Thorn: Shoeless Joe, the Bambino, the Big Bankroll, and the Jazz Age

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on June 15, 2015:

Most of you have read Shoeless Joe, a novel of magical realism by Bill Kinsella, whom I knew a little bit thirty years ago, before he finished that book and before I became a historian of the game we both so clearly love. Shoeless Joe is a novel about fathers and sons, the baseball of now and then, and guilt, and hope. It is about the transformative power of fable and dream.

Another fellow whose baseball novel about sin and redemption, The Natural, is, like Kinsella’s, more widely known through the film adapted from it, is Bernard Malamud, who once observed, “The whole history of baseball has the quality of mythology.” Yes indeed. This creates a problem no less for the novelist than for the historian. We crave realism not only from game accounts but also from imaginative renderings of an activity that itself is not real. Play, like play acting, is metaphoric action.

Like a novelist who ventures to write about theater or film, the writer tackling baseball always starts off at one remove from reality, and is always playing catch-up. Baseball is not about baseball, at least not entirely, even if you’re playing it. For those watching it or thinking about it or reading about it, this great game is about past glories, power transference, surrogated combat, and unconscious contests of generation and gender.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: June 15, 2015. Last Updated: June 15, 2015.