Of all the major sports, baseball has always seemed to lend itself to the written word, with scores of analysis, history, reference, biography, ethnography, fantasy, and geez, even poetry constantly being devoted to America’s most hallowed pastime, a large portion of it from a scholarly or literally point of view. (Of course the sad, plain truth remains that football has truly become, outside of celebrity peepshowin’, real America’s real favorite pastime.)
A lifetime baseball fan, I’ve scoured the collected work of the venerable Rogers (Kahn and Angel), devoured the reportage of Thomas Boswell and Dan Shaughnessy, sat perched upon the shoulders the of both Jim Bronsan and Jim Bouton, and dipped into the rosin-stained lives of everybuddy from Ty Cobb to Harry “Steamboat Johnson” to “Super Joe” Charbonneau, and been delighted by the fictional firepower of Robert Coover (The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.), Barry Beckham (Runner Mack), and Donald Hays (The Dixie Association).
Through it all, (and every year brings a new stream of publishings) the arguable best baseball read I’ve ever got my hands on is In the Country of Baseball
(originally published in 1976, rereleased with a new epilogue in 1989 by Fireside), the story of the one and only Dock Ellis, a collaboration between the colorful pitcher and the poet Donald Hall