Stolen Season

STOLEN SEASON is the journal of Lamb’s five-month, 16,000-mile backroads odyssey through baseball’s minor leagues. Weary after a decade spent abroad as a foreign correspondent, Lamb returns home to California, rents an RV, and heads for San Bernardino and opening day in the Single-A California League. Here, in organized baseball’s lower levels and far from the glamour and riches of the major leagues, Lamb first encounters the mixed blessings of life in the minor leagues: the endless bus rides, fast food, and gnawing self-doubt as well as the joy and camaraderie that grows out of a shared love of the game and the dream of making it to the majors.

Much that Lamb sees in the minors reminds him of the baseball of an earlier era, especially of the beloved Milwaukee Braves of his youth. His travels during this summer of 1989 allow him to track down some of his heroes from the Braves’ 1957 championship season, including Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, and Hurricane Bob Hazle, now a South Carolina liquor salesman, whose 1957 heroics, today almost forgotten, helped give the Braves their only championship.

Yet the best baseball books typically are about much more than baseball, and so it is with STOLEN SEASON. While traveling America’s blue highway-linked small towns and small cities, Lamb experiences what is so often missed in the blur of interstate travel: the friendly offer of a rural Virginian, the unassuming openness of Midwesterners, and even the quiet, dignified resignation of the residents of a dying Route 66 town. By journey’s end, it is evident that Lamb feels that the intricate drama of baseball is best played out in such places and among such people.