Why was Joe DiMaggio called Joltin Joe

Bob Dylan and the Sport: Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Nobel laureate in literature Bob Dylan does a lot of sports. He goes to baseball and does a boxing gym, where he also fights himself.

Interested viewer: Bob Dylan in the stands in a boxing arena Photo: afp

Together with Michael Schumacher, Bob Dylan already received something similar to the Nobel Prize in 2007: the Prince of Asturias Prize, which the Spanish royal family awards every year. It is a little lower endowed than the famous competition from Scandinavia and therefore not quite as renowned. But sport is being thought of here.

So does Bob Dylan. Sport is more present in the work of the newly ennobled than could be inferred from the most recent awards. Not only does Dylan box himself and run a private and non-public gym in Los Angeles, where Will Smith trains and where His Bobness competes against Quentin Tarantino - "it was a good punch," commented the director on a defeat against Dylan.

The Nobel Prize winner is also a baseball fan: "Catfish" is a song about Jim "Catfish" Hunter, the "million dollar man" of baseball: "Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can."

And in his radio program “Theme Time Radio Hour”, in which Dylan introduces the Americana, as part of which he has now been recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee, he once performed the terrific “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” - a song that is over 100 years old the most American of all sports: "Let me root, root, root for the home team / If they don't win it's a shame / For it's one, two, three strikes / You're out at the old ballgame." Also songs like Buddy Johnson's “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball” or Les Brown's “Joltin Joe DiMaggio” were presented.

Dylan doesn't commit

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Dylan was asked about his favorite Major League Baseball club. “The problem with baseball teams,” he replied, “is that the players are always traded. If you favored a team because you really liked a few players on that team, then they are no longer there. And you may not be able to call this your favorite team anymore. "

Dylan doesn't commit. This characterizes the sports fan Dylan as well as the (supposedly) political singer Dylan. The artist has always - and not always very skilfully - rejected all attempts at appropriation: from social movements, from American presidential candidates, from political parties. In his autobiography, Chronicles I, Dylan writes about a boxing match between Jerry Quarry and Jimmy Ellis. Dylan did not want to take sides between the black Ellis and the Quarry, traded as "White Hope".

Bob Dylan, "Hurricane"

"The man the authorities came to blame / For somethin’ that he never done / Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been / The champion of the world "

"For me there were some parallels between our situation and our reaction to it," he writes: "I identified myself with both Ellis and Quarry." Because he saw that Quarry was built against his will into a representative of white America. Dylan didn't want to "accept the fact that I should be an emblem, a symbol or a spokesman."

Dylan didn't want that even when he was very consciously politically committed to an athlete. Around 1975 for Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a professional boxer who was wrongly convicted of murder by a racist judiciary. Together with Muhammad Ali, he set up a movement for the release of Carter. His song gave the campaign the voice: “Here comes the story of the Hurricane” it says about the man who was thrown in prison, “but one time he could-a been / The champion of the world”.

Dylan's fight for Hurricane Carter

At the concerts of the "Rolling Thunder Revue", which Dylan took across America in 1975, his commitment to Carter's release was the focus. Muhammad Ali also appeared there sometimes, but he did "crooked things", as Sam Shepherd, who accompanied the tour, recalls: Ali brought a white politician onto the stage and introduced him as the "next President of the United States". Dylan didn't like that: he wanted to fight for Hurricane Carter, not politicians who hooked up with the campaign.

Bob Dylan's understanding of baseball and boxing corresponds very closely to his understanding of his music: sport and culture must be independent, otherwise they will be damaged.

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Against the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan, it was argued that he was primarily a musician and that his poetry was less read than heard. Dylan doesn't care about such objections: it's art that is supposed to unfold. When the Prince of Asturias Prize was awarded to both Günter Grass and Steffi Graf in 1999, the later Nobel Prize laureate in literature believed he had to announce that he was not that interested in tennis: the ball just flies back and forth monotonously here.

Bob Dylan would - perhaps and hopefully - have given Grass the answer that Steffi Graf had unfortunately not thought of: that reading Grass ’books is just turning pages, but great literature, great sport and great music are more.