As it’s been a month or eight since I last updated the site, here’s a roundup of goings on and publications and conversations since I last opened the WordPress editor:
For the book recommendation site ShepherdI compiled a list of books that master the trick of placing baseball in a broader historical context
For the SABR baseball card research committee blog I wrote about why it can be tempting to not open a pack of baseball cards
Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf is a great online repository of publications about the game; I spoke to Ron himself about The Only Way Is the Steady Way, The Utility of Boredom, kids, the Blue Jays, the rules of collecting ballcaps, and more
Despite being Yankees fans, the folks over at Start Spreading the News turn out to be nice people, and I spoke to them about Ichiro, how I’d “fix” baseball, etc.
We here in Ontario are about to go into another lockdown, and the air outside my window is adance with snow flurries, but it’s Opening Day, damn it, and so we rejoice and find gladness in the promise of a new season. Tomorrow, April 2, is the official publication date of The Only Way Is the Steady Way, so chosen because it’s also the twentieth anniversary of Ichiro’s MLB debut. It’s also the fifth anniversary of the publication of The Utility of Boredom. That one was a coincidence, but it’s still worth noting. Regarding the former, there have been some developments—articles, appearances, etc.—that I’ll endeavour to round up here:
In ways both literal and figurative the New York-Penn League was born on Main St. and died on Park Ave. Conceived in 1939 in Batavia, New York’s Hotel Richmond (which sat, before demolition, on Main Street), it was the longest continuously operating Class A league left when it was among those low-rung circuits summarily executed by the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, headquartered at 245 Park Ave, Manhattan.
I’m not a Mets fan but in New York I’ll cheer for the Mets every time. The Mets are a philosophy in every way opposed to Yankeeness, diametrically so. The relationship between these two entities is schismatic, a fundamental divergence on matters related to the very essence of being.
Curtis Granderson is among that select group of players who’ve negotiated the sale of their labor to both organizations, so he’s got some insight into the duality of human experience. He knows: while it’s certainly more luxurious to be a Yankee fan or player, being in consortium with the Mets teaches you the same thing that you learn if you live long enough on this planet: true love travels on a gravel road.
The next night the Astros walloped Baltimore 23-2, with Álvarez homering three times, including a grand slam, for a total of seven RBI. But the Yordan Álvarez of Friday night’s third inning strikeout is of greater interest to me. He stands at the nexus of innumerable convergences: strains of information, history, prognosis and apology, wayward currents pinched to a single point in space. He’s an individual upright but unguarded, caught in 1/100th of a second and preserved against a background, that great brick facade vivid but blurred, which suggests that he is stalked by uncertainties. The thick, hazy air of a dog day’s evening makes time’s immateriality evident. Much has come unmoored.
Central among my beliefs is that the 1987 Topps set is the finest collection of baseball cards ever produced. There are no hard facts to support this claim, only my personal zealotry, and though I understand that my love is highly subjective, and the product of timing and circumstance as much as it is of accomplishment in design, I’m unshakable: this is the set, this is the year.
For all its prideful stubbornness, baseball has evolved, but in the virtual stream it becomes an ahistorical soup, the ’77 Yankees rubbing up against the 2001 Mariners and the ’68 Cardinals. We Are Family and the Big Red Machine and the Cardiac Kids and the Amazin’s and Nos Amours. Exhibitions, early-season snoozers, All-Star Games, World Series nail-biters. In YouTube’s chronological blender, Ken Griffey Jr. is always chugging around third on Edgar’s double to beat the Yankees, Mark Fidrych is always a goofy, charismatic rookie phenom on the rise, and Ichiro is always delivering a long-distance precision strike to nab Terrence Long at third. Picture quality careens from black-and-white abstraction to grainy videotape—but it’s all baseball, and at this moment that’s all I need it to be.
I have a piece entitled “Describing the Days Ahead: A cli-fi primer” in Canadian Notes and Queries’ special issue, Writing in the Age of Unravelling. Working with guest editors Sharon English and Patricia Robertson was a great experience, and I’m grateful to them for including my article in this timely collection.
Maybe you had some variety of wild place – your own Hawkins, Indiana, the wild places bordering your neighborhood which encouraged those wild places within you, before you came to any awareness about energy policy, or rendition, or black sites; before you understood that the worst of the world’s problems came not from without human agency, but from deep within it. I certainly did. The joy of Stranger Things springs in great measure from its ability to reconnect us with those places. It’s a meditation on power – the loss of it, the restoration of it – which never for a moment feels didactic or in any way concerned with message, but rather like a parable from within the temporal borders of our own lives. The precarity of modern life has led to a sense of unease and fragility. In Hawkins, Indiana, as in the places of our youth, before the age of smartphones, help could be very far away indeed, but we got by, in some cases with some help from benevolent authority figures, like Chief Hopper, but more often with the help of the freaks and outsiders we called our peers. The ability to navigate danger depended not on how reliable your 4G signal was, but how reliable your friends.
He started in: “There’s a guy. Good guy. Or average guy, anyway, like any of us. Flawed. Known his share of personal pain. Maybe he’s been predeceased by a child or a wife or a lover or a sibling. This guy – we’ll call him Randolph – walks into a bar.”