Painting the Corners
About This Book
Bob Weintraub’s marvelous collection of baseball stories goes directly to the core of what the game does for us when we watch it being played on the field, and shows how its heroes and villains can reach into our lives and remain a part of us for the rest of our days. The stories are told from various perspectives, including those of the player, manager, general manager, coach, scout, owner, writer, broadcaster, and fan. In “Knuckleball,” a manager is beside himself when he can’t let his star knuckleball pitcher start the seventh game of the World Series because the only catcher he’s ever had in the big leagues suddenly goes down with an injury. The team from Alcatraz, in “The Way They Play Is Criminal,” has a bag full of dirty tricks waiting to spring on its San Quentin rivals, and it uses them all. A father on a college tour with his daughter happens upon the very same autographed baseball he saw a friend catch in Fenway Park’s bleachers thirty years earlier, and learns, in “The Autograph,” how a twist of fate has brought the friend together with the player who hit it. A veteran outfielder goes into the last game of his career batting .299 with 299 home runs and, in “Just One to Go,” gets his only chance to hit with two outs in the ninth.
In these and other stories, Weintraub infuses baseball with humanity, originality, humor, and compassion, and raises the game to a new level of understanding and love.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am a baseball fan. Not quite the fanatic of Jimmy Fallon, Fever Pitch levels, but a big enough fan that I have, at various times over the past decade: 1) called in sick to go to a baseball game; 2) flown friends and family into town to go to baseball games with me; 3) forced an online dating prospect to make our first date a baseball game; 4) bought an MLB.TV subscription even when I didn’t have internet at home; 5) stayed at work ’til after midnight multiple times to watch said MLB.TV subscription games . . .
Hmm. Maybe I need to rethink my Fever Pitch credentials.
Suffice it to say, I love baseball. So I picked up Bob Weintraub’s collection of short stories with very high expectations, and this charming little book surpassed them all.
You don’t have to be as big a baseball fan as I am to appreciate the power, inspiration, and mysticism surrounding America’s pastime. If you’ve ever cheered for Roy Hobbs in The Natural, teared up when Kevin Costner’s dad walked out of the cornstalks in Field of Dreams, laughed at the off-field antics of the Bad News Bears, or quoted Gary Cooper in The Pride of the Yankees, then this book is for you.
From the very first story, Weintraub succeeds in offering eleven short stories that seem so real, I found myself almost Googling these characters to see if these events really happened! The writing is laced with baseball jargon that non-aficionados may find confusing, but for me it amounted to great realism and detail. The stories cover a wide range of points-of-view, from managers, coaches and players to fans, families and hopefuls. And as this book’s subtitle suggest, each story has a slightly off-center, almost other-worldly element that raises it above mere baseball fiction to the realm of social, and sometimes even spiritual and supernatural, commentary.
I don’t normally read short story anthologies because I prefer to do my reading in long, uninterrupted sittings, and short stories read better when broken up over several days, or even weeks. I’ve had this book on my Kindle for months, and have enjoyed picking it up whenever I wanted a short, quick read. Each story is complete unto itself; the game of baseball is the only connective tissue between them. I admit, my favorite story was probably the very first one, about an 83-year-old groupie forced out of the dugout by a commissioner’s new rule, and who ends up signed by the team not only so he can stay with them in the dugout, but also help them win the big game. Granted, there is a willing suspension of disbelief involved, but I was so quickly sucked into this old-timey world of spitballs and base bags that the concept of an 83-year-old baseball star made me smile, laugh and cheer.
While relatively clean for a general market/secular book, there are a few brief instances of mild language and innuendo that may offend more conservative readers. I think the level of writing here may be above most younger readers’ heads, but for content alone, I would rate this PG-13.
This is a must-read for any baseball fan (even those not as gung-ho as me or Jimmy Fallon), so throw on your favorite hat and jersey, grab a hot dog and your favorite brew, and PLAY BALL!!!!!
Available November 18, 2014 from Yucca Publishing