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Writers and Baseball: A Love Affair

Writers and Baseball: A Love Affair

“You think you know, but you just don’t know…
How about this trip around the bases for this guy?  A lifetime minor-leaguer, and he gets a walk-off, in front of this sell-out crowd, in one of the best rivalries in sports.”
— San Francisco Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper, 5/4/13

Almost every writer I know loves baseball. Looking back at a game as memorable as the one I witnessed last night from section 325 of AT&T Park in San Francisco—site of two key chapters of Believe in Me—the reason for that seems obvious: because in every single game, there are so many different stories coming together at once.

First there was the canvas against which the storylines played out last night: the legendary rivalry between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, a ferocious competition that dates back nearly a century to the clubs’ previous incarnations in New York, and only grew in intensity when both teams moved west in 1958. With the Giants ascendant, winning two of the last three World Series, the Dodgers spent millions during the offseason acquiring top free agent talent, setting up a bruising battle this year.

For all the national sports media’s focus on the larger canvas, though, it’s the smaller, more personal stories that end up captivating. One of the big ones last night was Ryan Vogelsong, the determined journeyman Giants pitcher who followed his baseball dreams from city to city for more than a decade and all the way to Japan before he finally found his way home to San Francisco. Now, after two strong years by the Bay, he finds himself struggling again, albeit this time with a hugely supportive fan base behind him. We don’t know how this story ends yet, but we’re rooting for the protagonist to triumph over adversity yet again.

Then there’s Buster Posey, the young Jedi master, at age 26 one of the best players in the game. Friday night, he smashed a walk-off homerun to win it for the Giants in the ninth, acting out the part of The Natural to perfection. Last night, just 24 hours later, he came up once again in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game against the Dodgers, this time with the bases loaded—and promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Not this time, pal. It’s somebody else’s turn.

Somebody else turned out to be Guillermo Quiroz—“Q” to his teammates—the 25th man, the last position player on Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s bench left to pinch-hit for the pitcher in the bottom of the 10th inning. Quiroz is a 31-year-old backup catcher who’s bounced from team to team his entire career, never had a regular job, spent much of his time in the minor leagues, always played second fiddle to someone a little bit (or a lot) better than him.

When he stepped up to the plate in the 10th inning of one of the most amazing see-saw battles in the history of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry—30 hits, 19 runs and five lead changes in one epic four-hour-plus game—Quiroz had not hit a home run in the major leagues since 2008. With one swing of the bat, he launched himself into history.

Because, you see, that’s how baseball works. Anyone can be a hero on any given day, from the face of the franchise to the last guy on the bench. Baseball can make anyone immortal for a moment, because baseball is all about stories, and stories never die.

Comments (2)

  • Andy Warburg

    Great stuff!!

  • Richard

    Hi Jason. I enjoyed your post and just wanted to add that people desire drama and to me baseball is the one sport that provides lengthy drama, while the other major sports - football, basketball and hockey - don't come close to the extended drama that baseball offers. The protagonist in my novel, John Lenza, is a devout Mets fan (as is his creator). There is a fair amount of "baseball" in the book. Looking forward to reading your second book.

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