John Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” is widely regarded by sportswriters and sports fans everywhere to be the best piece of sports writing ever done by anyone. Hall of Fame sportswriters have said as much, though the essay’s monumental status was no doubt helped by Ted Williams. The Bosox slugger hit a home run in his very last career at-bat, and Updike was in the stands to memorialize the moment with what became one of his most famous pieces of prose.
But blogger Roger W. Smith was not as impressed:
“What is wrong—in my ‘contrarian’ opinion—with Updike’s piece?
It is too long (it needs pruning)
It is too fine (typical of New Yorker pieces); too ‘literary and (at times) too flowery.
It is the work of a brilliant, undeniably talented writer whose dazzling performance—like that of some virtuosos—comes between you and the subject matter, i.e., the focus of the piece: the great baseball player Ted Williams, his last game.
One tires of Updike’s verbal pyrotechnics, his asides (authorial interventions, commentary).
Is this reportage or an essay? Updike tried to do both. I think it was a mistake.
‘Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu’ is regarded as a classic. I would say, ‘Great effort.”