October 26, 2020

It’s All Here in “The Only Game”

June 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“An afternoon in mid-May, and we are waiting for the game to begin. We are in the shadow, and the sunlit field before us is a thick, springy green” an old diamond, beautifully kept up,” Roger Angell pens in the opening to his essay “The Web of the Game.” (3, Only)

Angell’s piece sets the tone for “The Only Game in Town,” a nostalgic collection of The New Yorker writings, which includes several baseball reflections. But before you settle into your easy chair, be warned that the book is not a pitch out around the game’s improprieties. Oh no, writes Ring Lardner in “Br’er Rabbit Ball.”

It’s hard for us young folks to believe, but the so-called “Steroid Era” is merely the latest in a line of baseball black marks. Lardner put down his pen and notebook more than 75 years ago. Later, the famed scribe remarked that his inflated imagination was not far from reality.

Read this book because:

1. Where else can you find rich, timeless pieces all in one place?

Sports Illustrated is the only other publication that comes to mind for decade after decade of excellent baseball writing.

A sampling of what you will find here:

John Updike, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu”:
“After a prime so harassed and hobbled, Williams was granted by the relenting fates a golden twilight.” (42)

John Cheever, “The National Pastime”:
“To be an American and unable to play baseball is comparable to being a Polynesian and unable to swim,” he relates to readers about his love for the game. (428)

2. In the days of sound bytes and pull quotes, The New Yorker presents thoughtful insights that encourage us to ascend to higher ground rather than to stoop.

Ben McGrath ponders the near-inimitable knuckleball through the lens of Tim Wakefield. “Knuckleball pitchers are not just a rare but also a close-knit breed – the Fraternal Order of the Knuckleheads, bound by their shared experiences of alienation and finger cramps,” he writes. (383)

3. Compiled by The New Yorker editor, David Remnick, “The Only Game in Town” highlights perspectives you won’t find on your local sports page with additional works by Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., Malcolm Gladwell, John McPhee and others. Not only is this book “The Only Game in Town,” but it is also the lone book you will need to content yourself for a while.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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