Quotes from BOTTOM OF THE 33rd by Dan Barry

This blog may be a bit long, but I’m simply posting some quotes that impressed me from a book recommended by a fellow blog writer, Andrew Toy (“Adopting James”). Thank you, Andrew.

I’m not a baseball fan at all–before reading this book, I didn’t even realize that there was a senior Cal Ripken, and I couldn’t have told you what status the junior had in baseball stats. Dan Barry (not to be confused with the humorist Dave Barry) writes some of the most lyrical and poetic prose I’ve read in a while, and I was glad for his calling the it “a non-baseball baseball book” (p.255, in the epilog “Sources, Thank-Yous, and Cracker-Jack”). It was immensely readable, and thus I recommend it–not just for the enjoyable rendition of a memorable historical moment, but for its application to life itself. This you can see from the quotes posted below. Hopefully this will let you know whether you consider it worth reading, particularly if you, like me, barely know what a baseball looks like. Enjoy.

Oh, it may help to know that the game was played on Saturday April 18, beginning at 8:02 pm and going more than 8 hours, until after 4 am on Easter morning April 19, 1981. Of course, it has its own display in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Quotes from BOTTOM OF THE 33rd

(Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game by Dan Barry, 2011 HarperCollins)

The existential questions that might arise from the twinning of a never-ending baseball game with the resurrection of the Lord are not posed. No one is asking, in the argot befitting the setting: What in the name of Christ are we doing here? Instead, those on the field, in the dugout, and scattered throughout the stands accept this night for what it is, and in small ways are taking care of one another. The public-address announcer has spread the word that hot chocolate and coffee are available for free at the only concession stand still open. The batboy, Billy Broadbent, has trotted out to the plate with three Snickers bars for the umpires. The home plate umpire bequeaths his candy bar to his first-base colleague, whose hands are frozen because 6 innings ago he bequeathed his gloves to his third-base colleague. In this way they complete a Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance act of umpire charity. (p. 122)

“I hope you’re still with us,” the broadcaster Bob Drew says to the night, a note of desperation in his voice. “And if you are still with us, drop us a postcard of letter to the Rochester Red Wings, Post Office Box—no post office box—the Rochester Red Wings, 500 Norton Street, Rochester, New York 14621.

                “Tell us that you were listening on this historic night, as the Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox break a record for the longest game *ever played in the International League. As happened here last night into this morning, on this Easter morning, as we are going into the bottom of the twenty-fourth inning. You let us know that you stayed with us all the way through by sending us a postcard or a letter and we’ll send you two tickets to a future Red Wing game. Just for sticking with us.

Who, exactly, is sticking with them? Who, exactly, cares that this game is now the longest in International League history, surpassing some Rochester-Jersey City contest back in 1950?

Here is another question: Is this even a baseball game anymore? Maybe it has morphed into some kind of extravagant form of performance art, in which the failure to reach climax is the point; in which the repetition of scoreless innings signals the meaninglessness of existence. Then again, maybe the performance is intended to convey the opposite message: That this is all a celebration of mystery, a divine reminder that the human condition is too complex and unpredictable, so enjoy this party while you can. Shake off the chill by dancing to “The Candy Man” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” two of the songs looping over and over on the stadium’s sound system. Take a sip of the champagne that one of the fans has smuggled back into the stadium, along with a few chocolate Easter eggs. Treat yourself to whatever you want from the only concession stand still open, courtesy of the house. (pp.149-*150)

                Here it is, eight hours after the first pitch, the score remains tied, 2-2, and in the judgment of baseball, nothing has changed and nothing will until the game resumes—who knows when. Then again, so much has happened during this protracted demonstration of endurance, commitment, and that great engine of human existence, ambition. With nothing and everything simultaneously unfolding, with eight hours becoming one hour and one hour becoming eight, the night seems to have said something about time itself: the deceptiveness of it; the dearness of it. Beseeched by the older ballplayers to slow the clock, and begged by the younger players to hasten it, the night chose instead to stop time; to place it under a stadium’s laboratory lights and pin it to the Pawtucket clay. See? between the past and the future there is a sacred now: the brush of shoulders between father and son; a wife’s focused gaze on a preoccupied husband; a boy’s seamless fielding of a simple ground ball; a pitcher’s effortless motion and a catcher’s easy crouch. The spare moment of solitude granted to us between our many obligations; a moment in which we drop all defense and artifice and feel a smack from the wind that is like a doctor’s slap to a newborn.

                You are released now. Go. [p. 192]

                [and then follows 7 medium-length paragraphs, almost 2 pages, describing the various participants going home to their various situations in some of the most beautiful and poetic prose I’ve read in a while]

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