The Game: One Man, Nine Innings, a Love Affair with Baseball
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eBook by Robert Benson
eBook Category: General Nonfiction/Education
In the spirit of Field of Dreams, a remarkable book about baseball and the meaning of life.
A game between the Iowa Cubs and the Nashville Sounds at an AAA park in Nashville provides the lens through which Robert Benson explores the game of baseball and the meaning of life in The Game. It is an ordinary week night game in the early part of the season between two teams that will finish far out of first place in the Pacific League. But Benson shows us how in this average game of baseball, just as in our everyday lives, the routine plays--the seemingly minor yet vital moves, empty of bravado--eventually win the game.
In beautifully measured prose, Benson links events in his life to the innings in this baseball game. Married to a woman who can quote baseball stats with the best of them, and with two children who share his love for the game (his teenage daughter made the decision early on that she would be the first woman to play for the Yankees), Benson explores the ways in which baseball has always somehow shaped and defined his life. The Game is an extraordinary testament to the everlasting wonder and magic of the great American pastime.
"Benson (Living Prayer) has season tickets to his home-town minor league team in Nashville, and he structures this book around the action of a typical game. He has produced an intriguing meditative piece on the magnetic pull of baseball, spicing his book with apt quotes from both baseball and literary stars but leaving little doubt that, given the choice, he would rather have been a great ballplayer than a great writer. Thoughtful fans will enjoy."
eBook Publisher: Penguin Group
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2004
Baseball is about homecoming. It is a journey by theft and strength, guile and speed, out around first to the far island of second, where foes lurk in the reefs and the green sea suddenly grows deeper, then to turn sharply, skimming the shallows, making for a shore that will show a friendly face, a color, a familiar language and, at third, to proceed, no longer by paths indirect but straight, to home.
A. BARTLETT GIAMATTI
from The Hartford Courant
A CEREMONIAL FIRST PITCH
ANYONE WHO WORKS on books all the time, as opposed to actually doing something useful with their life, has to start somewhere each time that they start a book. Most of us have a way -- a habit, a discipline, a ritual, a routine, a nightmare, or something -- that is the way that we begin to work on a work.
For me, the work usually grows out of the things that I am reading and studying and learning. I start to make notes about those things in my journal, and I find myself having conversations about those things with my friends, and then it seems that everything that I read and hear and observe and wonder about is pointing at the same thing. Then somewhere along the way, the thing begins to have a shape of some sort, and I start to discover what it is that I am writing.
This book is different. I did not find myself suddenly thinking about baseball, and then writing about it. The truth is that I am almost always thinking about baseball in a way. "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball," said the great Rogers Hornsby. "I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." He spoke for a lot of people, including me.
At almost any point in time, if I had my choice, I would be at the ballpark. I would be in Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium watching the big leaguers. Or I would be at the ballpark not too far from my house watching the local minor league team. Or I would be over at the school yard watching my children play. Better yet, I would be throwing batting practice to them and their schoolmates and hitting grounders and taking throws.
Whenever you run into me, wherever it is that we are, and whatever it is that we are supposed to be doing, it is wise to remember that I would generally rather be at the ballpark. You would be welcome to come with me, of course. If you plan to come and see me, then bring a glove, because we are going to throw a few before the day is over. "No matter what I talk about, I always get back to baseball," said Connie Mack, the legendary baseball man. It happens to me a lot as well.
Two of my friends came to me last year and asked me if I would like to write a book about baseball. More specifically, they asked if I would like to write a book about the mysticism and the spirituality of baseball. I am not completely certain even now that I completely understand what they meant by that. But I understood something about why they asked me: I write about spiritual things in general and they know that I love baseball. There is a bit of logic to that. I was not about to look askance at such a gift. If someone tells you to take your base, you take your base.
IF ONE IS LOOKING FOR NON-BASEBALL PEOPLE TO write a book about baseball, one could find plenty of people who know more about it than I do. In my own small circle of friends, there are several people who are better candidates for such work.
I know a woman who was in the stadium the day that Bobby Thomson hit the home run to win the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants and break the hearts of Brooklyn Dodger fans. I have a friend who has long had season tickets at Yankee Stadium. I have another friend who played the game at the minor league level and almost made it to the show. And one who coaches the game, and one who has reported on it for the newspapers, and one who used to work for the Seattle Mariners. I have another friend who watches every Alanta Braves game on television, taping them when he has to be on the road the way some people tape soap operas. I even know a guy who is the chaplain for the New York Yankees.
Any one of these people knows more about the game than I do. The difference is that nobody chose them to write a book; they chose me. So I said yes very quickly. I was afraid the offer might be withdrawn if I hesitated.
My best credential is that I have season tickets to a Triple-A park. One of the games played there, a game between the Iowa Cubs and the Nashville Sounds, is the game that provides a central thread for the book. It was an ordinary weeknight game in the early part of the season between two teams that ended up far out of first place in the Pacific Coast League. Nothing major happened at all; it was just baseball, and that was enough for me.
WRITERS NEVER REALLY KNOW WHY THEY ARE CHOSEN to be writers, of course, and neither do I. I just was.
I was chosen long ago to try to write sentences. To be more precise, the thing chose me. "You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball," wrote Jim Bouton, "and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." Writing has been, and still is, exactly that way for me.
It turns out that a fresh bottle of ink, a hunger for word and story and memory, a long and deep love for the game, and, of course, a lucky bounce somehow qualified me to write this book.
At least, that is what got me to be sitting here, pen in hand, assigned to write a book about baseball, to tell some stories about the game I love best, with no rule other than that I am supposed to give it to the people who asked me to write it when I am finished, and along the way to try to say what I have learned from the most mystical and magical and mysterious game of all.
I feel like I just stole home.
Opening Day, 2001
Copyright © 2001 by Robert Benson