Karl Lindholm

JULES TYGIEL’S HISTORY of the integration of baseball is among columnist Karl Lindholm’s favorite non-fiction books on the sport because of it’s first-class scholarship and narrative appeal.
SABR, the Society of American Baseball Research, is in its 50th year. Begun in 1971 by 16 serious baseball fans, the organization today has over 6,000 members. To celebrate it 50th anniversary, SABR is publishing a book of 50 essays, “SABR 50 at 50: The Society for American Baseball Research’s Fifty Most Essential Contributions to the Game,” one for each year. One of those essays, (“The Book”) from SABR’s research journal, The National Pastime, (1996) is by our sports columnist Karl Lindholm and is included in this volume. Here is a condensed version of that piece.   “I never play by the book...

MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE FOOTBALL players line up for the traditional handshake at the end of a recent game with Amherst College, signifying respect for one another’s mutual efforts. Photo courtesy of Middlebury College
“Shake hands and come out fighting.” When I was a kid watching the Friday Night Fights with my dad (brought to you by Gillette — “to look sharp and to feel sharp too ...”), that’s what the referee instructed in the ring center before the boxing match began. The combatants touched gloves and commenced to beat each other up, respectfully: after all, they had shaken hands, more or less. Whenever there was contretemps in the school yard or playing field when I was growing up, the adult who broke up the fight commanded, “OK, shake hands now.” That meant it was over and there would be no further...
Consolation   Don’t expect my friend Karl Lindholm to be sitting next to you at the end of a close basketball game. The clock winding down   to red, double zeros. Don’t be surprised if you find him, across the gym, near the free nosebleed seats, chatting and pacing   nonchalantly. As if it doesn’t matter who wins, which it does. As if a game’s all in good fun, Which might be true, if it wasn’t   our team who’s playing. Trying to win a W, beat the brains out of a team whose bus is starting to warm-up   in the parking lot. If my mother were here, she’d say my friend Karl had “spilkes,”...

THE COLUMNIST AND his pal hoary-pated Ben walking, not running, on the Middlebury College campus; Ben had already done a five-miler amid those brilliant autumn colors. Photo provided by Karl Lindholm
I ran a few times with Ben, quite a while ago. He worked at Redlands University in California and I was from here at Middlebury College. Our jobs brought us together on a nearly annual basis as we represented our schools in travels to universities in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Pacific Rim.  He was a runner and I even at my fittest was a plodder. He was light and lithe; I was not. On our trips abroad, I told him, “I will run with you for no more than three miles at a 10-minute pace.” He would then take me on a loop that was twice that and push me to a pace that was at least a minute...

ON A PICTURESQUE late winter/early spring day — March 8 — the Middlebury men’s lacrosse team played against Connecticut College on Youngman Field. The Panthers defeated their NESCAC rival, 20-8, that day and three days later trounced Plattsburgh State in what ended up being the final Middlebury athletic event of the year. Many Middlebury seniors ended their athletic careers with a truncated season, including defending national champion women’s lax and baseball, which played a few games before shutting down. The competitive seasons of softball, tennis, and track and field never began. Independent photo/Karl Lindholm
We “shelter in place,” practice “social distancing” hoping to “flatten the curve” of the “pandemic” afflicting the world. These are terms that were largely unfamiliar to us only a very short time ago but are now staples of our daily discourse.  We isolate ourselves from one another in this chilly and lovely late winter/early spring season in the hope that we can come together in the warm embrace of the season that follows. But who knows when that will be? It could be a while. All is so uncertain.  Schools, from daycare to graduate school, have closed and sent their students home, wherever...

RUBE FOSTER, THE “Father of Black Baseball,” founded the Negro National League of teams from Chicago, Dayton, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Kansas City in 1920.
I grew up a baseball-obsessed boy at a time when there were lots of boys who shared my obsession. I was born in Boston and raised in Maine, a suburb of Boston, so I was a Red Sox fan. It was unavoidable, a birthright. The 1950s was an era of excellence for the Red Sox — unfortunately, that excellence was exclusive to one player, Ted Williams, a prickly hero. The team itself was mediocre at best, year after year. I was thrilled by the excitement of baseball’s integration, of the breakthrough and careers of Jackie Robinson and other early black players for the Dodgers, Giants, Indians, and,...

WELL-REGARDED NEW HAMPSHIRE author Ernest Hebert has a writing process that anyone aspiring to communicate more clearly could imitate. Photo by Peter Biello/New Hampshire Public Radio
One of my favorite writers is Ernest Hebert, author of seven novels in his Darby Chronicles series, and a number of other works of fiction. Hebert grew up in working class Keene, N.H., and writes authoritatively about this section of New England. He taught for many years at Dartmouth College and declares on his Dartmouth webpage: “It’s been my mission as a novelist to write about working people without idealizing or demeaning them.” He knows whereof he writes. Just about my favorite novel ever is his “The Dogs of March,” with its unforgettable protagonist, Howard Elman. By the end of the...

One hundred years ago last month (Jan. 5, 1920), the Red Sox unloaded their best player for financial reasons. They sold the best left-handed pitcher in the American League, a versatile 25-year-old who had begun to play in the field on occasion because he could also hit: George Herman “Babe” Ruth.  How’d that work out? Will my children and their children be lamenting the Curse of Mookie after I’m gone? Mookie Betts is one of my favorite Red Sox players ever. I place him in the exalted company of Nomah and Pedro. I like him even better than Papi, and that’s a high bar. Mookie looks like a high...

A VERITABLE MOUNT Rushmore of sports writers on a panel at Middlebury College earlier this month. Shown from left are Alex Wolff, Bob Ryan, Jackie MacMullan and Jack McCallum, who all worked for either Sports Illustrated or the Boston Globe. Photo by Karl Lindholm
Stories! An hour and a half of great stories by four of America’s most highly respected sportswriters — verily, a Mount Rushmore: Alex Wolff, Bob Ryan, Jackie MacMullan, and Jack McCallum, all in one place at Middlebury College. These four terrific writers have been intimately affiliated with either Sports Illustrated or the Boston Globe, publications of Biblical import and authority in my life and for many other American sports fans. To list their awards would take up much of this column space. A few years back I was lucky enough to attend the Basketball Hall of Fame weekend festivities in...

Whenever I go to a Lake Monsters game in Burlington, I find an occasion to declare casually to my companions that I played at historic Centennial Field for the Middlebury College nine, many years ago. If pressed, I have to admit that it was just one game and I was the starting pitcher, and only lasted three innings. We lost 13-5 to the University of Vermont. I always add: “They were really good!” Nonetheless, only a few years after my dismal performance, the decision was made to drop baseball as an intercollegiate sport at UVM, or more accurately to suspend the program. It left in 1971 for “...


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