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He's On the Road... to Cooperstown!

05/05/2005
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.

By DAVID PERRY, Sun Staff

LOWELL -- People aren't often inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for bobbling.

Nor for writing.

But Jack Kerouac, the late, Lowell-born literary icon, now has a place in Cooperstown, in the form of the bobblehead doll in his image.

Yesterday at City Hall, officials from the city, University of Massachusetts Lowell, the Lowell Spinners and Kerouac's estate gathered to announce and celebrate the Hall's acceptance of the Kerouac bobblehead, the first literary icon to be so honored.

Mercenaries were selling the souvenirs for hundreds of dollars on eBay before the final pitch that night.

Anyone involved with the promotion soon became a magnet for desperate pleas from those without. Calls and letters flooded in from around the globe. The Spinners offered 250 online at $20 apiece to sate those who couldn't make it to the game; they arrived at the office the next day to 750 orders.

They decided to fulfill those orders and before the mold was destroyed, they found a way to funnel the demand into more than $10,000 for the Jack Kerouac Scholarship Fund.

The bobble was the brainchild of Jon Goode, the Spinners' director of corporate communications. He wanted to honor Kerouac in some way, eventually dreaming up the bobblehead.

John Sampas, Kerouac's brother-in-law and the executor of Kerouac's literary estate, enthusiastically approved.

Holladay said it turned out to be a great way to honor “Kerouac as a writer and figure of pop culture in his hometown.”

Spinners co-owner Joann Weber recalled getting a letter from a prisoner in South Dakota begging for a bobble.

Holladay said she went from “a mild-mannered English professor and scholar to this frontwoman for the Kerouac bobblehead.”

John Barrett, a longtime fan of Kerouac and baseball from Hooksett, N.H., was first in line that day, shortly after noon.

He offered to donate his to the Hall.

“Imagine something that belonged to me in the same building as Babe Ruth's locker, some of Hank Aaron's home run baseballs, and a plaque of Mike Schmidt, my hero growing up in the Philadelphia area.”

City Manager John Cox said despite the fervor, “I never, ever thought it would end up in Cooperstown.”

Mayor Armand Mercier, who knew Kerouac later in life, said that where LeLacheur Park now stands was once the Aiken Street Playground, where the boys from Little Canada and Pawtucketville played ball.

“I suspect at one time or another, Jack Kerouac could have played there.”

Goode said he wrote a proposal to the Hall Feb. 18 and heard back recently.

Hall of Fame spokesman Jeff Idelson said adding the bobble to its collection makes sense, “given baseball's history and role in helping to shape and define American culture.” He called Kerouac “an American icon who had a deep passion for the game, which he shared in his writing.”

Sampas said Kerouac would “love” the honor, noting Kerouac's work is more popular than ever, published in 38 languages.

“I get calls at 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. from Australia, Japan, Europe, from young people just trying to make contact, some connection with Kerouac.”

And now, the Hall of Fame.

Sampas imagined Kerouac smiling and saying, “I told you so.”

As Sampas spoke, the head on the Kerouac bobble doll on the podium before him was still moving up and down, as if to agree.