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xml:lang="en" lang="en" dir="ltr"> Baseball - Thomas Pynchon Wiki | Gravity's Rainbow

Baseball

Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 00:57:58 -0700
From: (John Roca)
Subject: baseball
In GR, Pynchon notes that baseball is "webbed with strands of the sinister"
or something to that effect. Any ideas on what that phrase means? Thanks.


From: (Murthy Yenamandra)
Subject: Re: baseball
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 09:04:08 -0500 (CDT)
"well-spidered with white suggestions of the sinister" - these could be the white lines of the baseball diamond - these are designed to keep the batters going around and around the diamond, but never get to the "Holy Center" - where the spider - that is, the pitcher lurks, with the goal of eluding and eliminating the poor batters who are stuck outside the diamond and can never get to him. If I were a batter, I'd be paranoid too :-).
Murthy


From: (Murthy Yenamandra)
Subject: baseball
This could also refer to the scarcity of non-white pitchers in baseball - more so when GR was written than now - in general, the percentage of non-white pitchers is/was quite lower than the percentage of non-white baseball players in general. So it could be referring to the sinister white conspiracy that keeps others "il-equipped to approach a Holy Center".
Murthy


From: "Tim Holahan"
Subject: baseball
Somebody quoted an interview with James Merrill here not long ago in which he said that Pynchon had something "more sinister at the center of his web" than he (Merrill) did, or words to that effect. I thought it was an odd coincidence at the time (I had just read through that part of GR), but I was too lazy to go back and find the baseball mention. Interesting that these two peaks of 20th century American culture, Pynchon and The Sport, would be described with these same words. As to the sinister in baseball, look at the titles of the best books on the subject: "Why Time Begins On Opening Day," "Take Time For Paradise" (Giamatti), "The Boys of Summer." The experience of playing or watching baseball has a strange and dislocating effect on the perception of time. The other sports I know do just the opposite: make one acutely aware of time and its passage. Baseball lures the participant into an enormous array of cycles which move slowly and inexorably towards nothing (as far as I know, there is no absolute end to a tie game; in the early days of the sport games could go well past twenty innings). Entropy and human endeavor never more seamlessly merged. I don't care if I never come home... All this tailor-made to be delightfully disturbing to someone who grew up on Long Island during the glorious decade of New York baseball.


From: (Brian D. McCary)
Subject: Baseball
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 09:49:36 -0500
I have no data to back this up, but the sinister baseball reference may be alluding to the counterclockwise motion of the players as they advance around the bases. There is an old tradition that walking counterclockwise around a particular kind of tree will force a miscarriage. By moving in this direction (which is opposite to the direction the shadow moves as the sun travels across the sky, in the northern hemisphere) it was believed that you could turn back time. Sorry the details are so sketchy; it's been a while since I have even thought about any of this.
The theme of moving back in time, or moving against the natural flow of the universe would fit well with the story of Tchitcherine, and the following of shadows relates back to Geli Tripping, but I'll have to think about the concept of records and record breaking a while to fit it into this particular construct.
Brian McCary

From: (Brian D. McCary)
> From: "Aaron Yeater" >
> can i ask a question? what do people think--is baseball sinister in
> that it is part of "them" or in that it undermines "them". Is it
> surreptitiously part of the conspiracy, or is it subversive? The
> reference to white lines implies the former, but baseball's potential
> for "transcendence" of time, of "death" (no such thing in baseball as
> "sudden death"--only long slow strides into the bottom half of the
> 10th, i guess...) implies the latter.
>
I think that it would be the organized, manipulative aspects of baseball that would be seen by Pynchon as sinister, or at least cynical. The conspiracy would lie in the actions of a small group of owners (remember, this is pre-70's baseball) who "own" their players, joined with sports-writers who provide free publicity and cover up the less wholesome acts of those same players. It is the cult of professional baseball, or of elevating a particular entertainment above other topics ("I had a better year than he did") which was, and remains, so sinister.
On the other hand, *playing* baseball could be construed as quite subversive. If one goes outside and plays the game with one's neighbors and friends, instead of going to church, or watching TV, or participating in some other of the cults of control, then one is, in effect, rebelling against the system.


From: (RICHARD ROMEO)
What is all this talk of goals towards nothing, never reaching centers? Hey, in baseball you do reach home, you do win games, you do make errors, but you can correct them...and no clock; yes, truly eden is apparent even in the heathen city...

From: "Aaron Yeater"
> What is all this talk of goals towards nothing, never reaching
> centers? Hey, in baseball you do reach home, you do win games, you do make
> errors, but you can correct them...
The "home" part is interesting: you try to get home, what Giamatti describes as the soul of romanticism, from Homer on, but Tyrone, as far as we know, never does. He falls apart, his personality disbands in the Zone, which is certainly not home. And it all begins again. GR is an anti-romance--and baseball's sinister-ness might be in its existence as a kind of abstract romance...

From: Oliver Xymoron
As someone with little affection for spectator sports, I'd have to say what strikes me most about baseball is its seemingly endless capacity for non-action. It's right up there with fishing, that most mindless of sports. Baseball actually strives towards this ideal, throwing a no-hitter during the World Series is the dream of every pitcher, and many a misguided little boy, a select few of whom instead grow up only to find themselves daydreaming in the wasteland known as "the outfield." Baseball, as the official American _pastime_, is a prime example of that insidious force known as entropy. Bright young men spending the best years of their lives, standing around in a field, mostly motionless, occasionally scratching themselves under the mesmerized eyes of thousands. Million dollar salaries, civic pride, the national anthem, the president throwing out the first ball, legal monopolies, player trades, Pete Rose, chewing tobacco, endorsements, and statistics, endless, mindless, statistics. As American as Mom and apple pie.

From: (Steelhead)
Baseball is one of the few "timeless" games. A game without a clock. In that sense, it is something of a hierophany, a piercing of the "sacred" into the "profane."
The word "spider" comes from the Old English spithra, meaning to spin. To spider is to walk or move in a spinning motion, like a baseball in flight. Lefties (the sinister handed ones) are notorious for having more "spin" on the ball, causing it to "curve," "drop off the table," or appear to do so. There is a long-running controversy over whether curve balls actually curve or whether the spin merely creates an optical illusion of a curve.
Baseball is about players "on the run" toward "home." These runners can be "picked off" or they can "steal" bases. Bases themselves are "safety zones" where nothing can harm a runner.
Baseball is one of the few games (perhaps the only game) where the defense has the ball--thus an inversion of the normative.
Baseball has cursed teams--the Black Sox, the Cubs, and my poor Red Sox. It is haunted by legends, titans of the game, like Ruth, Gerhig, and now Mantle.
Baseball during WWII was a refuge for the preterite, as old timers, midgets, one-armed players, and women took the place of inductees.
Baseball is a game of probabilities, averages, records, and statistics. It is obsessive in that way. Each player has a constantly changing numerical biography, including ERAs, battering AVE, fielding percentage.
Fly balls form parabolas. Fly balls that transcend the park are called Home Runs (like Enzian's rocket 00001?)
In most ballparks, the batter faces north. Home is to the south.
Major League baseball was a white-only game until after WWII and the emergence of Jackie Robinson.
Baseball enjoys a congressional-designated exemption from the Sherman Anti-trust Act. Thus it is a monopoly, a cartel. Team owners actually "owned players" until Curt Flood's groundbreaking lawsuit.
The game usually ends on the "last out." Except when the Home Team scores a winning run in the bottom of the 9th or in extra innings. Thus, baseball usually ends in a symbolic death. But occasionally (rarely) it will end with an improbable-violation-of-reality, a transcendence--an experience available only to the Home Team.
Steely

From: "Aaron Yeater" > > Baseball has cursed teams--the Black Sox, the Cubs, and my poor Red Sox. It
> is haunted by legends, titans of the game, like Ruth, Gerhig, and now
> Mantle.
>
> Baseball during WWII was a refuge for the preterite, as old timers,
> midgets, one-armed players, and women took the place of inductees.
interesting--i think baseball is always a refuge for the preterite. In olden days they were louts, men who could not maintain regular jobs, vicious men like ty cobb, gamblers and cheaters and drunks, and the occasional gentlemen (like christy mathewson) were odd and notable and never insured of glory and celebration...and the tradition continues. Baseball allows the most success for the least virtuous--John Kruk is a clear glutton, yet he hits 300, Roger Clemens is out-of-shape and too prideful to admit it, yet he was the best pitcher of the late eighties-early nineties, Mantle a drunk and the greatest switch-hitter in history, Pete Rose--enuff sed.
anyway, baseball as america's game is in some sense the sport of the preterite, the one sport in which the loser (the red sox, cubs, bill buckner, Charlie Liebrant, Ralph Branca, Bob Uecker, Tony Mendoza and his line) often carves a place in history, where the preterite success is celebrated (Bucky Dent's 78 home run, Bill Mazeroski, etc.) where a single moment (hit for the cycle, a no-hitter, a game winning homer) often lasts longer than a lifetime 300 average...Baseball is about redemption (going home is the act of coming back into the fold) but you have to be fallen first...
aaron

From: (Daniel Stein)
Responding to the Great Basebalk Controversy....... > In GR, Pynchon notes that two boobs off seeking the Kirghiz Light have the
> same vulnerability to record-breakers as baseball, a sport also
> well-spidered with white suggestions of the sinister."
I see lots of effort apparently spent on ferreting out the sinister aspects of this no-longer-entirely-innocuous pastime...but I am truly surprised that I have not seen mention of that quintessence of the sinister, the, yes, the
_______BLEEEEEEEEEACHERRRRRRRRRRRRZZZZZZZZZZZZ_____________________
dem cheap seats, where in de old days dey put the po' foax who needed "a little whitening" out in de sun....


From:
You forgot the glorious moments when the ball breaks free of control, which is really what baseball is all about, all of the "quite" moments simply building to that essential moment that decides who wins.
Bob Fuhrel

From: Oliver Xymoron
Fact: curve balls actually curve.
This has been well established for at least a decade with the use of high-speed cameras and the like. The optical illusion version of the story is a popular urban legend. The phenomenon is more easily observed in say, ping-pong, or even soccer, where it is possible to score off a corner kick.
Now back to our regularly scheduled highly speculative program.


From: (Steelhead)
Well, if it's been established for "at least" a decade that "curve balls actually do curve," and it sure looked like they did when I was playing ball in the late 70s, then the matter was "unresolved" at the time GR was written and certainly up in the air in 1945-46, when intrepid foax were debating this urban (or rural, as the case may be--baseball is an assertion of the pastoral into an urban setting) by trying to capture Dizzy Dean and Lefty Gomez's curves at 24fps.
Steely

From: (RICHARD ROMEO)
If one had the choice: having a catch with Willie Mays, knowing you will never know the full details of some obscure system called life; joining them it would seem, or having the chance of having yourself injected with the full brunt of their wisdom within you-the system and all its vagaries, thus joining the likes of (excuse me here) Jim Morrison, Rilke (a suicide?), Kurt Cobain, Sylvia Plath, in their mad rush to suicide, well I'd have to say I'd rather have a catch with Willie. Does this make me as guilty as Heidegger? What position would Martin or I play in this game of theirs-catcher perhaps, wearing the tools of ignorance? Well, this is starting to sound like a Monty Python sketch...I guess what I'm saying is sometimes ignorance is bliss.
And I agree with Bonnie--I have always found baseball to be the most civilized of American sport compared to the inherent violence of the others.

Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 19:41:07 -0400 (EDT)
From: "David L. Pelovitz"
After following this thread all day, I've finally gotten home to my GR and looked it up.
I like the idea of the baseball diamond as "well-spidered with white suggestions" but what about the mitt? Mostly on people's left hands, no?
The other thing about baseball is home plate as the objective. Just like Holy-Center Approachin you don't really get anywhere, you just get rewarded for making a complete revolution around the center. And to prove yourself at the end, you come face to face with the only truly violent moment in the game - the moment when the batter may just have to run full on into that catcher - the guy with the really big, well-spidered, sinister mitt.
Just a thought.
David Pelovitz

Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 17:03:43 -0700
From: (Steelhead)
Subject: Baseball Mandala
While Bonnie sleeps, I'll speak of mandalas. Imagine the "infield" as a mandala, the pitcher's mound it's Holy Center--a spot that is an origin-point, a pad from which the ball is first launched, the initial force, and a force aimed at attaining strikes (kills in WWII parlance), individual deaths, a no-hitter, a perfect game, zeros across the scoreboard, the absolute Zero, a kind of athletic genocide. Like the 00000 Rocket.
The counterforce, then is the batter, who seeks a second launching, a launching in reverse, a launching that seeks to transcend the confines of the park's gravity, it's geographical and temporal space-to, in a sense assert the life force. (00001?)
In baseball, the offense (or Counterforce or the Left) makes only leftward turns, sinister moves, following the baselines, which are made of chalk or lime (an alkaline substance used to "bleach" or dissolve corpses), this is the path home, as direct as Theseus's string. It has been pointed out that this motion is counterclock-wise, a reversal of time, a journey, in fact, into a kind of dreamtime, into the underworld, and into the unconscious. As Jung points out: Leftward turns are the only way to approach the Holy Center. It is also the way to venture through a labyrinth--make only left turns.
The quoted passage at pg. 508 sends us back in the text, an analepis. It is Pointsman's dream, a scary dream for someone so used to taking rightward turns into the hyperconsciousness, the bright reality of death: "You set out to the left. (Usually in these dreams of home you prefer the landscape to the right-broad night-lawns, towered over by ancient walnut trees, a hill, a wooden fence, hollow-eyed horses in a field, a cemetery...Your task, in these dreams, is often to cross--under the trees, through the shadows--before something happens. Often you go into the fallow field just below the graveyard, full of autumn brambles and rabbits, where the gypsies live. Sometimes you fly. But you can never rise above a certain height. You may feel yourself being slowed, coming inexorably to a halt: not the keen terror of falling, only an interdiction, from which there is no appeal [note the near repetition of the phrase from Pirate's dream pg. 4 (a judgment from which...) -- this passage serves as a bridge forward and backward in the Text)...as the landscape begins to dim out...you know ...that...) But this evening, this six o'clock of the round light, you have set out leftward instead. With you is a girl identified as your wife, though you were never married, have never seen her before yet have known her for years. She doesn't speak. It's just after a rain. Everything glimmers, edges are extremely clear, illumination is low and very pure. Small clusters of white flowers peep out wherever you look. Everything blooms. You catch another glimpse of the round light, following its downward slant, a brief blink on and off. Despite the apparent freshness, recent rain, flower-life, the scene disturbs you. You try to pick up some fresh odor to correspond to what you see, but cannot. Everything is silent, odorless. Because of the light's behavior something is going to happen, and you can only wait [see again Pirate's dream]. The landscape shines. Wetness on the pavement. Settling a warm kind of hood around the back of your neck and shoulders, you are about to remark to your wife, "This is the most sinister time of evening." But there's a better word than "sinister." You search for it. It is someone's name. It waits behind the twilight, the clarity, the white flowers. There comes a light tapping at the door." (pg. 137-138)
Pointsman is awakened by Thomas Gwenhidwy, who informs him of Spectro's death. Later Pointsman dreams of himself as Theseus wandering a labyrinth to slew the Minotaur.
Steely

Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 19:42:01 -0700
From: (Steelhead)
Subject: Baseball Mandala2
There is another thread to the "baseball" paragraph, the reference to Tchitcherine and Dzaqyp Qulan on their linguistic quest in the deserts of Kirghizistan. Note the play on the words "game" and "play."
Here from page 340: "They [the Russian settlers] hunted Sarts, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, and Dungans that terrible summer like wild game. Daily scores were kept. It was a competition, good natured but more than play. Thousands of restless natives bit the dust. Their names, even their numbers, lost forever. Colors of skin, ways of dressing became reasonable cause to jail, or beat and kill...[my cut] This native uprising was supposed to be the doing of foreigners, an international conspiracy to open a new front in the war. More western paranoia, based solidly on the European balance of power. How could there be Kazakh, Kirghiz-Eastern-reasons? Hadn't the nationalities been happy? Hadn't fifty years of Russian rule brought progress? enrichment?"
Then we get Galina and her "waiting for the annihilation, the blows from the sky, drawn terribly tense, with the waiting, unable to name whatever is approaching, knowing," (Just like the Pointsman passage, eh?) and then the bit about the "star-blotting Moslem angels" who will "trample spoorless the white marketplace," and a reference to Enzian [Tchit's black half-bro] who waits "out across unnumbered versts of lowland and of zonal light that slants as their autumns come around again each year, leans along the planet's withers like an old circus rider..."
Then we get this.
"Facing east, the black face keeping watch from some winter embankment or earth-colored wall of a fine-grained stone into low wastes of Prussia, of Poland, the leagues of meadow waiting, just as Tchitcherine grows each month now more taut and windsmooth at his westward flank, seeing History and Geopolitics move them surely into confrontation as the radios go screaming higher, new penstocks in the night shudder to the touch with hydroelectric rage, mounting, across the empty canyons and passes, skies in the day go thick with miles of falling canopies, white as visions of rich men's heavenly dzurts, gaming now and still awkward, but growing, each strewn pattern, less and less at play..."
So we can follow the leads of the baseball passage back, deep into the heart of this novel, back to its second page, in fact, its first dreamscape, and back out again. Go back to page 508... and the comical pairing of Narrisch and Slothrop. Where we find "Holy-Center-Approaching is soon to be the number one Zonal pastime. Its balmy hey is nearly on it. Soon more champions, adepts, magicians of all ranks will be in the field than ever before in the history of the game. The sun will rule all enterprise [a white marketplace?], if it be honest and sporting. The Gauss curve (a "normal" or parabolic curve) will herniate toward the excellent. And tankers the likes of Narrisch and Slothrop here will have already been weeded out." Then we get some slap and tickle with Thanatz and Greta and this, a clincher of sorts: "a long look from the top of some Low Country dike into a sky flowing so even and yellowed a brown that the sun could be anywhere behind it, and the crosses of the turning windmills [another mandala] could be spoke-blurs of the terrible Rider himself, Slothrop's Rider, his two explosions up there, his celestial cyclist..."
Steelhead

From: Bonnie Surfus
Well, While the game of baseball has an anesthetizing effect on me,
Steely's thoughts do not.
What interests me is the missing talk of the Goddess. Call me a sucker for a title, but Pynchon's obvious awareness of Graves' book, coupled with the endless "white faces" and other white things in GR, lead me to see this baseball issue differently. I haven't got it all worked out like Steely has, but his mention of the "mound" at the center does call to mind the Goddess. Something to do with sites of worship in Old
Bonnie

From: "R. Jeffrey Grace"
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 22:27:38 PST
Subject: Re: Baseball Mandala

    • Reply to note from Bonnie Surfus 08/30/95 11:07pm -0400

> What interests me is the missing talk of the Goddess. Call me a sucker
> for a title, but Pynchon's obvious awareness of Graves' book, coupled
> with the endless "white faces" and other white things in GR, lead me to
> see this baseball issue differently. I haven't got it all worked out
> like Steely has, but his mention of the "mound" at the center does call
> to mind the Goddess. Something to do with sites of worship in Old
Oh well hell. :( If the "mound" is in the center, then what the hell is homeplate???
(sigh)
R. Jeffrey Grace

Date: Thu, 31 Aug 1995 06:46:06 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Bonnie Surfus (ENG)"
Subject: Re: Baseball Mandala
Jeffrey, I think I quote you when I say "pullleaze!" The fact of the mound at the center has NOTHING to do with physiology. "Center," as in a cultural "center," both spatially and mythologically, spiritually, was more like my meaning.
One of the best known mounds, believed to be associated with the Goddess, is Silbury Hill, building beginning around 2750 B.C.E. Many believed it was a charnel house, where the dead were brought for cleansing, decay accelerated so that bones could be dried and used in ritualistic fashion. The mound is an interesting blend of life and death--the wholeness of the Goddess. The first layer is flint, clay. the topsoil is also clay, with boulders throughout (stones were of Her.) On top, there were bone fragments from many sources. Fecundity, the theme. Some suggest (Michale Dames) that the sight evokes the pregnant Goddess. other famous mounds include Windmill Hill, and the West Kennet mound, as well as the Sanctuary.
This, all from Peg Streep's _Sancutaries of the Goddess_.
Bonnie

From: (Cal Godot)
Subject: Baseball has been very good to me...
Boy, amazing ain't it? How a fragment from that damn book can create such a ruckus? (Or are well all jes' more'n a wee bit bored as the languor of summer draws on? It's even tepid up here in Beve-land...)
First of all, in re "curve balls:" if'n you ever stood over home plate with the ole splinter in your paws, you'd know damn well that a curve ball does indeed curve, a slider slides, a knuckle ball dances like a mad sprite a-and a fastball (a good un, that is) whizzes past you like Speedy Gonzales on a good day. If you'd ever tossed those babies you'd know they curves, too. My fast ball was warm, my slider wilder than Drew Barrymore and my knuckler about as predictable as Clinton's foreign policy. But my curve ball... that one got me into college with all them smart people. Whenever I used to let one go, the batter would get this look on his face like "Wasn't that high and outside?" (Unless he was sinister, that is.)
Speaking of sinister: The majority of folks in this here world is north-paws, right? Those of you average folks tell me: how often during a day do you use your left hand? Lessee, I'm right handed; how often to I use ole lefty? Hmmm... typing; picking my nose; eating (unless I'm in Morocco, right?); fly-fishing. Back in my baseball days, I used the hand a whole bunch more. Especially when a line drive came screaming across the sky right at my chest (damn, that hurts). Mebbe this is why baseball is sinister.
O'course, I realize I'm repeating things already suggested, but I wanted to join the exchange, if only so Steely wouldn't be the only veteran of the green out amongst you basketball-watching heathens. (BTW, Steely: I see the BoSox and the Marniers (tee hee) are duking it out. Whaddya think our wildcard chances are, eh?)
Uh. Hurmph. You think Pynchon's a baseball fan, foax?
Cal Godot JAZZ FLAVORED COFFEE

Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 21:50:40 -0700
From: (John Roca)
Subject: Re: Baseball Mandala
Of all the fine discourse prompted by my listening to the Indians beat up on the Blue jays Tuesday night, and the recollection, or the faint memory rather, of the now infamous "pyn-ball" connection, it seems to me that Steely's and Bonnie's are the most close to "home"--no pun intended.
Bonnie's is particularly interesting because she doesn't like the sport. In this respect, the search for the Goddess, and the notion of "Center" and the pitcher's mound all serve to confirm that the game of baseball is clearly a modern fertility rite.
Pastoral origins, phallus-ovum-womb made up by the batter, pitcher and catcher, nine innings and nine month gestation period, season reaching its height during the summer solstice, umpire as god...these aspects go on and on.
By the way, I first read GR during the summer of 1993...finished at the end of a 22 inning marathon in Minnesota where the Indians lost in the top of the 22d...the last out came just as the Rocket settled down on that delta point on the theatre on the last page.
Things just haven't been the same since...
Thank you all.

Date: Thu, 31 Aug 1995
From: (Cal Godot)
Subject: Baseball, the Goddess, and Me
If baseball were an ancient sport, I might be tempted to go along with this goddess-inspired interpretation of the mound's centrality/significance. But when the light of facts hit, shadows scurry: the origin of the mound is commonly known among pitchers.
In order to fling the ball over sixty feet and six inches, into the strike zone of a batter, one *must* be elevated a bit. The ball must by necessity drop a bit (I could give you the physical formula, if you like) from the pitcher's grip to the plate. Somewhere back in the cloudy past, some wise fellas elevated the pitcher a bit to ensure more accurate pitching. Previous to this, pitchers tossed the bean from a flat position roughly even to that of the batter (discounting the natural contours of the field), making an accurate pitch difficult. They were closer than they are nowadays, but it was still a toughie.
Up close & personal, the strike zone may look spacious. But from 60'6" away, it looks terribly tiny. And the pitcher must not only throw the ball through the strike zone, but put the mojo on it in such a way that the batter doesn't knock it into the stands. (Believe me: it's almost impossible to get through the strike zone when you're standing on an even surface, though Nolan could probably do it.)
Now, I don't want to cast light on goddess-inspired theorizing, but facts is facts. The mound may have resonance, but it is simply a practical addition to the infield. The pitcher might just as well be standing on a couple of old Coca Cola crates as a pile of dirt.
Cal Godot JAZZ FLAVORED COFFEE

Date: Thu, 31 Aug 1995 01:37:02 -0700
From: (Brad Schreiber)
Subject: To my Pynchonite Bruddas & Sinisters
A screaming line drive comes across the sky.
I'm delighted to read so many posts, not so much urged on but exacerbated by our ambivalence about the National Pastime and Pynchon's spidery ambiguity. Perhaps I missed it, but in discussing baseball's alleged (and to my mind actual) soporific effect is the connection between baseball and our own perceptions of violence.
Football, hockey, basketball have repetitive (and, somewhat to their detriment) grinding physical contact that repulses some, excites others. Indeed, part of the allure of those sports, I think, is the combination of both prowess, speed AND the horrific glee some will experience in seeing that guy get high-sticked under the chin, or sensing that oncoming crunch when the quarterback has nowhere to go and resigns himself, body tucked over ball, to getting sacked, pads and plastic resounding.
But baseball is more akin to the way we really experience violence in the everyday realm. Our lives move forward with some level of ritual, no matter where our minds may wander. We may even be lulled into having lower expectations and then, when it happens, we are shocked by the car accident, the thrown punch, the irate slap to the face, or, sadly ever more prevalent, the gun shot. Baseball is sinister, in that one can consult one's neighbor, eat, keep a boxscore, look around at the crowd, watch the scoreboard and theoretically not miss much.
But one never can say when one might be wiping a bit of mustard off one's pant leg and miss the batsman hit in the head with the ball, or not see the fielder snag that blazing drive. Or hell, look up to see a flying bag of peanuts in one's face. It is that intensified moment of action, in a world of seemingly mundane occurrences, that connects baseball to the sinister, the darkly unpredictable, and that, in some part, is a description of humanity's capacity for unreasoned expression, for unfathomable and irrational action, for one never knows when the screaming foul tip might plunge itself into the soft flesh of one's face (unless you're living life way the hell out in the bleachers).
Brad Cyber

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