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My second baseball story in a row (and it’s also my final one for this year) is Ring Lardner’s “Alibi Ike”. In this case, as in last week’s “The Manager of Madden’s Hill”, the story is more than simply a baseball game. The title character, Ike, is the focus of what seems to be a letter from the narrator to a friend. All we know about the narrator is that he plays on the same professional baseball team as Ike. We really don’t know anything about the recipient of the letter.
Ike earns his nickname because of his continuously making excuses for his behavior. If he does something wrong, there’s a reason why. If he does something well, there’s a reason he could have done better. Whether baseball, card playing or women, Ike is unable to admit to situations as they really are. His teammates understand this and inadvertently cause some “girl problems” for Ike.
The story has a down-home aspect that might be considered endearing. I say “might be” because I’m not sure. A little of this type of story would go a long way for me. It’s written with the dialect of an uneducated baseball player which was tolerable but could have been irritating if the story continued longer than it did. I almost want to say that the comedy of the story is old-fashioned; however, I think good comedy is timeless. Good or not, timeless or not, the comedy in “Alibi Ike” is what I would consider a simpler, more straight-forward humor, such as the following conversation:
Well, Smitty went out and they wasn’t no more argument till they come in for the next innin’. Then Cap opened it up.
“You fellas better get your signs straight,” he says.
“Do you mean me? ” says Smitty.
“Yes,” Cap says. “What’s your sign with Ike?”
“Slidin’ my left hand up to the end o’ the bat and back,” says Smitty.
“Do you hear that, Ike?” ast Cap.
“What of it?” says Ike.
“You says his sign was pickin’ up dirt and he says it’s slidin’ his hand. Which is right?”
“I’m right,” says Smitty. “But if you’re arguin’ about him goin’ last innin’, I didn’t give him no sign.”
“You pulled your cap down with your right hand, didn’t you? ” ast Ike.
“Well, s’pose I did,” says Smitty. “That don’t mean nothin’.
The story is worth reading but I would recommend Lardner’s non-baseball story “Haircut”, instead. It has some of the same down-home humor (it takes place in a barber chair) along with depth of character and some disturbing aspects of human nature. “Alibi Ike” is an interesting period piece about baseball and that’s fine with me – on occasion.
As this is week 51 of Deal Me In 2014, next week is the final week and I don’t have to do much guessing to say that I’ll be reading Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall”. This will be the first time I’ve read anything by Porter so I’m looking forward to it. My Deal Me In 2014 list can be seen here. DMI is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.