Murray Kempton was a famous New York newspaperman for more than fifty years. I’ve tried to read his stuff on occasion and there is something about his language that I can’t get past–I’ve always had a difficult time appreciating and understanding his work. At the same time, I’ve also felt that I should get him, that I’m missing something.
Oh, well. I did love him as a New York character, however–he was legendary for riding his bicycle all around town. In 1994, I was working as a waiter at a modest neighbhorhood restaurant on the Upper West Side and had the pleasure to serve Mr. Kempton lunch one afternoon. He had clamps around his ankles so that his pants would not get caught on the chain of his bike. We chatted some and he was every bit the gentleman.
Anyhow, I bring Kempton up because I ran across an article he wrote for “Sport” magazine back in 1962 about the Mets called “Back at the Polo Grounds.” Since we were talking about New York fans a couple of days ago, I thought you guys might enjoy this:
The New York of the Giants, Dodgers, and Yankes was an annual re-evocation of the War between the States. The Yankees were the North, if you could concieve a North grinding along with wealth and weight and without the excuse of Lincoln. The Giants and Dodgers were the Confederacy, often undermanned and underequipped and running then because it could not hit. You went to Yankee Stadium if you were the kind of man who enjoyed yelling for Grant at Richmond; you went to the National League parks to see Pickett’s cahrge…
The old Dodger fans werer the kind of people who picket. The old Giant fans would be embarrassed to do anything so conspicuous, but they were the kind of people who refuse to cross picket lines. Yankee fans are the kind of people who think they own the company the picket line is thrown around. It is impossible for anyone who does not live in New York to know what it truly is to hate the Yankees. As writer Leonard Koppett has said: ‘The residents of other cities who hate the Yankees really only hate New York.’…But, if you live in New York and you’re not a Yankee fan, you hate them the way you hate Consolidated Edison or your friendly bank.
Kempton’s essay can be in found in the fine collection, “Baseball: A Literary Anthology.”