The legendary - and reclusive - writer J.D. Salinger passed away today at the age of 91.
Chances are you didn't think of baseball when you heard the news, but the connection between the author of "The Catcher in the Rye" and the Grand Old Game immediately came to mind.
Did you see the movie "Field of Dreams?" In the film, James Earl Jones plays the role of Terrence Mann, a writer whose work in the 1960's was considered counter-culture, and a tremendous impact on the country's youth. But, if you read the book on which "F of D" was based, Terrence Mann is nowhere to be found.
"Shoeless Joe" was the book by W.P. Kinsella that spawned the Kevin Costner film. The film follows Kinsella's story to the letter - except in the book, the writer that Ray Kinsella seeks out in New England is J.D. Salinger.
It's a fictional work, quite obviously, but Kinsella uses Salinger as a device, and quite effectively, too. But when the film rights were sold, the movie makers knew that Salinger would never go along with it. Hence, Terrence Mann.
The other Salinger baseball reference is done satirically in an old episode of SCTV, one of the great sketch comedy shows of all time. In one episode they do a phony commercial for "Catcher in the Rye" Rye whiskey. In every bottle is a figurine of a great major league catcher. The show was Canadian, and I think it was a way to work the names of Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt and then-Expos manager Buck Rodgers into a bit. Whatever, it stuck in my head.
I'm not sure Salinger was even a baseball fan, but now he'll finally be able to ease his pain and go the distance.