Dubuque: A pitcher and a protagonist

From Patrick Dubuque at The Hardball Times on August 4, 2014:

The pitcher’s mound is a lonely place. Nowhere else in sports is so isolated, so distant, or so scrutinized: elevated like a dais, surrounded by forty thousand people out of reach, but not out of earshot.

It’s no wonder then that the mound is the setting for much of the game’s best writing. The hitter, at the plate, does not think so much as he reacts. Certainly, he can store up wisdom in advance, build a warrior’s code of unconscious contingencies. But his moment of truth isn’t even a full moment: his grace under pressure is a fraction of a second at most, a blink and a flick of the wrists. The pitcher must carry the weight of the future, determine the perfect pitch and then somehow live up to it. His struggle is to not overthink, or drown in possibilities and doubts.

The natural pairing for the mound is the bullpen: detached, hidden. If pitching is a battle, the bullpen is the soldier’s furlough, a chance to restore and reflect. Here words and feelings come easy. The troubled reliever reflects on his life experiences, searches for answers to unbidden questions. Coarse words and childish games bandage yesterday’s wounds. It’s no wonder that the greatest baseball journals have all sprung from this fertile ground.

Jim Brosnan died recently at the age of 85 in his home in Morton Grove, Ill. For 10 seasons he plied his trade as an average-to-good relief pitcher with the Cubs, Cardinals, Reds and White Sox, earning a salary, a pension, and little else from the game. He was never an All-Star, never had his number retired. His name would have been lost in the yellowed pages of almanacs completely if not for one extraneous detail: he could write.

Occasionally, a subject of art or science is dominated by a single figure, one who changes the landscape of their field. The counterintuitive effect of genius is that after their sudden, swift progress, their descendants actually stagnate in their shadows. Christy Mathewson accomplished this for the writing of baseball. Mathewson’s admirable drive to clean up the game and its reputation, so soiled by dirty play and gambling, founded baseball as America’s pastime. But this also turned the game’s literature into a hodgepodge of hero worship and moral development, an endless stream of Horatio Alger novels.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/a-professor-and-a-protagonist/

Originally published: August 4, 2014. Last Updated: August 4, 2014.