Catcher (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Peter Morris has established himself as the leading historian of early baseball. With Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero, he consolidates that reputation. Morris traces the evolution of the catcher’s role from baseball’s beginnings into the early twentieth century. Along the way, he connects changing perceptions of the catcher to larger changes in American society (sometimes persuasively, sometimes not). The story he tells is entertaining, unpredictable, and thoroughly absorbing.
Morris begins with a prologue of sorts, recounting the experience of Stephen, a young man born in 1871. Bright, slight of stature, fiercely competitive, and somewhat alienated, this young man loves baseball and in particular the catcher’s position. He is good enough to be the starting catcher for Syracuse University, which he attends before dropping out to become a journalist and, before long, a novelist. Morris reveals with a flourish that he is describing Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War (1895).
In Morris’s telling, Crane’s “obsession with being a baseball catcher” is not simply an interesting bit of trivia. Rather, Morris argues, Crane in this respect stands for his generation: “Mastery of the intricacies of the [catcher’s] position was seen by American boys who came of age in the 1870’s and 1880’s as the ultimate embodiment of courage,...
(The entire section is 1667 words.)
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