Two new baseball books have arrived at our library. Bottom of the 33rd, by Dan Barry and The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst.
The Bullpen Gospels has been called, “One of the best baseball books ever written.” and “Hilarious, poignant, a really enjoyable read.” It’s a New York Times Bestseller, so it must be good. And perhaps it is funny, to those who have lived the life of a minor league ballplayer. But it wasn’t funny for me. Several times I really wanted to say, “So quit, already.” What was probably supposed to be funny, was (to me) just an endless stream of whining and complaining. I stuck with the book and finally in Chapter 44 (out of 48), Hayhurst finally seemed to find out what baseball was all about. Overall, I was glad I had checked it out from the library rather than buying it for my collection of baseball books. Having seen Hayhurst play for the Toronto Blue Jays, I was hoping to really enjoy the book, but I didn’t.
Bottom of the 33rd, is also about minor league baseball. It is the story of the longest game in baseball’s history, a game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. I admit that I was predisposed to like the book. Once when I was responsible for coming up with some trivia questions I chose to make questions about this game. By page 5 I knew this was a book that I would have to own. This is a rare book. The writing is one of the best examples of baseball storytelling that I have had the pleasure to read. By the end you know the town, the players – who they were and what they went on to become, and what that game was really – a moment suspended in time that seemed to stretch to infinity, “the night seems to have said something about time itself: the deceptiveness of it; the dearness of it. Beseeched by the older ballplayers to slow down the clock, and begged by the younger players to hasten it, the night choose instead to stop time; to place it under a stadium’s laboratory lights and pin it to the Pawtucket clay.” This book is a grand slam home run.