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Maverick: The George Kimball Interview

The George Kimball Interview...from Hunter S. Thompson and Terry Southern to Bill James, Gayle Sayers, Norman Mailer, Bob Arum, George Foreman, and oh, so many more:

BB: I ate dinner with Vic once before he passed away and he told me about worshipping at the altar of Lenny Shecter, who is tragically overlooked these days. I think Shecter's hard cynicism is close to some of the Deadspin sensibility. Do you think he would have eventually quit writing about sports altogether if he had stayed alive? His collection The Jocks showed that he had much contempt for big time sports.

GK: Odd thing about Lenny was that for all the humor he evinced in his writing he really didn't have a great sense of humor, or at least didn't really seem to enjoy himself the way his acolytes like Vic and Larry did. Lenny was, of course, the original "chipmunk," but while it was easy to picture Larry and Vic and Stan Isaacs as "chipmunks," the term seemed misapplied when applied to Lenny. I think you're right that he was really sick and tired of sports, and given the financial cushion that came with Ball Four he probably would have completely moved on. But he could be almost nasty when he thought he was right and you were wrong. I remember being in New York and at the head a week or so after I'd gone up to see Jim Bouton, who was plotting some sort of comeback, pitch a few innings, I think it was, in a minor league game out in Pittsfield, and I'd described the way some 20 year-old hitter had almost gone into contortions over a knuckler. Lenny says, "Couldn't have happened. Jim told me he only threw smoke that day," and I say, "Lenny, I was there. He didn't throw a lot of them, but he threw one to that batter." "Maybe it was just a change-up you saw," he says. I finally said "Lenny, give me a little credit here. I know a fucking knuckleball when I see one." Really odd because he always had to get the last word in, and this time wanted to argue something I'd seen and he hadn't.

Another night I was in the head with Leigh Montville and this doll about 25 appears at the bar. Leigh wants to know what her story was and I told him. "She's a sportswriter groupie." He of course refuses to believe that there is such a thing, let alone one this good looking. He finally tries to strike up a conversation and she says, "Have you guys seen Lenny Shecter? I'm supposed to meet him here tonight." Lenny was twice her age and didn't exactly have movie star looks, so Montville was really impressed that he had groupies.

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