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Scoring from Second: Writers on Baseball

Overview

Why do accomplished writers (and grown-ups) like Ron Carlson, Rick Bass, and Michael Chabon (to name but a few of those represented here) still obsess over their baseball days? What is it about this green game of suspense that not only moves us but can also move us to flights of lyrical writing? In Scoring from Second: Writers on Baseball some of the literary lights of our day answer these questions with essays, reminiscences, and meditations on the sport that is America’s game but also a deeply personal ...

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Overview

Why do accomplished writers (and grown-ups) like Ron Carlson, Rick Bass, and Michael Chabon (to name but a few of those represented here) still obsess over their baseball days? What is it about this green game of suspense that not only moves us but can also move us to flights of lyrical writing? In Scoring from Second: Writers on Baseball some of the literary lights of our day answer these questions with essays, reminiscences, and meditations on the sport that is America’s game but also a deeply personal experience for player, observer, and fan alike.
 
Here writers as different as Andre Dubus and Leslie Epstein, Chabon and Floyd Skloot, Michael Martone and William Least Heat-Moon reflect on the game they grew up with, the players who thrilled them, and the lessons that baseball holds for us all. From the one-season wonder to the long-haul heroes to the hall of fame, the game that has framed so many American summers—and lives—comes to quirky, instructive, and always entertaining life in these pages.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

“Baseball fans who yearn for the days of Ring Lardner will find in this collection ample evidence that gifted writers still celebrate America’s national pastime. . . . There are numerous other double-play delights here. . . . Predictably, some contributors betray passions for a favorite team—Yankees or Red Sox, Cardinals or Cubs. But the heavy hitters hit the ball over all these partisan fences, reminding readers that a great game unites us all. Fans will treasure this book.”—Booklist
American Book Review - Todd Starkweather

“Enjoyable and insightful observations about a sport that has a richer literary tradition than any other sport in the US. . . . The entries’ ability to remain fresh and entertaining speaks well of their quality and Deaver’s discernment.”—Todd Starkweather, American Book Review

American Book Review

“Enjoyable and insightful observations about a sport that has a richer literary tradition than any other sport in the US. . . . The entries’ ability to remain fresh and entertaining speaks well of their quality and Deaver’s discernment.”

—Todd Starkweather, American Book Review

Booklist

“Baseball fans who yearn for the days of Ring Lardner will find in this collection ample evidence that gifted writers still celebrate America’s national pastime. . . . There are numerous other double-play delights here. . . . Predictably, some contributors betray passions for a favorite team—Yankees or Red Sox, Cardinals or Cubs. But the heavy hitters hit the ball over all these partisan fences, reminding readers that a great game unites us all. Fans will treasure this book.”

Library Journal

This work offers recent literary nonfiction by 36 contemporary novelists and short story writers, with a couple of sports journalists thrown in. The pieces, often memoirs-in-brief, show the hold that baseball retains upon such writers as Rick Bass, Michael Chabon, Andre Dubus, and (thank you!) four women. Another winner from the Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803259911
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2007
  • Pages: 332
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip F. Deaver is the author of How Men Pray and Silent Retreats and winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. He is writer-in-residence and associate professor of English at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Lee K. Abbott is the author of seven collections of short stories, including Wet Places at Noon and All Things, All at Once: New & Selected Stories. He is a professor of English at The Ohio State University in Columbus.
 
Contributors: Jocelyn Bartkevicius, Rick Bass, Larry Blakely, Earl S. Braggs, Christopher Buckley, Rick Campbell, David Carkeet, Ron Carlson, Michael Chabon, Mick Cochrane, Hal Crowther, Andre Dubus, Leslie Epstein, Gary Forrester, Lee Gutkind, Jeffrey Hammond, Jeffrey Higa, Peter Ives, Richard Jackson, William Least Heat-Moon, Lee Martin, Michael Martone, Cris Mazza, Kyle Minor, Dan O’Neill, Susan Perabo, Rachael Perry, Kurt Rheinheimer, Louis D. Rubin Jr., Luke Salisbury, Floyd Skloot, Tom Stanton, Michael Steinberg, Tim D. Stone, and Robert Vivian.

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Read an Excerpt

Scoring from Second Writers on Baseball


University of Nebraska Press

Copyright © 2007 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8032-5991-1


Foreword

Lee K. Abbott

Following a game, a storybook little old lady confronts Jon Kruk, then the first baseman for the Phillies, outside the stadium. He's smoking a cigarette.

"Shame on you," she scolds. "You're an athlete. You shouldn't be smoking!"

"Ma'am," the notoriously impolitic Kruk begins, "I ain't an athlete. I'm a ballplayer."

A confession: for almost two decades I hated baseball (well, not exactly hated, more like couldn't care less). The game-in the Bigs, at least-was virtually unrecognizable to me, what with the "errors" that are astronomical salaries, cookie-cutter stadiums, and free agency. Take, for example, the designated hitter rule: it is, frankly, a sin, venial at a minimum. If you're a ballplayer, friends, then pick up the lumber and go to work with the rest of the fellows in sanitaries. And while you're at it, take George Steinbrenner, the Daddy Warbucks of the sport. How the devil are my Cleveland Indians going to compete against a swashbuckler who's got the keys to Fort Knox? And, please, don't get me started on steroids, HGH, Astroturf, indoor baseball, night games, or the ameliorating properties of flaxseed oil.

Indeed, for those two decades,baseball was either boring or plain exasperating. The same teams won. The rich got richer, the poor got old. Owners blackmailed cities for "better" stadiums and tax deals and lease arrangements and zoning and whatever else greased the wheel on the Bentley. Players became loyal only to their wallets. Strikes and lockouts; lockouts and strikes. Fans paid through the keister for seats and eats, never mind the party favors that pass for souvenirs nowadays. Parking was always in another area code. You couldn't smoke, throw a beverage or two, bang the chairs to "Let's go, RiCo!" or pull off your shirt and write anything more offensive than "Marry me, Sweet Cheeks" in Marksalot between your nipples. TV broadcasts turned into endless, ear-splitting beer commercials interrupted every seven minutes by a pitch or two. Lordy, the umpires got in shape (remember Augie Donatelli?). Girls-comely, lithe, and too damn wholesome for a game that used to have so much spit in it-took up residence on the foul lines. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" gave way to "We Are the Champions." The season grew longer-snowfall to snowfall almost. Playoffs expanded. Roseanne Barr butchered the National Anthem (attention, would-be singers: if you're not Rocco Scotti, don't bother). The poobahs from the league's politburo banned Charlie Hustle for, golly, gambling. Mascots became the spawn of Satan. And what's with the Spandex that now passes for a uniform? And put down that stovepipe, Bunky, bats are made of wood, period. And, please, ixnay on T-ball. You're supposed to hit the danged thing in motion, for crying out loud.

Maybe, for the decades in question, I was just grumpy, my own days on the diamond long behind me. I'd played Little League, American Legion, aau, Pony League-a centerfielder with great speed, great glove, and enough prowess at the plate to impress the current girlfriend; after college, I took up the delights unique to fast-pitch softball-still in center field, still looking over my shoulder for the video camera; a few years into my first job as an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, I joined the slow-pitch leagues of the Jewish Community Center (gentiles welcome!) in the eastern suburbs-yeah, again in the outfield but with an attenuated attention span. And then, one dark day in Mudville, I was not playing any form of ball anymore. Worse yet, the Indians couldn't beat a drum, much less a club of grown-ups. Joe Charboneau, our one-season wonder, had disappeared into a bar in Buffalo. And, sadly, yours truly was on his way to Columbus to reckon with the nearly professional sports offered by Ohio State University. I had become John Wayne without a desperado to shoot, Gertrude without Heathcliff, Hekyll without Jekyll-just a guy (think: Nixon, semi-blotto), wandering around talking to the walls and weeping at the sight of his Caesar Cedeno memorabilia (baseball cards and bat: when I have a hero to worship, I worship the dickens out of him [or her: see the pine cone stolen from Emily Dickinson's house; see the pillowcase snatched from the clothesline of Eudora Welty]).

But in the last two years, your humble author has found religion afresh, or the nine-inning version of transcendence. I have, in a phrase, been born again, now as obnoxious a nut on the subject as Rummy is on the subject of the army we "don't" have. I owe my newfound faith to two developments: the publication of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis in 2003; and the triumph of the Red Sox over the Moloch of Manhattan, the New York Yankees. Both, in brief, have given me belief that the next time mighty Casey hunkers at the plate, he may whack the potato into the cheap seats above the sign for Ford trucks.

The book is two things, really-a biography/profile of Billy Beane, the scrappy general manager of the Oakland Athletics, and a recipe for success in baseball courtesy of sabermetrics, the analysis of the numbers the game itself produces, from the base on balls to the sacrifice bunt, from the stolen base to hitting into the double play. In effect, the book addresses the following question: How can a team with the second lowest payroll in the game challenge for the world championship? The answer is as surprising as it is daring: you find and field a team composed of players that, gulp, nobody else wants-players, it turns out, who produce the sort of numbers no one in old-time management has the patience or the interest to evaluate: the lard butts and putative slug-a-beds, those with supposedly rubber arms and wandering eyes, the coolie toiling well out of the limelight. What, for example, is the value of a player who just doesn't strike out? How do you capitalize on a player who walks? The book is a doozy of a read, stylish and startling, a story of numbers and people that is as compelling a yarn as the first time David sent chin music upside the head of Goliath.

The Red Sox victory, of course, needs no further description. A four-game sweep of the Bronx Bombers was as sweet an angel full of pie. Sure, as I write, the team as we knew it is already busting apart: Pedro "Who's Your Daddy?" Martinez has, alas, gone over to the dark side; Schilling may start next season on the IR; money's tight, the salary cap even tighter. Still, what remains, for the fan, is hope. If the BoSox can do it, maybe my Tribe can. Or any other roster full of folks, like writers themselves, brave enough to believe that cleverness and anonymity can trump washboard abs and gargantuan payrolls. Indeed, I think writers, innocent-minded and always eager for a happy ending (like Jon Kruk, yes?), have been drawn to baseball because it is most like the work they do between the foul lines that are their margins-timeless and ritualistic, unpredictable and balanced, deliberate and heartening, disappointing and impossible.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Scoring from Second Writers on Baseball Copyright © 2007 by Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword Lee K. Abbott.................................................................................xi
Acknowledgments.........................................................................................xv
Introduction Philip F. Deaver..........................................................................xvii
1. The Heat Is On for Cards Dan O'Neill................................................................1
2. The Softball Memo Ron Carlson.......................................................................4
3. Reaching Home Susan Perabo..........................................................................8
4. Death of a Shortstop Robert Vivian..................................................................18
5. Opening Ceremonies Kyle Minor.......................................................................26
6. Hardball Jocelyn Bartkevicius.......................................................................29
7. Brothers Andre Dubus................................................................................43
8. Jimbo Rick Bass.....................................................................................50
9. 2004, a Red Sox Odyssey: In a Hundred Years and Four Generations Tim D. Stone.......................52
10. My Life in the Big Leagues Cris Mazza..............................................................61
11. The Bad Case: A 50th Birthday Love Letter Kurt Rheinheimer.........................................72
12. Billy Gardner's Ground Out Floyd Skloot............................................................88
13. The Roar of the Crowd LeslieEpstein...............................................................99
14. Trading Off: A Memoir Michael Steinberg............................................................104
15. Begotten, Not Made Gary Forrester..................................................................129
16. That's Why We're Here Peter Ives...................................................................147
17. Fielder's Choice Lee Martin........................................................................160
18. A Fan Letter to Lefty Gomez Jeffrey Hammond........................................................167
19. In April, Anything Could Happen Mick Cochrane.....................................................182
20. What We Remember When We Remember What We Loved Earl S. Braggs.....................................184
21. Willie Rooks's Shirt Lee Gutkind...................................................................192
22. Death in the Afternoon Hal Crowther................................................................201
23. Meat Michael Martone...............................................................................206
24. From Blue Highways William Least Heat-Moon.........................................................208
25. A Dispatch from Tucson Larry Blakely...............................................................212
26. Playing Shallow Richard Jackson....................................................................221
27. Hard to Love as the Red Sox Luke Salisbury.........................................................226
28. The Roberto Clemente Fictions Rick Campbell........................................................237
29. Trading Heroes Jeffrey Higa........................................................................254
30. Work-ups: Baseball in the Fifties Christopher Buckley..............................................265
31. Jose Canseco, Hero Michael Chabon..................................................................277
32. Babe Ruth's Ghost Louis D. Rubin Jr................................................................282
33. Throw Like a Girl, or What Baseball Taught Me about Men and Life Rachael Perry.....................293
34. Sunday Morning Ball at the J David Carkeet.........................................................300
35. Good-byes Tom Stanton..............................................................................304
Contributors............................................................................................315
Source Acknowledgments..................................................................................325
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