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.
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!”