The Iowa Baseball Confederacy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The game of baseball has often served as a metaphor for life. In this novel, it is used to exemplify human existence at its most vital and varied.

Matthew Clarke’s obsessive desire to know the truth about the legendary Iowa baseball league known as the Confederacy leads to his death (he is struck by a foul ball), and both his research and his compulsion are transferred to his son at the moment of his demise. Gideon Clarke’s determination to prove that his ancestors battled the mighty Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs on even terms in a game mysteriously absent from all official records enables him to slip through a crack in time, and in a 2000-inning, forty-day game of apocalyptic proportions, he discovers what is of real value in his life and in American society.

The point of Gideon’s quest is that one cannot live comfortably in the present without understanding the past. Although he is a man keenly attuned to the natural wonders of the world, an aspect of his character beautifully evoked by Kinsella’s lyric prose, he is troubled by an inability to achieve a harmonious relationship either with the women in his life or with the community in which he dwells. His problems parallel the amorphous dissatisfaction of many Americans, and his journey of discovery compels him to look into the heart of America’s formative past.

His faith in the mystical powers of the imagination frees him from the limits of time, and like Huck and Jim returning to the wilderness, Gideon and his best friend, an aging minor-league outfielder, return to the early 1900’s to take part in a fantastic but plausible contest. The game pits locals against legendary professionals, rebels against the establishment, the Indians against the cavalry in a struggle of cosmic forces with the destiny of the nation’s soul at stake. While Gideon is finally unable to resurrect the innocence of an earlier era, he is able to see and understand the perfect symmetry of baseball, and reclaim its purity as a source of strength for inspiration through troubled times to come.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Asinof, Eliot. “Did Leonardo Invent the Home Run?” The New York Times, April 20, 1986, p. 15.

Batten, Jack. “Diamonds Are for Evers.” Books in Canada 15 (August/September, 1986): 20.

Cochran, Robert W. “A Second Cool Papa: Hemingway to Kinsella and Hays.” Arete: The Journal of Sport Literature 4, no. 2 (Spring, 1987): 27-40.

Flagg, Fannie. “Will Truckbox Al Make the Team?” The New York Times Book Review, July 12, 1992, 33.

Kaufmann, James. “The World According to Silas Ermineskin.” The Christian Science Monitor, September 21, 1984, p. 22.

Kinsella, W. P., and Ann Knight. “Baseball Like It Oughta Be.” American Film 14, no. 7 (May, 1989): 76.

Lecker, Robert, et al., eds. Canadian Writers and Their Works: Sandra Birdsell, Timothy Findley, W. P. Kinsella, and David Adams Richards. Toronto: ECW Press, 1996.

Okrent, Daniel. “Imaginary Baseball.” The New York Times, July 25, 1982, p. 10.

Pellow, C. Kenneth. “Shoeless Joe in Film and Fiction.” Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature 9, no. 1 (Fall, 1991): 17-23.

Sayers, Valerie. “If He Wrote It, They Will Read.” The New York Times Book Review, December 19, 1993, 14.