Baseball and Alcoholism

A couple of days ago I finished reading Bottom of the 33rd, a wonderful book by Dan Barry about the longest baseball game ever played. (Thank you, Peter!)  I remember reading about the game back in 1981, and I've always been quite fascinated by the idea of an endless ball game, but in fact I hadn't really paid much attention to this unique bit of baseball history.  It's a fantastic story. The book's subtitle is "Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game." Barry does give us many details about the game itself, of course, but the book is to a large degree a series of mini biographies about several of the event's protagonists. The lives of two of the game's participants progress downwards due to excessive alcohol consumption, eventually taking very different paths, one tragic, the other hopeful and redemptive. (The odd detail that this game was begun the evening of Holy Saturday and continued into Easter morning adds a curious frame for the idea of redemption.)  It's a book I highly recommend.

In any case, yesterday I was at the Dickinson library and on my way out I stopped to take a glance at the new arrivals bookcase.  And there I found Language of the Heart: A Cultural History of the Recovery Movement, from Alcoholics Anonymous to Oprah Winfrey by Trysh Travis. (That name is too good; do you think it's real?)  Interesting. I've just spent a little time reading here and there, but for an academic press work it's quite readable. Good job, Trysh!  So thinking about baseball and alcoholism has got me thinking about "hitting bottom."  My associations can by silly ("hitting," baseball; "bottom," alcoholism, but also baseball), but the idea, the phenomenon of hitting bottom is both sad, sad, sad and also potentially a starting point for hope and redemption. And that got me thinking about Gil Scott Heron, a great precursor of spoken word art and author of that 70s hit, "The Bottle." It's wonderful song. And so sad. "Livin' in the bottle..."  (I saw Gil Scott Heron at a nightclub in Boston in 1977 and what I most remember from that performance is "Winter in America." Chilling!) Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and a host of others. Livin' in the bottle, indeed.  Baseball stories. Winning and Losing. I still want that never ending game.  And I can assure you, in the unlikely case I ever get to be President of a baseball league, there will be no curfews. (And the foul poles will have arrows at the top, signaling that they are vectors, continuing upwards infinitely, pointing us all up into the endless cosmos.) Play on!


"May I address you as Mark?"

Yes! I got asked that on the phone this morning and I so much appreciated the kind gentleman's little courtesy: you were kind enough to ask, so of course, let's move on to first names... (I'm filling out a seemingly endless financial aid application for our youngest and I had to call the help desk for some clarification; not only was my telephone helper courteous, he was, indeed, helpful: my question was answered clearly right away.)  This little post makes more sense if you read my earlier post on how we address one another. Then you should read Alma Aldrich's post, which is also related.

Last night I heard George Scott's name come up while watching the all star game home run hitting contest (I couldn't take more than 10 minutes -- pretty dumb stuff). He was a memorable player! The Boomer! I wonder what he's up to now. A great mystery: how do you explain his horrible year at the plate in 1968?: in 350 at bats he batted .181 and has 3 home runs! 1968 was the year of the pitcher--Luis Tiant's ERA that year was 1.60!); nonetheless, .181 is truly horrible.