Sunday, September 27, 2009

the fan (1)

Whitey Ford, quick-pitching at Yankee Stadium. Don't look down at your peanut.

The baseball fan. The most ridiculed of all crucial points of view. It seems to me that all the many books and films made of baseball assume the fan. The event--the thing itself--is one of those things, an X, where X = 0 unless it is being observed. Certainly it is true of retrospect (which is, after all, only what writing about baseball is): no description of, or memory of, a game makes a bit of sense unless it had been once observed in the present; it's a re-narration rather than a narration. There are a few writers about baseball who forget this, but just a few. Surely one who never forgets is Roger Angell, who has made an anti-theological creed of the fan's subjectivity. He might be going on and on about the similiarities and differences between the pitching pacing of Whitey Ford (Angell's favorite retired Yankee) and David Cone, writing for a moment--a paragraph or two--as if standing on Olympus, or in the press box, but then comes the crucial line in which we know that it is a fan, sitting where fans sit, who is saying this, who is responsible for these words. He's describing Ford's low pitch counts, his efficiency, comparing this with Cone, "prodigal with his pitch count." Then back to Whitey, who moved very quickly. "[W]ith Whitey you'd look up from your scorecard or peanut and find that the inning was already over."* Writing about baseball means not looking away from X, yes, but first and foremost it means that the fan is always the subject. Your scorecard. Your peanut. You'd look up.

* "Style," p. 280, Game Time.