The happy, tragic tale of Charlie (Victory) Faust

FAUST final font

The popular version of the Faust story, as recounted by Fred Snodgrass in The Glory of Their Times (1966), among other similarly feel-good retellings, left me with an overall warm, nostalgic feeling. Indeed, it’s one of the many engaging oral histories about baseball offered in Lawrence S. Ritter’s magnificent compilation. Taken at face value, the Cinderella baseball yarn that Snodgrass weaves doubtlessly remains a joy to read–for it’s a universal story about long-held aspirations and briefly attained dreams. It’s about the game’s early mascots and old superstitions. But it’s mostly about the not-so-secret life of baseball’s Walter Mitty. . . .

Sadly, though, the true story of Charlie Faust does not really end as suggested by the Snodgrass interview.

*1960 Leaf fantasy baseball card created par moi.

The Literary Stylings of Sad Sam Jones, et al.

After retiring from an epic career (especially for a pitcher) in major league baseball, Sam Jones took it upon himself to continue as a productive citizen of the world. He remained an active figure in “the country of baseball,” charitably devoted his time with children on the field, and, apparently, took a liking to poetry.

In the entry for Sam Jones, the SABR Baseball Biography Project includes this piece and attributes it to Jones:

Baseball is but a Game of Life

First base of Egotism, Second base of overconfidence,
Third base of indifference, Home Plate of honest achievement.

A good many men lose by reason of pop-flies;
the short-stop of public opinion frequently nips short the
career of a man who fails to connect with the ball of life
with a good sound wallop.

The winner is the man who knocks the horse-hide of opportunity
loose with the bat of honest effort.

When you  have batted for the last, made the rounds of the bases
and successfully negotiated home-plate,
may we hope to hear the Umpire of LIFE, which after all,
is the esteem of friends and acquaintances,
call to you that you’re safe.

Well. . . . I’m not sure if it’s my favorite baseball poem, but I applaud the effort. On the other hand, I really do admire the following poem from The Glory of Their Times (1966) in the preface for the chapter contributed by none other than Sam Jones, coincidentally (or not). However timeless it may or may not be in terms of style and tone, the sentiment expressed–indeed lamented–holds relevance to this day. Perhaps it’s even more relevant now in this watchful era of pitch counts where fragile pitching arms are micromanaged oh so delicately.

How dear to my heart was the old-fashioned hurler

   Who labored all day on the old village green.

He did not resemble the up-to-date twirler

   Who pitches four innings and ducks from the scene.

The up-to-date twirler I’m not very strong for;

   He has a queer habit of pulling up lame.

And that is the reason I hanker and long for

   The pitcher who started and finished the game.

The old-fashioned pitcher,

   The iron-armed pitcher,

The stout-hearted pitcher,

   Who finished the game.


Untitled poem by George E. Phair.