Horace Guy Womack was in the employ of four different Major League teams across five seasons, a serviceable bullpen righty who lost as many games as he won, but managed to keep his lifetime ERA a shade below three. There’d be no reason to know his name, probably, if he didn’t have such a great one: he went by Dooley, for reasons which are less than clear at this remove.
— “Dooley Womack,” for Hobart
I think about Pedro Guerrero sometimes. More than is normal, or healthy, I’d guess.
— “Pedro Guerrero,” for Hobart
Gaylord Perry toiled for twenty-two seasons in the majors, and the look on his face suggests it was hard toil indeed. Wind worn, exasperated, he mutely submits to yet another examination of his cap, his head, his uniform, for a dab of Vaseline, a smear of K-Y. It might or might not have been there – Perry’s success rested on the twin pillars of a doctored ball’s unpredictability, and the thought, instilled in the head of each batter he faced, that the ball might be materially abetted in its tortuous journey from mound to plate.
— “A Photograph of Gaylord Perry Being Investigated for Foreign Substances,” for Hobart
The afternoon was mellow in all the right ways, and things broke in our favor: the parking was free, the rain held off, the saxophone quartet absolutely nailed “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and a kindly usher handed one of my boys a retrieved foul ball on our way out.
— “Overrunning It,” for Hobart
The Bisons eventually fell to visiting Pawtucket, but that didn’t seem all that noteworthy as the shells exploded above our heads in red and green and blue and white splashes and my kids whooped and screamed and laughed. After the last of the smoke drifted over Swan Street we headed for the gate in no particular hurry to get anywhere, though we were suddenly on the wrong end of a three hour drive, our beds at the other. Leaving, we all intuited, meant saying a practical goodbye to what had been a very good summer indeed, though it was then not yet September.
— “Dispatch #9: I shall not pass this way again,” for Sinkhole magazine
I’ve always wanted a catcher’s mitt, and this one cost me thirteen bucks. It needed a small bit of re-lacing, nothing that was beyond my meager abilities. The day after I bought it, it featured prominently in a day of catch, shagging flies, a chip truck, cold Cokes, a bag of cherries. There was a stinging grounder and a bloody nose, and later there was swimming.
— “Dispatch #8: Relics,” for Sinkhole magazine
That an inactive fansite should survive such a span of time – three administrations, several wars, five Star Wars films – is not remarkable. The internet is vast, and great swaths of it have succumbed to link rot, domain scrapers, the churn of ISPs, but most of it remains, hidden only by the great volume of new content. Your Blogger site is still kicking around somewhere, as is your Myspace page. These digital presences accumulate as a matter of course, and as we abandon them they spread out behind us like a wake.
— “Dispatch #7: ICHIRO SUZUKI, THE STAR OF BASEBALL,” for Sinkhole magazine
It seems a bit simplistic to me, though, to suggest that The Steroid Era comprises a stain on the game’s history. It is, to be sure, a reminder that in a collision of faith and capitalism, capitalism almost inevitably triumphs. But labelling it an aberration feels uncomfortably close to laying all the blame at the feet of players, when the truth is that the history of baseball is characterized by efforts to streamline the flow of money toward those in control; rest assured that, during the period in question, all concerned were reaping the windfall of increased gates and greater viewership. Baseball had succeeded in re-entering the zeitgeist just a few short years after the labor stoppage which had alienated a huge number of its paying customers, and it did so thanks to the record number of balls leaving big league yards all over America. Tellingly, even though everybody seemed quite aware of the manner in which performance-enhancing substances were changing the game, nobody seemed terrifically interested in doing anything about it.
— “Dispatch #6: The gray area,” for Sinkhole magazine
In American Pastoral, Philip Roth identified a strain of dark anxiety he deemed the “indigenous American berserk,” and the contemporary home run seems to speak to that anxiety, expressing aspects of America’s gobbling ambition, its voraciousness, the muscly sense that to grind a ball into dust is a better and more exclamatory statement than a thing done lightly or delicately.
— “Dispatch #5: American Berserk,” for Sinkhole magazine
What made the prospect of him continuing to play so alluring an idea for me was not simply the pure aesthetic joy of watching him toil in a fashion so idiosyncratic and stylistically anomalous that it seemed he was playing a different game altogether, but that his familiar presence put me in touch with the person I was a long time ago, a time and a person from which and from whom I am otherwise exceptionally distant.
— “Dispatch #4: Gradually, and then all of a sudden,” for Sinkhole magazine