The end of the innocence. (not a Don Henley reference!)

ernie young art

The great Ernie Young

Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s my childhood interests waned, as they tend to do, and in my delusional mind my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging. My interests in music were blossoming into a near obsession as I joined a garage band; and I was also delving into the literary and modern art worlds–doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out.” As much as I loved to scan the box scores, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention.

F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.”
I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game) So after reading the classics : Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Volmann, Fante, Auster, I decided one day through a haze of smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that i had flushed 3 years earlier finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun.

This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.
As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I had decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and an even stranger anomalistic visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine.

5 Comments

“The more I know about this game, the less I know about this game.” That’s a thinking man’s comment. Good job.
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Of course F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t like baseball … he was a sad money-hungry, celebrity-seeker, drunk who happened to write one very good book that spotlights an era, in the same way that Brett Easton Ellis did in the 1980s. (OK, better than Ellis, since I sorta like Gatsby, but you get the drift.)

Fitzgerald didn’t appreciate or have time for anything that wouldn’t further his career, so baseball was out on that count. The best “biography” of Fitzgerald was in Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” Hemingway, on the other hand, did like baseball and, while in Cuba, built a diamond for the local boys to play on. Thanks for that tangent … I always appreciate an opportunity to rag on Fitzgerald.

Thanks for the reply, Bloggess.
I’m sorry you’re not a fan of Easton-Ellis–he wrote a few entertaining books that became movies. Less than Zero, The Rules of Attraction and American Psycho. The movies are just as good. Sure, the characters are mostly self possessed, rich drug addicts but the man sure can fashion a sentence.

I think Easton-Ellis, like Fitzgerald, wonderfully painted a picture of their era and generation. Less Than Zero and Gatsby will always stand the test of time on that count. But, no, Easton-Ellis isn’t my thing — which is not to say he’s not a good writer, just not my thing.

Hey, when I read Gatsby as a kid, I thought it was a baseball book because they mentioned the Black Sox scandal in it. Also, West Egg is really Great Neck, NY, original home of the Strat-O-Matic Game Co.. Good post, Gary.

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