Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Soul of Baseball

It embarrasses me a little bit to say that I just finished reading Joe Posnanski's book, The Soul of Baseball, for the first time. I mean, Posnanski is may all-time favorite sportswriter, the main reason I want to be a sportswriter too. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't get my hands on the book before "Santa" brought it to me yesterday morning. What kind of fan doesn't even read her favorite writer's book? I suppose I could have checked it out at my university's library -- I checked, and they do have it -- but I have a tendency to avoid the library, even though I love reading.

Anyway, what that all amounts to is the fact that I had Christmas music playing in the background as I read stories about Buck O'Neil and a huge cast of other people, from baseball greats to a random woman in a red dress. My music of choice this year has been a steady stream of Trans-Siberian Orchestra tunes. I've known about them for a number of years now, but this is the first year I have listened -- really, truly listened -- to all of their music and the messages behind it, and I've found a lot of similarities between their songs and Joe Po's stories about Buck.

One thing I love about TSO's songs is their insistence that everyone hold on to the wide-eyed magical feeling that surrounds Christmas when one is very young. The songs say that sometimes with lyrics, but the song "First Snow" says it best with no words at all. It sounds exactly like how it felt to be a kid and to wake up to find the yard and everything was covered with snow for the first time, and to want nothing more than to be outside, rolling in the snow, building things with it, catching it on your tongue, not caring how cold it might be outside or how slick the roads might be. Snow meant joy back then, and even though I mostly hate it now, in the few minutes of that song, I feel exactly like I did when I was little and I still loved it. The music is teaching me to recapture the joys of being a kid instead of the cynicism of being a starving college student.

That's what reading about Buck O'Neil feels like for a baseball-loving soul thirsting for goodness in an age of steroids, too-big contracts, and all that crap. This book invigorated my spirit in a way I forgot a book could do. I know in my head that I love baseball, and I'll tell that to anyone who will listen, but I think my heart had forgotten the true depth of the joy that the game brings to my life; simple things like seeing how many sunflower seeds I could spit into a bucket near my usual perch next to the O-Royals dugout, or the steady, comforting rhythm of batting practice.

I read all of TSOB in one day, begrudgingly putting it down only when I had to join my family for Christmas dinner and some card games. After that and some Wii-playing, it was back to the book. After several hours, nestled in my bed with my dog, Shadow, sleeping soundly on the floor next to me, I realized a had a bit of a headache so I looked away from the page for a moment. When I looked up, I caught sight of Shadow's back paw twitching just a little bit. As I watched, that one paw's tiny twitch turned turned into all four paws flexing back and forth, their movement rippling through muscles all the way up his legs. My stately, dignified, perfectly behaved 9-year-old black lab was staying young at heart too, by chasing squirrels in his dreams. And I got to see it; man I love my life. Anyhoodle, I will likely read TSOB again many times, but first I am giving everyone else in my family the chance to read it, so maybe their souls can feel as happy as mine does as we wait and we count days until we get to gleefully place ourselves where baseball, and the simple but deep joys that come with the game if you let them, are.

8 comments:

royal8085 said...

Hey. I'm new to your blog but found the link from Joe's website. Needless to say but I also love Joe's work. I've also read his book and thought that it was great. I don't own it but my mom is a librarian and my brother and I read it early on.

There's nothing like a great book though, is there? I just finished The Right Stuff (it's about the early space program...and it was just a great read). It really captured my attention in a way that not many books do.

Back to sports, I'm a fan of all sports but love baseball, college basketball and college football the most. I'm a Missouri fan.

Can I ask who you voted for in the Pozcar's?

Merry Christmas!!
--Andrew

Minda said...

Welcome, Andrew; glad to have you here. Wow, how lucky that your mom is a librarian; I'll bet you've gotten your hands on some fabulous books through her.

Hmm...baseball, college hoops, and college football are my 3 favorites as well. However, I take issue with Missouri, as I am a crazy Husker fan. That said, I did pick Mizzou to win the Cotton Bowl, so for the time being I'll be cheering for them right with you.

Here's my picks for the Pozcars, and now that you've asked, I may do a post in the next few days that explains why:
(in no particular order)
1. Rod Beck (may he rest in peace)
2. Goose Gossage
3. Tim Raines
4. Pete Rose
5. Joe Jackson
6. Andre Dawson
7. Tommy John

Merry Christmas to you too, and a happy New Year! Did you see the Royals Christmas card I posted here the other day?

royal8085 said...

Minda,

Hey. A quick response!! Awesome. You're right that being a librarian's kid has helped over the years. I like to read and on the positive side of the ledger, post-college, you actually have time to read a fair amount.

I'm an MU grad. and have always lived in the state. I still live in Columbia. I actively root against Nebraska in football...and in basketball I usually root for them. I feel bad that they've never won an NCAA tournament game. That's a pretty amazing stat. I'm much more anti-KU than Nebraska...like by a magnitude of 100 or something like that.

This Holiday Bowl though is not going my way. I bet on ASU in the bowl pool and UT is rolling them up so far, even with Mack Brown's stepson interfering and giving ASU their one score (that won't make much sense unless you saw the play).

FYI: The other sports that I follow a lot are golf and tennis...and the NFL (which almost goes w/o saying). Pretty much name a sport and I'll know a reasonable amount about it (NBA and NHL would be the major exceptions).

My Poszcar's vote was:
Tim Raines
Jim Rice
Jack Morris
Andre Dawson


I had my dad and brother fill out a mock ballot and the only person to receive votes on all 3 ballots was Tim Raines. Lee Smith, Jack Morris and Jim Rice all got 2 votes. It was kind of fun.

Looks like we had a pretty similar ballot if you take out the ineligibles.

I did see your Christmas card although I just found this website today at work and only now have looked at it with much detail.

Minda said...

Ha, luckily for you I am a huge loser and am almost always at my computer, so you get another quick response (but after this I have to go watch more Texas/ASU). I am a sophomore at Nebraska, so hating KU is something on which we can agree very intensely. Nebraska's streak of never winning a tournament game will come to an end this season, mark my words.

Yes, I saw that play and it was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. First of all, what was anybody doing on the field at all at that point, and second of all, what kind of idiot would reach out to touch a ball that was still in bounds? It is ridiculous, at that level, in a bowl game, to take the risk that the play is not dead yet. I've rarely seen refs so flustered when overturning a call. The explanation was a lot less formal-sounding than any I can remember hearing. But, in any case, I picked Texas.

Looks like JoePo has us all pretty convinced of the Tim Raines for the HoF case.

Anonymous said...

I have the advantage of being able to watch tv and be on the pc at the same time. This is mostly a good thing.

You're right on both counts as to the refs and their handling of it. They gave ASU a first down then took it back and it all took forever to go down. I have faint hopes of an ASU comeback but anything is possible in college football where momentum is so important. ASU hasn't been able to handle the UT pass rush though...at all. And they can't run the ball and this is a recipe for a loss.

Neither my dad nor brother are influenced by Joe's website...they only read the stuff I filter to them and I usually only send them the funny stuff. So they were unbiased...unlike us.

Take it easy
--Andy

royal8085 said...

I haven't gotten to read Joe's new post yet on Jack Morris but I am interested to read it. I wasn't necessarily a fan of Morris' as a kid but he did seem like a great big game pitcher.

My other news is that I am going to the Cotton Bowl!! We are leaving tomorrow (I live in Columbia, in the middle of the state). Missouri plays Arkansas. The game is at like 10:30 on New Year's Day. I'm hoping that Darren McFadden will still play. If he is ruled ineligible it would obviously enhance Missouri's chances of winning but I just think it would be much better if he played...I'll risk the chance for a loss 'cause winning with him out just wouldn't mean as much.

Minda said...

Ahh, the Jack Morris post was very educational. I'm learning a lot from Joe's blog about the baseball that happened before I was born (there's a lot of it).

Have fun at the Cotton Bowl, and I know what you mean about wanting McFadden to play...victory would be so much sweeter if it was against their WHOLE team.

royal8085 said...

Good news (I guess) in that McFadden will be suiting up.

Bad news is that CU is getting it handed to them in Shreveport tonight. Coincidentally that's a bowl game I've been to twice in the last 5 years following the Tigers. The first of which was against Arkansas...MU dropped that one but one the 2nd one against South Carolina.