Small Balls

19 Mar

It used to be that baseball-as-sport—except for Caribbean Basin ball players— was a seasonal affair that shut down after the World Series and was renascent with the Floridian and Arizonian preludes known as Spring-Training. No more. Now there is very little time out. Especially as fans have been bamboozled into caring about the business side of the sport (” Was Albert Pujols worth a quarter of a billion dollars?”)— in large part to a silly recreation known as fantasy baseball.

As the father of an aspiring young baseball catcher(Cuba”Pudge” Birnbaum) I also know the full time nature of baseball to be a modern reality. The competition with professional and collegiate football for the dubious slogan “America’s Game”, also, no doubt has the baseball money grubbers clawing for market share and branding opportunities —of which the troika that heads the Red Sox corporation take a back seat to no short-fingered vulgarians (This year being the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, zombified Red Sox Nation has the opportunity to buy a brick of Fenway which stays at the park and entitles you to a replica brick, I can’t tell you the price as the thought of money passing hands for this kind of memorabilia renders me dumbfounded Rest assured its an absurd figure.)

Anyway.Spring time normally sees the publication of a cluster of baseball-related books. This is one area that will not see baseball’s domination diminished. For a myriad of reasons (George Plimpton offered “the smaller-the-ball” theory), writers favor writing about baseball— no hockey, lacrosse, bowling or curling stories. In keeping with the underlying ethos of sports, which lionizes winners, baseball tracts follow familiar arcs. Warren Wilson graduate Joseph Schuster offers a different track in his debut novel,The Might Have Been (Ballantine Books).

Career minor league player Edward Everett Yates has a brief instant in the big show, cut off by a devastating injury. He ends up as a career minor league manager devoting 30 years to a game whose hold on him he can barely articulate. In many ways, Yates can be counted as a loser—until he encounters two players who teach him something about his fate and the choices he has made. Charles Baxter intones,”

“Far from being just about baseball, The Might Have Been is about the persistence of ambition and dreams in both sports and civilian life. This is a very telling novel about American pastimes and American identities…”

Currently reading Gods Without Men Hari Kunzru(Knopf)

One Response to “Small Balls”


  1. Monday’s Margins: WILD, B*tches in Bookshops, Baseball | Identity Theory - March 19, 2012

    […] Birnbaum blogs on books about baseball. (Did you catch his John Summers […]

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