Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats: From the Jack Kerouac Archive

As a child and adolescent, Kerouac expressed his love of sports by creating fantasy worlds centered on Thoroughbred horse racing and especially baseball. He dreamed of becoming a sports reporter, and recorded the exploits of his racing circuit in tout sheets and news sheets, illustrating them with clippings of real horses to which he appended fantasy names. After 1937 he presumably stopped playing the game, doubtless because he outgrew its simplicity. Fantasy baseball, however, maintained its hold on him to the end of his life. In the "œpublications" accompanying the game, Kerouac provided the players, coaches, managers, and owners with far more detailed biographical histories than he did for the fantasy horse racing participants. He created a set of cards that, in combination with the skill level of the batter and pitcher, controlled the progress of the game, possibly in conjunction with the use of dice. A season comprised about forty games (for each team), not including the annual All Star game and the World Series, which was played between the first- and second-place teams.

A fascinating sidebar: in his fantasy baseball universe, Kerouac anticipated a revolution in Major League Baseball, which embodied another mythic, American promise of opportunity and renewal. As befitting the author of On the Road, the narrator of which journeys three times to California with a pilgrim's zeal, he 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. But the fantasy league's West Coast presence did not last long. By 1961, and probably a year or two earlier, the California teams have disappeared, along with Kerouac's own enchantment with the Golden State and his youthful, beatific vision of America's spiritual renewal.

Jack Kerouac. Selections from his horse-racing and baseball "œpublications," 1936-1956.
The New York Public Library, Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, Jack Kerouac Archive. © and reproduced courtesy of John G. Sampas, legal representative of the estates of Jack and Stella Kerouac.

Treasures Video: Watch a Short Film About the Jack Kerouac Archive

Related Publication: Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats

Related Publication: Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road

Collection Guide: The Jack Kerouac Papers, 1920-1977 (bulk 1935-1969)

Collection Guide: The Jack Kerouac Collection of Papers [1942]-1969.

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