The Intersection of Baseball and Good Writing

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A journalistic thriller, perhaps the last novel about newspapers before the electronic age (cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2011, 293 pages).

I’ve been a fan of baseball for, well let’s say, almost forever. I can’t remember a time when I did not like to go outside and toss a baseball, or make up games while sitting on my bed on rainy days or during the winter when baseball was not played.

In 1977 I was working on my first novel, Paper Puzzle , a journalistic thriller told through the eyes of two old newspapermen. As I typed away on my Smith-Corona typewriter, I could hear the roar of the crowd gathered at Yankee Stadium coming over my television set. With one swing of the bat, Reggie Jackson had sealed a victory for the Yanks over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Then the next night, as I tried to get some writing done, while half listening to the broadcast of the World Series, I was interrupted on Jackson’s first at bat of the game. With one swing he hit another homer. He would repeated this feat on his next time at bat.

When the World Series seemed to be in doubt, Jackson rose to the occasion and settled the matter earning the nickname “Mr. October” as he did so.

During those two nights I was struggling to define good writing through the eyes of the protagonist Clay Moore.

Jackson’s feat 41 years ago helped me to sum up my idea of what good writing should be. I’ve not always hit the mark. I’ve walked back to the dugout more times that I care to admit after waving at an 0–2 slider, but here is how I expressed the goal of writing as a young novelist.

“Clay’s notion of playing the favorite American pastime for a living was just that, a notion. Somehow this notion lived inside a body not strong enough to handle a bat. At least not with the necessary quickness to pop sizzling liners into the bleachers with any regularity. Clay was not blessed with the swiftness of foot to handle the intricacies of dance the man on first base is called upon to perform.

One look at the baseball team at Athens and Clay knew it was time to concentrate on something more promising. Something like writing sentences.

But not just any sentences. Sentences with the sheer precision of a Ted Williams swing, a Jackie Robinson slide, or a Mickey Mantle tape measured stroke.

Besides, no one beat down his parents door asking him to sign a collegiate baseball scholarship or a professional baseball contract.

Life for him is the world of the journalist. He likes the writer’s trade.

He likes writing sentences that hum like the sound of the ball exploding off the bat of Reggie Jackson in the ghostly environs of old Yankee Stadium.

A sentence, Clay believes, should make an impact and ripple throughout the piece. When the game is on the line and issues have to be decided Clay wants strong writing.

A strong sentence can knock the opposing view out of the ballpark, a literary homerun, as dramatic as Reggie Jackson’s three home run essay against the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series.

Three pitches were served up to Mr. October and he made three swings: On each swing the ball landed out of the park. The dispute between the two teams was decided with three quick swings of the bat.

Issues, Clay believes, should be decided as swiftly and as dramatically!”

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Medium and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

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