Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The fictional Hector Quesadilla is loosely based on Manny Mota, a Dominican baseball player who spent twenty seasons in the major leagues. During Mota’s last seven seasons, he was almost exclusively a pinch-hitter for the Dodgers. Officially forty-four years old when he played his last game in 1982, Mota set the record for most pinch-hits in a career. T. Coraghessan Boyle uses Hector to make observations about baseball, age, time, and myth.

As Hector points out, baseball is “a game of infinite surprises.” Although it may be impossible to prove that the unexpected happens more often in baseball than it does in other team sports, it is clear that the game offers possibilities that are absent in basketball, football, hockey, and soccer because the length of a baseball game is determined solely by how long it takes to make three outs in each inning. In theory, any game—such as the one that Boyle imagines in this story—could last forever.

The absence of time restraints in baseball contributes to Hector’s considering himself similarly free of such boundaries: “How can he get old? The grass is always green, the lights always shining, no clocks or periods or halves or quarters, no punch-in and punch-out: this is the game that never ends.” Baseball’s freedom from time restrictions assumes an almost religious aura: “The new inning dawns as inevitably as the new minute, the new hour, the new day, endless, implacable, world without...

(The entire section is 548 words.)