The Art of Fielding

J. Robert Lennon writes:

It’s impossible to overstate the extent to which the game of baseball is integrated with American life in general, and its literary scene in particular. The sport’s popularity has wavered – it has occasionally been eclipsed, in market share, by American football and basketball – but its importance as a cultural signifier has never faded. To the mathematically minded, it is a game of statistics; to the outdoorsman, it is pastoral. The gossip sees it as a pageant of personalities, the intellectual uses it to establish working-class cred and the working man philosophises over it. There must be very few American boys who haven’t played it, and even fewer American humans who haven’t seen it on TV. It has produced countless idioms and metaphors: home run, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, strikeout, pinch-hitter, double-header, major league, minor league, bullpen, slugger. There are people who use these terms, utterly confident in their meaning, who couldn’t name a single active player. Baseball is big in America, but the idea of baseball is even bigger.

(LRB 26 January 2012)

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