Paul Gray

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Angell is a formidable humorist. Yet he sees all the current tinkering with baseball as no laughing matter. He imagines a time when the World Series will be totally surrendered to television, transported to some domed stadium, and made the excuse for a week of canned spectaculars. If network and baseball moguls have not already dreamed up this plan, they will now. Angell protests: "We are trying to conserve something that seems as intricate and lovely to us as any river valley….

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True fans need no convincing. They can read Five Seasons for remembrances of games, pennant races and World Series past, for another chance to think about their beloved sport under the tutelage of an expert….

Angell's style neatly complements the balance, pace and mathematical exactitudes of the game he celebrates. He does not throw many high, hard ones; he favors the change of pace, the roundhouse curve. (p. 95)

Five Seasons contains leisurely off-the-diamond reporting: Angell travels through the hinterlands with a major league scout, a species of rugged individualist now threatened by cooperative head-hunting and centralized data banks. He visits three hyperfans of the Detroit Tigers and comes up with a deft report on the joys of obsession. He spends time with Steve Blass, a top pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates until, during the winter of 1972, he inexplicably lost the knack of getting batters out. Angell quotes one of Blass's coaches: "You know, old men don't dream much, but just the other night I had this dream that Steve Blass was all over his troubles and could pitch again."

Is not such poignancy wasted on a game? Angell thinks not, for several reasons. Baseball's vivid intensity, the demands it makes on players and knowing spectators, is the very stuff of dreams. The freebooting expansion and big-money dealing have also made it a model of reality, "no longer a release from the harsh everyday American business world but its continuation and apotheosis." Angell admits the foolishness of rooting for a professional sports team, a constantly revolving roster of athletes playing for money. Except for one thing. "What is left out of this calculation," he writes, "is the business of caring—caring deeply and passionately, really caring—which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives." Five Seasons radiates this capacity—and nurtures it. (p. 96)

Paul Gray, "Splendor in the Astroturf," in Time (copyright 1977 Time Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission from Time), Vol. 109, No. 20, May 16, 1977, pp. 95-6.

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