“Time is the fire in which we burn.”
~Delmore Schwartz, “Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day,” 1937
Can it possibly be eight years since the big man departed for parts unknown? I remember a friend informing me that Kimball’s reaction to learning of his dire prognosis of the cancer that took him was to observe he could now eat as much bacon as he wanted.
In other words….Hey Death…(BLEEP) You.
The perfect lab slide revelation of the diamond hard edge of a quintessentially Hibernian soul. Fellow Herald scribe Jeff Horrigan remembers George as follows: “My favorite encounter with George: It was a couple of days after the 1996 World Series and I flew into Dublin on the overnight flight. I was in a taxi at approximately 6 – 7 AM on a Sunday morning and the sun was just coming up. We came to a stoplight on O’Connell St., just before the Liffey bridge, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw about a half-dozen scruffy men sitting against a building on the corner, drinking out of paper bags. I suddenly heard: “Horrigan!” And one of the scruffy men rose to his feet and started stumbling towards my cab. My driver yelled: “For the love of God, close your window and lock your door!” Just then, the light turned green and we quickly drove off. I turned around and there was that scruffy man standing in the middle of his O’Connell Street with his arms stretched out in disbelief that I didn’t recognize him. It was George.”
RIP…George Kimball…Poet, Writer, Author, Editor, Sportsman. George, you were a dogged reporter, skillful writer, and the best read and most conversant gentleman that ever sat amidst the knights of the keyboard in any press box since the passing of the likes of both Heywood Brouns, the Lardner family, Red Smith, Jim Murray, Damon Runyon, Ring Lardner and fellow boxing devotee Bill Heinz.
You were also one of the few denizens of the sporting scene equally at home with boxers and corner men as you were with the painters and poets with whom you sat and shared verse at New York’s landmark Cedar Tavern.
I first read your work in the Phoenix, purchasing my copy from that bearded guy that fearlessly hawked it while standing matador-like in the traffic rumble at the corner of Arlington and Boylston Streets. You have to realize that your prose stood out amongst the gems being polished at Beantown’s dailies during an era that truly was a sort of golden age of local sports writing. How many of those fellow writers and editors went on to “Sports Illustrated”, ESPN, and other remunerative ports o’call. You, however remained at the Eliot Lounge and various snugs in your beloved Eire. In the best sports city on the planet your work was the standard for your peers who read your prose with appreciation and more than a bit of jealousy. I’m guessing this tickled your robust Hibernian heart to no end.
Over the past few years, with the knowledge that time was more precious than ever, you toiled relentlessly on the magnificent “Four Kings” and the superb boxing anthology you and John Schulian compiled for the Library of America. Such a glorious legacy and true expression of your passion and professionalism. The quality of your work will endure, but the way in which you pulled yourself into the ring at the close of day and battled onward both inspires those who had the privilege of knowing you and reminds us of our own fragile mortality.
Here is hoping there is a table waiting for you in a snug that includes your favorite writers and friends in a dimension where the bar never closes, the tabs rarely settled and the conversation never ends. I’m guessing you’ve recently greeted Bud Collins, Ali, Clark Booth and Tommy Leonard who’s, no doubt, been pressed into service behind the bar.