Game Time: A Baseball Companion

Game Time: A Baseball Companion



The Pequod Review:

Edited by Steve Kettmann, Game Time is an anthology of Roger Angell's best baseball essays drawn from across his long career (about 1962 to 2002). His pieces cover players from multiple eras — Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, Pete Rose, Pedro Martinez, Barry Bonds and many more — and his observational prose rises far above the level of typical sports journalism. Here he describes a Yale/St. John's college baseball game that would feature two future MLB stars, Ron Darling and Frank Viola: 

The two pitchers held us — each as intent and calm and purposeful as the other. Ron Darling never deviating from the purity of his stylish body-lean and leg-crook and his riding, down-thrusting delivery, poured fastballs through the diminishing daylight. He looked as fast as ever now, or faster, and in both the ninth and tenth he dismissed the side in order and with four more strikeouts. Viola was dominant in his own fashion, also setting down the Yale hitters, one, two, three, in the ninth and tenth, with a handful of pitches. His rhythm — the constant variety of speeds and location on his pitches — had the enemy batters leaning and swaying with his motion, and, as antistrophe, was almost as exciting to watch as Darling’s flare and flame. With two out in the top of the eleventh, a St. John’s batter nudged a soft little roller up the first-base line — such an easy, waiting, schoolboy sort of chance that the Yale first baseman, O’Connor, allowed the ball to carom off his mitt: a miserable little butchery, except that the second baseman, seeing his pitcher sprinting for the bag, now snatched up the ball and flipped it toward him almost despairingly. Darling took the toss while diving full-length at the bag and, rolling in the dirt, beat the runner by a hair.

He also has an intelligent respect for the beauty and passion of high-level professional sports:

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naïveté — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

These are the kinds of observations that will significantly enhance your appreciation of the game of baseball.