Joe Donnelly: Bonus Baby (A Baseball Short Story Extra)

I tug on my brim. I tug on it, caress it, and tug on it some more. I take the cap off and slap it against my thigh. I hold it to my chest while I wipe my brow. I pat it, brush it, shape it, and put it back on my head. Then I tug on the brim again.

Baseball season is well under way so here’s a baseball story I read recently. It’s Joe Donnelly’s “Bonus Baby” and was recommended to me by Jay at Bibliophilopolis. It’s  included in the O. Henry Prize Stories of 2016.

o henry prize

Many baseball stories have a father and son relationship and many of them present life and struggle and wonder along with the game. “Bonus Baby” has all this.  Even without baseball, it would be a favorite. Baseball just makes it that much better.

As the narrator pitches, he remembers back to his days growing up in the Midwest where baseball helped him escape his dysfunctional father. Each successful game only gives him more to worry about with his next one. While the reader doesn’t know exactly how old he is, it’s a given that he’s played for a while. The pitcher reminds me in some ways of Dencombe in Henry James’ “The Middle Years”. Past successes don’t outweigh the possibility of future failures:

Baseball had things I could rely on – rules, physics, statistics. It is the world’s most quantifiable sport. Yet it still baffles us. The best hitters still miss two-thirds of the time and the best pitchers still lose a hundred times or more before they’re done. The game was an enigma I couldn’t resist: something I wanted to try to solve even as I knew how far from solving it I might always be.

It’s another story in which I just want to say “Go read it!”

 

 

 

5 responses to “Joe Donnelly: Bonus Baby (A Baseball Short Story Extra)

  1. Hi Dale,
    Glad you liked this one! I did too, even though I’ve never really followed or played much baseball. The thrill and tension involved with being close to achieving a goal or victory is, I suppose, universal to all sporting competitions so I could appreciate it on that level. I hadn’t made the Middle Years connection when reading it, but now that you bring it up, I concur. 🙂

      • Good to hear! I was “worried” you wouldn’t like it and would think, “That Jay doesn’t know the first thing about baseball!” 🙂

      • I’ll be honest – I don’t have lots of statistics memorized or even know that much about any specific players or teams. I’ve just always been a fan of the game and have liked going to games. It goes back to being a kid in the 70’s when The Big Red Machine was all the rage. Of course that was a very long time ago. For whatever reason, baseball seems to show up in some great stories, too. I’ll have to see if I can find some good stories involving other sports, too.

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