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The Stanzas of Herbert Warren Wind

Filed under: Eustace Google

When the much-loved New Yorker golf writer Herbert Warren Wind passed away last June, I noted a line from the Times obituary—"His first writing in The New Yorker was a poem in 1941"—and hoped aloud that I'd be able to find the poem. Recently, the writer Bill Scheft, Wind's nephew and the author of The Ringer (one of whose characters is based on Wind), was kind enough to send it to me:


The elevator man's son counts:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, and so on.
And sometimes mezzanine.
The porter's son counts by fives:
5, 10, 15, and carry one, 15, 20, 25, and carry two. Or
By tens should speed require.
The agent's son counts by fractions:
1 1/10, 2 1/10, 3 1/10, and so on.
He does it in his bean.
The golfer's son counts:
1, 2, 3, fore, 5, 6, 7. And balks
At counting any higher.

Fantastic. (You can see all its splendid '41 context on the archive DVD, and it's also in Herbert Warren Wind's Golf Book). In Scheft's own tribute to Wind in Sports Illustrated, he calls his uncle "three parts Tacitus and equal parts Izaak Walton and Roger Angell." I love this anecdote:

Thirty-three years ago, my uncle, Herbert Warren Wind, came to our house in Beverly, Massachusetts, for his annual summer visit. He loved spending time with my parents, both accomplished golfers (he once described my mother, the former Gitty Wind, as “a woman who is giving the world a couple of strokes”), and cheerfully tolerated their six children, especially the second youngest, who dared to aspire to the life of a sportswriter.

One night, Herb and I were playing Strat-O-Matic [link], a cultishly popular pre-Bill James, pre-Rotisserie League, pre-steroid baseball reenactment game in which each Major League player was represented by his own computer-generated data card. The card condensed the player’s previous year’s statistics into three columns. Hitters had columns number 1-3, pitchers 4-6. When it was your team’s inning to bat, you rolled three dice, one white and two red. Whatever combination of numbers came up dictated which card you consulted.

By the bottom of the fourth, my 1971 Red Sox were thrashing Uncle Herb’s 1971 Yankees, 12-0 (not unlike a recent Saturday in the Bronx). As his third relief pitcher gave up consecutive home runs, Herb began to furiously rummage through the contents of the Strat-O-Matic board game box. “What are you looking for, Uncle Herb?” I asked. He put his hand to the side of his mouth and whispered, “I’m trying to find the dice for rain.”

If I write until I’m a thousand, I’ll never come up with a line that good. And if I did, my ego is too big to just share it with one person. Let alone some 15-year-old.

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