Thursday, October 31, 2013

from "Pitching Forever: Space, Time, and Baseball"

Donald Hall

For those who love baseball, its nothings are something. Baseball's great single continuous day occupies the moment before the ball is pitched. While nothing happens at all, in the static hush between pitches, outfielders stare at the sun's position (truest baseball happens in daytime) and commit it to memory; they arch their necks like horses, pull at their underwear like kindergartners, carefully count men on base, note the number of outs and the ball-strike count. Then these statisticians of vacancy lean forward, hands on their slightly bent knees. The first baseman, if he holds a runner on, leans over with his mitt poised in front of the bat--mitt as gross as a saxophone, mitt as distended as an amaryllis. The second baseman and the shortstop have exchanged confidences (about bases to cover) like middle-school girlfriends planning a telephone call. The third baseman, heroic and solitary, tells his options as a monk tells his beads; or his manager decides for him, and he creeps closer to the bag, preventing an extra-base hit late in the game. At the plate the enemy swings his weapon, Ajax immortal with a club the size of a mammoth tusk: Arms and the man I sing, arms the size of beef-quarters. The catcher flashes finger-by-numbers with his ungloved hand, dark in the shadows of his crotch, like a mad Calabrian playing Odds-or-Evens solitaire. He points his finger in, out, up, down . . . Meanwhile--this narrative which takes two minutes to read describes 1.5 seconds of clock-time--the pitcher glares in the direction of batter and catcher. Soon, very soon, when the pitcher unwinds himself and lets go, something will happen.

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