Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
“You Could Look It Up” is an unusual Thurber short story in point of view: that of an illiterate trainer employed by a major league baseball team. Thurber thereby adopts a technique already made famous by Ring Lardner, in which much of the humor derives from the way the speaker fractures the English language. Unlike the typical Lardner story, Thurber’s also has a strong plot. The narrator recounts a story thirty years old, which prepares the reader for an old-fashioned “yarn.” It also makes more plausible the lowbrow characteristics of the trainer and the team members by placing them in an era when the men of professional baseball were usually little educated.
Manager Squawks Magrew’s team has been leading the league all season but has fallen into a slump that has melted its lead almost entirely away. In a bar Magrew meets an eccentric, fifty-four-year-old midget named Pearl du Monville. Magrew comes to enjoy his company and introduces him into the dugout as a kind of mascot. As Magrew grows more and more displeased with the performance of his players, he decides to sign and outfit Pearl as a player. In the ninth inning of a crucial game, with two outs, the bases loaded, and the team needing one run to tie and two to win the game, he calls upon the midget as a pinch-hitter with instructions to wait for the inevitable base on balls that any batter with such a tiny strike zone might reasonably expect.
The midget, however, does the...
(The entire section is 375 words.)
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