From “dime novels” to post-modern parables, from “Casey at the Bat” to the haiku, the game/sport/business of baseball our “National Pastime” (or at least it used to be)has provided writers with themes, plots, myths, characters, and language. It is widely believed that baseball, more than any other sport, is “the writer’s game.” Jacques Barzun told us that “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball…,” and Walt Whitman said the game “has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere…”
On September 18 at 7pm, join presenter Keith Danish for the program Literary Diamonds: Baseball In Fiction and Poetry where he will show how creative writers of fiction and poetry have used baseball as a metaphor for America, its motley, kaleidoscopic populace, and its changing role in the world. Just as Moby Dick is more than a guide to whaling, Keith’s talk will reveal how a story or poem set on or around the baseball diamond can help us to understand the meaning of life, its delights and, more often, its sorrows.
Below are some contemporary fiction reads and films revolving around baseball or featuring baseball players, and available to borrow with your Livingston Library card.
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
When his wife asks for a divorce, Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
Calico Joe by John Grisham
This story, based on the Cubs and Mets 1973 season, follows the divergent paths of Joe Castle, a rookie hitter for the Chicago Cubs, and Warren Tracey, a hard-throwing Mets pitcher.
The Cactus League by Emily Nemens
Humming with the energy of a ballpark before the first pitch, this novel unravels the tightly connected web of people behind a seemingly linear game. Narrated by a sportscaster, Goodyear’s story is interspersed with tales of Michael Taylor, a batting coach trying to stay relevant; Tamara Rowland, a resourceful spring-training paramour, looking for one last catch; Herb Allison, a legendary sports agent grappling with his decline; and a plethora of other richly drawn characters, all striving to be seen as the season approaches. It’s a journey that, like the Arizona desert, brims with both possibility and destruction. Anchored by an expert knowledge of baseball’s inner workings,this is a propulsive and deeply human debut that captures a strange desert world that is both exciting and unforgiving, where the most crucial games are the ones played off the field.
Catch Us When We Fall by Juliette Fay
On her own since the age of eighteen, Cass Macklin dated brilliant, troubled Ben McGreavy, convinced he was the smartest person she’d ever known. They partied their way through their twenties, slowly descending into a bleak world of binge-drinking and broken promises, inebriated for most of a decade. Now Ben is dead, and Cass is broke, homeless, scared…and pregnant. Determined to have a healthy pregnancy and raise Ben’s baby, Cass has to find a way to stop drinking and build a stable life for herself and her child. But with no money, skills, or sober friends or family, the task seems insurmountable. At wit’s end, Cass turns to the only person with the means to help her: Ben’s brother Scott, third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, a man with a temper and problems of his own. The two make a deal that neither one of them is sure they can live up to. As Cass struggles to take control of her life and to ask for help when she needs it, Scott begins to realize there’s a life for him beyond the baseball diamond.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button. When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken–and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance–right up until the last out.
The Fireballer by Mark Stevens
A poignant story about hopes, dreams, and how far one man’s talent takes him before he realizes it’s about what you do and how you do it. Unmatched in speed and skill, Frank Ryder, star pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles is the most talked-about player in baseball. But he’s haunted by an accident from his past that leaves him searching for answers in his hometown.
Gods of Wood and Stone by Mark Di Ionno
Joe Grudeck is a living legend-a first-ballot Hall of Famer beloved by Boston Red Sox fans who once played for millions under the bright Fenway lights. Now, he finds himself haunted by his own history, searching for connection in a world that’s alienated the true person behind his celebrity facade. He’ll step back into the spotlight once more with a very risky Cooperstown acceptance speech that has the power to change everything-except the darkness in his past. Horace Mueller is a different type altogether-working in darkness at a museum blacksmith shop and living in a rundown farmhouse on the outskirts of Cooperstown, New York. He clings to an anachronistic lifestyle, fueled by nostalgia for simpler times and a rebellion against the sport-celebrity lifestyle of Cooperstown, struggling to bring his baseball prodigy son to his side. This is the story of these two men-framed by the lens of baseball, a timeless, but strikingly singular tale of the responsibilities of manhood and the pitfalls of glory in a painful and exhilarating novel that’s distinctly American.
The Index Of Self-Destructive Acts by Christopher R. Beha
The day Sam Waxworth arrives in New York to write for The Interviewer, a street-corner preacher declares that the world is coming to an end. A sports statistician, data journalist, and newly minted media celebrity who correctly forecasted every outcome of the 2008 election, Sam’s familiar with predicting the future. But when projection meets reality, things turn complicated. Sam’s editor sends him to profile disgraced political columnist Frank Doyle. To most readers, Doyle is a liberal lion turned neocon Iraq war apologist, but to Sam he is above all the author of the great works of baseball lore that sparked Sam’s childhood love of the game-books he now views as childish myth-making to be crushed with his empirical hammer. But Doyle proves something else in person: charming, intelligent, and more convincing than Sam could have expected.
Out Of His League by Caroline Richardson
Gretchen Harper has always been practical. Dependable, solid, predictable. She’s never taken risks, and she’s especially never bought coffee for gorgeous professional athletes in airports. That is, until she meets her favorite baseball player on the worst day of his career. Being sent to the minor league is just the first of Joshua Malvern’s many worries–he’s got an injury that won’t heal and his entire career and future are on the line. When a beautiful woman offers him coffee, that simple kindness is exactly what he needs to lift him out of his funk. He asks her to join him in first class, not expecting to end up joining her in bed. What starts as a one night stand ends up holding the promise for so much more. And while stepping out of her comfort zone has never been Gretchen’s style, for a chance at true love she’ll have to decide whether she’ll swing for the fences, even if it means striking out.
A tragic mistake lands nineteen-year-old baseball phenom Sonny Stano in jail before his burgeoning professional baseball career gets off the ground. Now, twenty years later and fresh out of prison, he works to win back his respect, his family, his lost love and his dream of being a professional baseball player.
The true story of Moe Berg, professional baseball player, Ivy League graduate, attorney, and a top-secret spy who helped the US win the race against Germany to build the atomic bomb.
Set in the world of 1980s college life, it follows a group of college baseball players as they navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood. Get ready for the best weekend ever.
A Iowa farmer hears a voice that instructs him to plow down his crops and construct a baseball field. After doing so, the field is inhabited by spirits of dead baseball players.
An American sports agent and his partner travel to India where they hold a contest to find cricket players they can teach baseball to, in the hopes of making them Major League Baseball players.
—Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian