Baseball and Lesser Sports

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The title says it all: This is a book about the game of games, our national pastime. Baseball is the American ritual sport, capturing and reflecting our essence in the same precise but indefinable way as do detective novels, Western movies, and rock and roll. We recognize these and understand them, instinctively, but it takes a writer with the gifts and perceptions of Sheed to explain them to us.

When writing about the heroes of baseball, players such as DiMaggio, Williams, or Jackie Robinson, Sheed captures the complex simplicity of these figures. They are, after all, grown men playing a children’s game, so what is there to hold our attention, and then win our admiration? As Sheed reveals, these men are what they do, and someone like Joe DiMaggio does it better than anyone else could do, or ever be expected to do.

But baseball is a game of teams, and managers, and the front office, and increasingly higher salaries. Some of our finest contemporary baseball writers will write about the teams, and sometimes the managers, but they turn away from the finances and the bruising, baffling tangle of owners, players, and fans, lost in a different sort of game, with too many numbers for it to make sense.

Sheed takes it on, and makes it make some sort of sense with his lucid prose and apt observations. Those who worry that the huge salaries paid today’s superstars will somehow ruin the game, making rich teams unbeatable and poor teams...

(The entire section is 427 words.)