Boyle). Maybe Jack's bobble starts a new wave of bobblers. For instance, maybe Hemingway, who loved a good boxing match, could have a bobblehead at the next big fight? Heck, Papa, who spent time fighting-and-writing in Key West, even started a youth baseball league in the 1940s in Cuba. Maybe the Marlins could work a little something out. Or maybe the Devil Rays want to honor Jack. After all, Jack spent his final Beat year in St. Pete with Mom in 1969.

The possibilities are endless. John Updike at Fenway. Spike Lee at Madison Square Garden. Where does it all end? Maybe a whole head-bobbing, Beat-bobble collection. What could be cooler than that?

Now that's Beat.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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