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It’s difficult to imagine a more unlikely book concept. And *impossible* to absorb the luck of its timing.

Two novelists, quite unlike each other except for their deep-structure attachment to the Boston Red Sox, trade emails over the course of a 162-game baseball season, supplemented–dramatically, gorgeously, gloriously–by a post-season that must be acknowledged as one of the all-time finest moment in sports. (more…)

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The most important things happen when nobody is looking. It has ever been so.

Jerry Poling’s winsome and poignant tale of an 18-year-old, skinny-as-a-rail African American boy from Mobile, Alabama making his break into professional baseball in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in 1952 rescues some of those things from the obscurity that persistently enshrouds.

My father was a relief pitcher for the Superior (Wisconsin) Blues that year. He too was breaking into professional ball with a wicked curve ball that by some accounts had the future Hank Aaron stymied. Raymond ‘Cool as a Cucumber’ Baer is not mentioned in Poling’s eminently readable volume. Yet the fact that Dad was on the field during some of the games that Poling narrates provides corroboration of boyhood memories of tales spun that is almost eery in its impact.

Eau Claire, like most of the decent cities that dot the heartland of this nation, was in 1952 capable of racial pettiness as well. Few whites in the industrial core of Wisconsin had met a black man. Aaron, more boy than man, walked uninvited into their lives, struggling to decide whether it was worth all that. But boy could the kid from Mobile hit a baseball. (more…)

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The late David Halberstam’s insightful baseball writing has been a boon for fans with long memories. There are more of them attached to this odd American sport than any other. A penchant for statistics and scars that never heal are practically the calling card of those of us who are drawn, inexorably, to the diamond with every new Spring.

This 2003 tribute to four skinny kids on the 1946 Boston Red Sox is not so much about the game as about the uncommon friendship that linked four of its iconic players. Halberstam has helped us to understand the grace that made Bobby Doer a lifetime interpreter of the gifted, irascible, and troubled Ted Williams; about the fealty to the sports unwritten rules that moved Johnny Pesky to accept the blame for a ball he never held (at least according to Halberstam’s reconstruction) until ten years after the true culprit had gone to his grave; and about the tragedy of a season that came so close to glory but ended up heralding a generation (these are short in baseball time) of mediocrity in the precursor of what we have come to know as Red Sox Nation. (more…)

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