Watching the red Sox most nights this summer, I have concluded that they really are an “Anacharsis Clootz Deputation.”
Come to think about it, all sports teams are Anacharsis Clootz Deputations, more or less.
What in the world is an Anacharsis Clootz Deputation?
That’s how Herman Melville in “Moby Dick” described the multicultural crew on the ship, the Pequod: they were “from all the isles of the sea, and all the ends of the earth.”
It basically means a motley crew, in our everyday lexicon. Mostly, I like to say it: “Anacharsis Clootz Deputation.”
Clootz himself was an 18th century French revolutionary, who put together a delegation of “foreigners” for the National Assembly as “ambassadors of the human race.” He was executed.
So let’s consider the Clootz Deputation in the Red Sox clubhouse.
On the roster right now at the end of the season are 37 players from 17 states in the USA, Puerto Rico, and four other countries (Japan, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Canada). They have black players, white players, and lots of shades of in-between players, ages 23 to 45.
These men, together from spring training in February, through the summer, all the way to the October playoffs, playing every day with a common purpose, looking out for one another, are a club, a family, a crew, through both storm-tossed and tranquil seas. Imagine the cooperation, accommodation, effort, and sacrifice it takes for this diverse assemblage to make a successful team.
At the top of the Red Sox line-up, in centerfield, is my 94-year-old mother’s favorite player, the “Little Indian,” as she puts it, the leading base stealer in the majors with 70 thefts, the fleet Native-American from the Northwest (Oregon), Jacoby Ellsbury.
Following him is the tough little second baseman, “Pedroi-er” as the Remdawg calls him, from the University of Arizona by way of California. He’s the little guy we used to call “Sluggo” in school, who’d pick a fight with the biggest kid in the playground. Pedroia can play this game.
Then there’s the magnificent “Big Papi,” the large, good-natured Dominican, whose recovery from his first-half Job-like travails at the plate (28 homers, 99 RBIs) has warmed all our hearts. And after him “Youk,” who was once called the “Greek God of Walks,” till they found out he was a Jew from Cincinnati, he of the bizarre set-up at the plate and the marvelous versatility in the field. Youk is this year’s Sox MVP.
Jason Bay, the taciturn Canadian from Trail, British Columbia, comes next — followed by impassive the J.D. Drew, from Georgia (he’s the student we think should get an A, but is satisfied with a B+), and bi-lingual Mike Lowell, who was born in Puerto Rico after his family fled Cuba, and who makes playing third look as effortless as a walk in the park. The Captain, stolid Jason Varitek, is next in line(up) and he hails from Michigan.
Newcomers Victor Martinez and Alex González learned their baseball growing up in Venezuela. Their arrival has stabilized the club after a scary stretch right after the All-Star break, Alex playing his transcendent defense at short (all of a sudden, he can hit!), and V-Mart ... well, what can’t he do — he’s a power hitting switch-hitter who catches and plays first. Bienvenidos, amigos!
On the hill are the alliterative Texans who throw BBs — Bard, Beckett, and Buchholz — and the denizens of the Land of the Rising Sun: Dice-K, Oki, and Saito, with their tics and hesitations, so delightfully different from cookie-cutter American pitching motions. And then there’s the crazy Cajun closer, Papelbon, from Baton Rouge, and the best of the bunch, the modest Washingtonian, John Lester, a cancer survivor.
The Red Sox even have two New Englanders — how exotic! — local boy Manny Delcarmen, a graduate of West Roxbury (Mass.) High, and the pride of the Woonsocket, R.I., Baldellis, their boy, Rocco.
I guess the Red Sox alter ego of the historical Clootz himself would be Theo Epstein. After all, he put this team together. He’s another local boy (Brookline High, Mass.), whose own pedigree is unusual in baseball history. A Yale grad with a law degree, he’s the son of novelist, Leslie Epstein, the long-time director of the writing program at Boston University.
Oh no, does this “Moby Dick” analogy force Terry Francona to be Ahab?
We can’t take the conceit that far. This Red Sox ship is not captained by a despot, a megalomaniac. This leader of this Pequod is a benign presence whom the crew genuinely respects.
This diverse crew of the Red Sox, this Anacharsis Clootz Deputation, will depart from Melville’s disastrous narrative, once again, as it has twice before in this decade, and slay the white whale, this powerful symbol of evil (the Yankees!), and return home triumphantly.
In Duck Boats.
Karl Lindholm is the Dean of Cook Commons and Assistant Professor of American Studies at Middlebury College.