February 24, 2011

Seven Pieces Of Information

Does anyone have any favourite examples of baseball being mentioned in non-baseball novels? Here is one that Laura shared with me years ago.
As I walked to Yankee Stadium I reflected upon the means that Smedjebakken had devised for our meeting. With seven pieces of information printed on a little piece of cardboard (Yankee Stadium, the gate, the section, the row, the seat, the date, and the time) you could, with machinelike certainty, bring two people from entirely disparate parts of the earth to positions side by side at a particular instant.

This, I thought, might be a way to salvage the potential of normally wasted encounters, such as sharing a train car on a late summer's afternoon with a woman as beautiful as summer itself. I sometimes think back to the earlier years of the century and women I saw then ...

If only I had seized those moments, but I was almost always too shy. A ticket, though, to some public event -- a baseball game, a lecture, a concert -- might allow the woman to whom you presented it to reflect at length upon her short memory of you on some public conveyance, and perhaps to be enchanted. And if she didn't show, you could at least enjoy a baseball game, a lecture, or a concert, sitting next to a mournfully empty seat.

Smedjebakken was no woman, and the sight of him sitting in Yankee Stadium, with a cardboard box of baseball food on his lap, jarred me from my revery.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing to the food in the box.

"This is food," he answered. "You've heard of it?" ...

"Beer," he said, handing me a paper cup. "My beer is Rheingold, the dry beer."

"It smells like a urine sample," I said, sniffing at it.

"Yes," he said. "One of them is a urine sample that I'm supposed to deliver to my urologist. And one is beer. Who knows which is which?"
Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case (paperback, pp. 321-323)


Dr. Jeff said...

Pafko at the Wall chapter in Underworld

laura k said...

Pafko at the Wall chapter in Underworld

The only reason to read the novel that I can find.

* * * *

I feel like I know so many of examples, but coming up with them is not easy.

laura k said...

Mark Twain! There's a scene in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court where the hero tries to replace the jousting tournaments with baseball. I think the knights want to play baseball in their armour? There's also a passage about umpires.

The full text is online here but I don't have time or patience to find the chapter, and I don't own a copy of this novel.

Philip said...

In The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher--a most excellent urban fantasy series--there's a scene in the book Death Masks where Harry Dresden goes to duel someone in Wrigley, and uses a whole lot of baseball imagery.

Amy said...

In Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, there is an episode where one character takes his elderly mother to an Orioles game. (I admit I needed some internet research to find this---just had a sense that Tyler had written about baseball in her novels.)

There are a few nice lines about baseball, including this one:

"When you come [to a baseball game] in person, you direct your own focus, you know? The TV or the radio men, they might focus on the pitcher when you want to see what first base is doing; and you don't have any choice but to accept it."

laura k said...

I suppose Philip Roth's The Great American Novel and David Duncan's The Brothers K are both baseball novels, not novels in which baseball is found. Not sure, but they are both very baseball-heavy, so they might not qualify for this idea.

Which I love, btw!

laura k said...

Allan (who is in bed with a fever) says that The Great American Novel and The Brothers K don't count - both are baseball novels. OK.

johngoldfine said...

'Big Rock Candy Mountain' by Wallace Stegner gives a long backstory about Bo, including his itinerant time in the minors and independent leagues of a century ago.

He liked playing ball in Terre Haute. It was a wandering life, full of action, and the adulation of the fans put a cocky swagger in his walk. His name in the papers pleased him, the fellowship of the gang he played with was good masculine fellowship, with many afternoons in the icehouse cooling off on beer after a game, and many evenings of quiet intent poker. He lost money, but he learned much. If it had not been for an accident, he might have stayed on as a professional ball player, might even have moved up into the big time, because his hitting was consistent and powerful, and he was a good man behind the plate in the days when catchers worked with a thin fingerless glove. But late in the season of 1896 he tried to stretch a long hit, got tangled up in a plunging fight for the bag with the opposing third baseman, and came up limping with a badly wrenched knee.

Benjamin said...

I don't have time or patience to find the chapter

End of chapter 40.

allan said...

From Underworld:

"Longing on a large scale is what makes history. This is just a kid with a local yearning but he is part of an assembling crowd, anonymous thousands off the buses and trains, people in narrow columns tramping over the swing bridge above the river, and even if they are not a migration or a revolution, some vast shaking of the soul, they bring with them the body heat of a great city and their own small reveries and desperations, the unseen something that haunts the day -- men in fedoras and sailors on shore leave, the stray tumble of their thoughts, going to a game."


Later, Russ Hodges is talking with his statistician between innings, talking about when he worked in a studio in Charlotte, getting notes via telegraph and having to re-create the game.

"... I know this sound farfetched but I used to sit there and dream of doing real baseball from a booth in the Polo Grounds in New York City."

"Real baseball."

"The thing that happens in the sun."

(Then DeLillo writes:)

"Somebody hands you a piece of paper filled with letters and numbers and you have to make a ball game out of it. You create the weather, flesh out the players, you make them sweat and grouse and hitch up their pants, and it is remarkable, thinks Russ, how much earthly disturbance, how much summer and dust the mind can manage to order up from a single Latin letter lying flat."

sam said...

The Fireside Book of Baseball excerpts the softball game scene from The Chosen by Chaim Potok in which Reuven first encounters Danny Saunders when the latter hits him with a line drive.

Jake said...

Movie - In the Bedroom, based/filmed coastal maine, several years ago, I believe the opening scene or early at least, they have Joe and Jerry on the radio in a truck that you can clearly hear.

Unknown said...

Does Charlie Huston's "Caught Stealing" (a taut modern noir with a baseball-obsessed protagonist; highly recommended) count, or is it actually a baseball novel?

laura k said...

I don't think movies can count. Zillions of movies show people playing baseball, or baseball on the radio or on TV.

A friend just recently pointed out this BP story on the Cubs game in Ferris Bueller.

Allan is sick in bed, so I'll deputize myself and decide we have to stick to the written word.

laura k said...

I don't have time or patience to find the chapter

End of chapter 40.

Thank you!

johngoldfine said...

Allan & Felix on the shelf for a while--I hope they both are back on the field and hot to trot very soon.

Unknown said...

In Russell Banks' novel Continental Drift, p. 265-268, Ted Williams is spotted in a bait and tackle store in Florida by the unraveling protagonist, Bob Dubois. Great novel, perfect scene, a god appearing to a New Englander far from home and in ruin.

laura k said...

I'm a big fan of Russell Banks, but I haven't read that one. I'll look for that passage when I do.

In Banks' novel "Affliction," a guy from their small New Hampshire town was supposed to be "the next Carlton Fisk". When he washes out and returns home, it's all downhill from there. You only see it in backstory, but the Sox and the town's baseball allegiances are part of it.