It is still a stupendous piece of work -- and no collection of writing about the sport can seriously call itself a "best of" without it. Baseball remains designed to break your heart and I'm still not that grown-up or up-to-date.
Despite the timelessness of Giamatti's thoughts, what we need from baseball and what it deigns to offer us -- strictly on its own unknowable schedule* and without one speck of concern for our emotional well-being -- the essay feels rooted in a pre-2004 Red Sox mentality. It's too damn fatalistic, right down to the mention of Dame Mutability, her guiding hand translating hope into memory, and the "rough justice" of losing out to the Yankees.
* Actually, I don't think baseball has a schedule at all. Things just happen.
But how could it not be? First of all, the game he describes in such detail was played on October 1, 1977. And second, Giamatti is writing as much about mortality as he is about baseball (maybe more). We will not always have "the memory of sunshine and high skies". We cannot resist the corrosion. There will be a final at-bat -- and we will be struck out.A wise man once said, "It used to be like that, and now it goes like this." And so it has, for me.
Nearly six years ago, an 11-day stretch of baseball changed me (and you) forever. I did not realize it for many months, but my brain had been re-wired -- jolted into a new, improved state of being -- and while I can remember those old feelings, I can no longer feel them.
So I'll share this, from an excellent interview with Roger Angell:
Baseball is meant to be watched all the way through. Sure, it's boring. There are boring innings and sometimes there turn out to be bad games, but you're not going to have a feeling for the good games unless you're willing to watch. ...
[E]ach have formal chapters. There are wonderful beginnings that don't stand up and boring beginnings that are great in the end. You just don't know. They're both, baseball and reading, for people who aren't afraid of being bored.