HOF Ballot: William Faulkner

December 27, 2011
(Editor’s Note: we asked the great American writer William Faulkner to chime in on the 2012 BJOL Hall of Fame ballot. The following is the letter he sent us, typed on an old Underwood Universal typewriter. It smelled like trees.)
Edgar Martinez – Called ‘gar’ after the fish that has lurked in reed lined waters still and waiting since there were fish and waters and lesser animals condemned to a perdition life of preydom and chased by higher forms make thinbodied and needleteethed by time or Godhand and touched with the breath of life. Called that by the denizens of a rain-soaked city not because he was thin but because his bat would hold still and then lash out at the rotating sphere of cowhide and twine stitched by women in Costa Rica who will hear tonight the low call of the yigüirro and catch sight: a shift of red-gray holding briefly the last rays of light coming through the canopy above. Edgar, who suffered in the minor leagues to an age past holding belief that he would have the full career of younger men who were lesser with the bat but more able to play defense, the weird contortions of body required at shortstop and third impossible for Edgar to master to anything approximate to the task demanded. Who, upon knowing that his time had passed him went ahead and had a career anyway, posting in the years that should have been the descending years a batting line of .312/.418/.525, and being awarded two bats made not of the familiar ash but silver and his name cut into it twice. And he held the silver bat, thinking: ‘this will go beyond me.’ Who was the best designated hitter who ever was, the designated not a choice but an assignment made by an authority beyond him and older but the name ‘hitter’ his entirely; he is a fish and he is a hitter, too.
Larry Walker – Dispossessed hockey player who channeled his suffering to a sport played not on the creaking ice shoveled off and made smooth in early mornings when the sun had not yet risen and the world seemed old and dying out, the sun exhausted finally and the children of the Canada would make it their own; would bolster themselves against the cold and not let it in. And he choose instead grass and was mocked as lesser for it, for the baseball was the game of the southern peoples who had cast off their ties to the crown centuries before and sought in the game to take the crown’s beloved sport and remake it, bastardize it and make it somehow better and in doing so prove the success of the experiment of democracy over monarchy.  Who played in Montreal in one of two outposts where the grass game was played and then went to Colorado to take in air so thin that a breath was a half-breath, but the ball went so far there, arcing into the azure blue to the mountains that were, miracle, like the mountains of home; tall and white all year and older than anything. And how he loved to throw! How he would charge a ball and throw it, not for the chance to appear later on the television shows or to make an out, but because when he threw he was fully within his body and his body was directed to one task; one objective that transcended cause and became something eternal; a moment that even as it passed would somehow outlive his body and go forward to the years he would not see.
Andre Dawson – Doomed and knew it, accepted the doom without seeking it or running from it. Doomed from the first moment he stepped on the grass that was not grass and felt the shiver run through his knees and reach the bones that meshed together and twisted. Said: ‘I will be broken by this,’ said aloud over and over again so the words became a mantra, and no one heard so he played. Godson of Mays, Willie, and imitator of the elder in those early years: a player of grace called hawk. Who was granted a reprieve in the land of Chicago, called shikaakwa by the Sauk and Fox Indians, the word meaning ‘wild garlic’ and on the land abutting the great lake a preponderance of it. Who played baseball in the daytime in the old and decaying mansion that was old even before it was built, drawn out of the wilderness by a man made rich on the not fruit of gum trees and erected as an edifice to hold like a fortress the collective youth of a million Chicagoans. Who was graceful in youth and stooped in age and more noble for it, for he was like all of us, his course through the game a mirror of the lives we will all have and then give up, valiantly or not.
Rafael Palmeiro – Who tried to extend the limits of his body past their natural break. Who made avowals to the Congress and was damned by a test of blood that found in him some small particulate that was nothing at all but a cause for the damning of his name irregardless of the accomplishments; the counts of 569 homeruns and 1835 RBI. Who was not great but merely good and wanted to be great, and for that want was tarred with the same brush that came or will come to all the men of his generation; a brush that will mark the accumulation of his numbers as suspect or unreal, as if the baseballs did not fly off past the fences into the sea of arms raised and faces turned not forward looking but upward, only that, as if to watch the Icarus fall, the wax melted, the feathers leaving him.
Kevin Brown – Once a pitcher, always a pitcher, that’s what I say.
John Olerud – Whose father grew up on meals of lutefish caught in the cold waters of the Dakotas, caught with lines dropped through holes cut in ice to the world dark below and still. Who suffered in youth moments of blinding pain in his head and underwent the surgeon’s knife and passed through like Achilles held by his mother over the pool of immortal water and marked by a circle of raised and softened flesh that he would cover with a plastic helmet all his days on the field. Who would have a summer of hitting over .400 in which the name Ted Williams echoed in the cold dome that held within it the team called Blue Jays. Whose fate was to be to be perpetually underappreciated, surrounded as he was by other players who hit the ball farther, on more occasions. Would carry always the realization that the smaller inconveniences in life pale to the possibilities of its ceasing.
Fred McGriff - Whose fate it was to retire with numbers made less by the preponderance of hitting in the years that paralleled his slow decline. Who was a great hitter during a time when thirty homeruns was a signifier of exceptional ability rather than a benchmark of mere competence. Who retired with 493 homeruns, the same count as Lou Gehrig, and who would share with the Iron Horse the sense of being overshadowed even in the full peak of his abilities, his talents diminished by falser men who put up numbers that made Ruth look improbable that made his look like less than they were. Who would wait during an offseason by the electric machine to see if it would make its jangle empty sound and connect him to the one team would give him the chance to reach 500 homeruns, all the time thinking wrongly that that number would still be indisputable in the years to come, would be evidence of greatness that would at last be realized even as that number was being turned meaningless; an idiot strutting and fretting on the stage. And he would not get that call.
Bernie Williams – Who gave up the echosound of ball connecting with ash bat and the mesmeric din of a crowd of Bronxers calling his name for the lighter sound of sheepgut made to string and pulled tight from machinehead to saddle and his finger on it, pulling it to make the sound go into the gap space and out again. Whose destiny was to replace Danny Tartabull and play centerfield for the New York Yankees, patrolling the grass formerly possessed by DiMaggio and Mantle. Would play in six World Series, winning the first four and losing the last two. Would out of loyalty distilled among his generation spend his entire career on the Yankees and would do so quietly, without the acclaim deserved of him. Couldn’t throw.  
Dave ParkerAnd you are?
Dave Parker.
And you have been on the ballot –?
Fifteen years.
And your career was—?
Up and down. Undone by cocaine.
Yes, cocaine.
And you have been on the ballot—?
Fifteen years.
And you are?
Dave Parker.
Jack Morris – Whose misfortune it is to be on the ballot twenty years after the only day he ever lived, when the armies out of Atlanta marched northward to wrest some notion or ideal that was made significant by the shared belief in its significance. Who on the 27th of October 1991 held the others at bay long past the point most men would break, driven by the sight of the other one, called Smoltz. And they went against each other and watched each other through the eight segments of time delineated by some person who had died long before and who was just ashes now, the two of them watching the other for signs of give, signs of breaking. And neither did but one was lifted and the other stayed on, going through the last frame and one extra and got the victory and was past the point of caring about it then.
Don Mattingly – Granted the sobriquet that was the name of the sport he played sequenced with the name he was called in the years when he learned the game, following a brother (older) who would play professional football and call him Donnie, saying sometimes with affection and sometimes mocking him, Donnie, and him thinking: I will play baseball I will. Who was the greatest player on the greatest franchise, at an epoch of decline. Who would, in his last year, reach the playoffs for the only time, hitting .417 during five games. Whose last at-bat in the pinstripe uniform came against Randy Johnson, with the scoreboard showing a draw and the inning past the nine that convention demands and this the deciding game. Who would watch the last pitch leave the hand from the improbably tall southpaw and not swing, and turn to the umpire to see the hand raised.
Jim Rice – I don’t hate the Sox. I don’t. I don’t!
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Dave Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at

COMMENTS (14 Comments, most recent shown first)

Great! If it's possible to know this is great without knowing a thing about Faulkner. :-)
Actually after reading this, I feel that I do -- just like I knew James Cagney from all the imitators before I ever saw him in anything.

People it brings to mind:
Rod Serling, introducing whatever episode.
Bob Costas, holding forth on anything.

P.S. Favorite part: Last sentence on Bernie. :ha:
12:48 AM Jan 6th
So..... Faulkner is, basically, Foghorn Leghorn?

I'm kidding, I think. As usual, Dave, you outdid yourself. How fun was that to write? I am guessing a LOT.
2:06 AM Dec 30th
Wow, excellent. I read a lot, but could only get through one of Faulkner's novels. Thank you for reminding me why. Are you planning on doing another novelist next year?
1:49 PM Dec 29th
My favorite Dave Fleming piece! Maybe next year, Hemingway?
11:53 AM Dec 29th
Behold the blazing pixels that speed faster than light back in time to arouse the dead from their eternal slumber. Mr. Faulkner, who's frame would be licked by worms, is summoned to cast his judgement and perceptions on . . . oh, forget it. Great fun this was!
10:46 PM Dec 28th
This was brilliant, Dave.
9:31 PM Dec 28th
But the dog who foiled the wicked, foiled the acts if not the people, has been lost, lost in the fire that the very day day, the very moment he arrived did consume the old house, at least that room in it where the old men watched and marveled and spread the glory and the shame throughout the Southland, and beyond even, his brightest hottest moments coming in the days, the weeks, the months that followed, as the valiant ones chased, then caught, then slayed the giants, those same giants led by so much greatness and chased by so much history that the greatness could not abide the history and thus allowed the fire to consume it in that war, the last great war, the last war that mattered.
3:36 PM Dec 28th
Seattle might be rain-soaked by reputation, but it's really not so much in reality. (I lived there for 18 years.) It does in fact seem like it's raining all the time, but what it's doing is drizzling/sprinkling/raining lightly most of the damn time (which is actually just 149 days a year, sixth in the nation and almost 20 days a year behind the champ, Rochester, N.Y.). Seattle's annual total rainfall is actually dwarfed by many, many other U.S. cities: in terms of "major" cities only, the champ is New Orleans with 62.7 inches; Seattle isn't even in the top 15 with its 37.7 inches (I think I recall that it's 44th or so, although I can't find the chart that lists them in order).
10:02 AM Dec 28th
Bathroom, hell; he'd just pee in the closet like everybody else did.
9:19 PM Dec 27th
god bless the old geezer.

i doubt he spent more than a few short minutes on the task - which makes the end result even more impressive

i guess the key question is .... how would Mr. Faulkner ask for directions to the bathroom?
8:57 PM Dec 27th
AH, okay, for the Bill james Hall of Fame, got it.
1:47 PM Dec 27th
Jim Rice got elected in 2009, no?
1:46 PM Dec 27th
Well done Dave. I'm just glad Leo Tolstoy never liked baseball.
11:19 AM Dec 27th
Thank God that f'ing James Joyce forgot to return his ballot. . ..
8:55 AM Dec 27th
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