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.
If you’re in self-isolation and you’ve already burned through your pile of books, skip over to Invisible Publishing to grab some ebooks. The best part? Pay whatever you choose, AND one hundred percent of proceeds go to the authors. (I guess that’s two parts.) So you can scoop up my books, but also dozens of other staggeringly wonderful titles from writers like Michelle Winters, Seyward Goodhand, Tyler Hellard, HB Hogan… Fiction, poetry, nonfiction. Fill your phone or laptop or tablet or e-reader (does anyone still use those?), make your isolation more enjoyable, support independent Canadian publishing, and toss some money at Canadian authors. Everybody wins!
From Primitive Replica, here’s the trailer for the baseball book. They approached me shortly after Utility was published and said they wanted to turn it into a short film/trailer. I watched a few of their videos and then said yes without reservation. It was wonderful to work with Sean and Henry, and I couldn’t be happier with the results (except for the part where they captured that flat-footed swing of mine, which clearly demonstrates that when it comes to the ballplayer-vs-writer question, I chose the right path). Follow the link to watch the rest of their stuff, and if you’re a creative enterprise in need of a video of some sort (in and around Toronto), consider contracting their services. They’re smart, professional, and collectively they have a great eye.
As for the trailer, I’d be grateful if you’d share it if/as you see fit.
(And yes, that is a 1951 Minneapolis Millers jersey I’m wearing in the batting cage, with Willie Mays’ number on the back. That’s from Ebbets Field Flannels.)
Here’s the truth of it: the game makes sense. Down there on the field we know just what’s at stake. It’s a cleaner, truer expression of ourselves. It’s something to make the hair on our arms stand up, something to hold dear and pass along and worry over. But here’s the rest of that truth: it promises more torment and frustration than most of us would otherwise willingly invite into our lives. It requires loss and pain and heartbreak. It’s not easy, not if you’re doing it right.
A lot of baseball literature gets bogged down in numbers and abstract statistics. Writers often forget what the game feels like. Forbes doesn’t. Perhaps what makes his book successful is that he approaches it with the same measured composure as a player does the game. Boredom and excitement coexist elegantly in The Utility of Boredom, just as they do upon the baseball field. In Forbes’ estimation, it’s an antithetical but necessary relationship. And, in baseball, he locates their ideal synthesis.
In all of these essays, Forbes’s writing is almost invisibly stunning, clear, with romantic flourishes equal to his subject matter. But what he’s really able to articulate is how a love of baseball is about a love of, or at least an acceptance of, the fact that losing is part of the game.
Authenticity is a thing we may move toward but never touch; if it’s to be found at all, it approaches us. But make no mistake, in buying these caps and memorizing the names of players and owners and stadiums from 20 years ago or better I’m attempting to will myself toward something authentic.
You a baseball fan? If yes, then you know Forbes intends no insult in saying that baseball is boring. “Boredom is potential. Boredom is the basic element of all of baseball’s dramas.” Too true, and quite unlike this fast-paced collection of short hits on the subject of a game the Peterborough, Ont., writer has loved since he was a kid: Forbes’s baseball diamond has 24 essays covering a mere 150 pages. So he moves like the blazes. He begins with “Sanctuary,” likening the stadium to a house of worship. He ends with “162,” the end of the season, when 10 teams vie for the championship. In between, he immerses the reader in virtually every lackadaisical thought to which baseball lends itself.