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In the next issue the Review will add to its trophy collection an interview with recluse J.D. Salinger, who was unsuspectedly snagged last year near his home in New Hampshire. A girl called Betty Eppes wrote him a girlish letter and said she would wait for him at the mouth of the covered bridge in Windsor, Vt., across the border from Cornish where he lives, for a half hour at 9:30 in the morning. She said the next day she was going back to Baton Rouge.Skip to next paragraph
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"I think he thought this was going to be a rather lovely tryst or something and couldn't resist the idea of this girl waiting for him in a sky-blue Pinto. She wore a tape recorder inside her blouse and had a hidden camera. They talked for about 20 minutes and she got this strange interview with him which we're putting in the next issue and calling 'What I Did Last Summer.' The answers are not particularly responsive, but that doesn't make any difference. she actually got the interview, and she's a tennis columnist for the Fun section the Baton Rouge Advocate."
Long before the Review moved its headquarters to Plimpton's Manhattan townhouse on East 72nd Street, the editor returned to Gotham "to make a living." He taught for a while at Yale and Barnard College, sister college to Columbia, and then left the classroom to begin writing for Sports Illustrated, through which he has become well-known for fulfilling the universal fantasy of an amateur challenging the champions.
"I suppose like any kid I became interested in sports when I was old enough to throw things, probably 8 or 9," Plimpton recalls. "It wasn't pathological. My baseball card collection had only 40 cards in it, unlike the true demons who had thousands. But I did send away for autographs, and lived and died with the New York Giants."
He confesses to having been more dreamer than varsity letterman in his youth, although he says he used to be a pretty good pitcher.
"When I was a youngster I used to think that to pitch in the major league was the highest position that one could aspire to in life."
Plimpton eventually lived out that boyhood daydream of standing on a big league mound and pitching to all those familiar faces on the bubble gum baseball cards; in gathering material for his book "Out of My League," he pitched part of a post-season all-star exhibition game in Yankee Stadium.
"The first two batters were Richie Ashburn, who used to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, and the great Willie Mays. I got both of these men to pop the ball in the air. It is true that Willie Mays's pop-up was clear out into the monuments that are deep in center field in Yankee Stadium.
"Ernie Banks stepped up and tripled off the left-field wall and Frank Robinson hit a double that went right between my legs and just kept on rising. I knew my control had disappeared. Then up stepped a man named Frank Thomas who used to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Mets. He took a look at this little curve ball I threw him and put it up in the triple tier, one of the longest home runs ever seen there. As a matter of fact, it was hit so far that my own reaction was that I had somehow helped engineer this extraordinary feat; it was something that he and I had done together. That's not the way the pitcher is supposed to feel."
Sports Illustrated enthused over the pitcher's prose and sent him off again into battle--in the boxing arena: "I wrote this enormously polite letter to the then light-heavyweight champion of the world, Archie Moore," Plimpton relates. "They used to call him the Mongoose and he had one appalling statistic after his name in the record books which was that he had knocked down more people than anyone else in the history of the ring. So you can imagine how polite my letter was. I wrote and asked 'in the interest in literature,' which is a phrase I underlined, would he be interested in coming to the old Stillman's Gym in New York and go through a three-round bout with me."