I’ve been reading a lot about baseball lately. In The Man with Two Arms by Billy Lombardo (coming in February 2010), a new father is thinking about his soon-to-be-born son.
What about baseball? Now there was a gift he could give. Baseball was about grace and beauty and character, it was about strength and achievement. It was about competition. It was about fathers and sons, and for the luckiest of mortals it was a way to play into adulthood. It was the best use of grass and dirt every dreamed in the heads of men.
In May, as a tribute to Ted Williams’ last at-bat, a new edition of John Updike’s New Yorker article, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” will be released as a special publication by The Library of America. It’s the best piece of writing about baseball I’ve ever read, and reread. Updike writes:
Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill. Baseball is a game of the long season, of relentless and gradual averaging-out.
What is it about baseball and why are there so many beautifully written books about it, so many profound thoughts that spring from the game? Roger Angell and W.P. Kinsella’s many books, Michael Lewis’s Moneyball and Bernard Malamud’s The Natural among so many others are truly timeless and often better reads a second time. That doesn’t seem the case for football, basketball or other sports, just baseball.
As a resident of the upper northern hemisphere, I’m still physically and mentally preparing for that awful sunlight-deprived, cold, snowy time called winter, so when the local news show starts talking about pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, I’m transported forward in time, and eagerly cracking open one of these great baseball books while waiting for the first crack of the bat.