Wednesday, December 07, 2011

George Plimpton. Athlete.

George Plimpton fit much living into his life. The celebrated bon-vivant melded many professional and social lives, seemingly involved in everything and always conveying an air of cool nonchalance. He never seemed to be trying.

In 1953 he joined The Paris Review as its first editor and remained in that position until his passing in 2003. He fashioned the journal’s offices as the de facto literary salon of America, hosting memorable parties in between constructing some of the best literary journal issues of the twentieth century. He was a fireworks aficionado and held the ceremonial title of Fireworks Commissioner of New York City. He was a Harvard buddy and close friend of Robert Kennedy and wrestled Sirhan Sirhan to the ground after Robert Kennedy’s assassination. He made numerous film cameos, including a turn as an urbane psychologist in Good Will Hunting.

Outside of literary circles, George Plimpton was most known for his participatory journalistic exploits. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s he challenged numerous professional athletes and wrote about his humblings.

Out of My League is his account of pitching a pre-inning in the 1960 All Star game. He faced the National League lineup and intended to face the American League lineup as well but was replaced due to fatigue.

Paper Lion is probably Plimpton’s most famous book. He attended the Detroit Lions 1963 preseason training as a backup quarterback.

The Bogey Man is Plimpton’s tale of attempting to qualify for the PGA tour in the era of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

In Open Net Plimption recounts his time as a goalie with the Boston Bruins. He played briefly in a preseason game.

Among other exploits he fought three rounds with light heavyweight champion Archie Moore and lost a tennis match to Pancho Gonzales. Plimpton was most dismayed by his loss to Gonzales, since he considered himself an accomplished tennis player.

And he was friends with Truman Capote.

Nelson Aldrich wrote a great book about Plimpton: George, Being George

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