Donald Hall

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Baseball is too often confused with the Major Leagues, or even with Joe Garagiola and the Game of the Week. But baseball is also college and Little League, high school and vacant lot and American Legion and Class A. "A Season in the Sun" takes its form from Roger Kahn's notion of baseball's scope. To make this book, Kahn spent last summer touching down at the four corners of the baseball world….

From the affluence of Chavez Ravine, Kahn's "Season" slopes downward to Houston and the hapless Astros, who are more than $30 million in debt; then to Paul Patrick McKernan in Pittsfield, Mass.; then to Artie Wilson, car salesman who starred in his heyday for the Negro leagues, coming up to the Majors only at the end of his career; then to Early Wynn, that intelligent and aggressive gentlemen who pitched during four decades in the Major Leagues and won 300 games; to the island of Puerto Rico, where the population is baseball crazy; to Bill Veeck, baseball-crazy genius and owner of the Chicago White Sox; finally to the bright sun of autumn, the Apollo of the 1976 World Series, the great John Bench.

There are places Kahn doesn't travel. I would have wished an encounter with a rookie, where Methodist boys from Oklahoma meet stars of Brooklyn streets hipper than Mick Jagger; where ex-cane-cutters from the Dominican Republic meet Arizona State communications majors. I would have wished a visit to the ball players of Triple A, who wait nightly for the message to see the manager. My only complaint against "A Season in the Sun" is its length—there isn't enough of it.

Admirers of "The Boys of Summer," Kahn's great reminiscence of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, may find "A Season in the Sun" too slim, but they will find it thick with the old virtues. Kahn began as a newspaperman, turned into a magazine journalist; he is superb as an interviewer, masterful at retelling anecdotes. In the lineup of baseball's prose-writer superstars, each writer plays his own position with his own special skill. Roger Angell describes the game from bleachers and box seats, better than anyone else—reasoning, rendering, responding to the game in prose as graceful as a pitcher's motion. Pat Jordan enters the player's feelings, remembering his own experience as he watches Bruce Kison. Tom Clark describes the antic eccentrics of the national pastime with a straightforward, surrealistic sobriety; he could do a play-by-play of a Mel Brooks movie. But for baseball's characteristic stories—anecdotes and lore the game is rich with—Roger Kahn is best of all, with his sweet ear for the cadence of baseball talk….

When a game is rained out this summer, or next winter when a blizzard has delayed delivery of The Sporting News, take Roger Kahn's "A Season in the Sun" down from the bookshelf to hear the soft baseball voices repeating old games in your ear, stories for summer nights or for long winters away from the diamond and the green. (p. 5)

Donald Hall, "Mother Could Hit a Curve Ball," in The New York Times Book Review, July 3, 1977, pp. 5, 17.∗

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