Ken Burns aside, there are a lot of overlaps between the two great American inventions. During JLP oral history interviews, the topic of baseball often came up. According to Carole Thomas, Gene Smith put a red filter on his TV screen so he could watch baseball in his darkroom. Some musicians were once outstanding prospects (Lou Donaldson, played 3rd base in a Negro semi-pro league as a teenager) and others were passionate fans (Dave Frishberg comes to mind – check out his great Van Lingle Mungo). In the JLP book I included a transcript of the broadcast of the 1960 World Series (Pirates over Yankees) found on Smith’s tapes.
A few baseball recommendations:
Bullpen Gospels, by Dirk Hayhurst. A behind the scenes look at minor league baseball written by a current (injured) player for the AAA Durham Bulls.
Sixty Feet Six Inches, by Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson. The two immortal ballplayers engage in a book length conversation about the art and science and culture of the game. The marketing for the book doesn’t reveal this very clearly, but there is a lot of important insight into racial complexities these men experienced in baseball. In that way it reminds me a little bit of drummer Art Taylor’s invaluable book of interviews with fellow musicians, Notes and Tones.
Durham Bulls game coverage for The Independent, by Adam Sobsey. Sobsey covers the AAA Bulls in a manner that I find unique in baseball game coverage on any level. A few nights ago he wrote what must be 5000 words on a single game. Before the internet, there wasn’t an outlet for Sobsey’s kind of serial work. This morning a literary friend read a few of Sobsey’s pieces and observed, “He’s an existential sportswriter.” That’s a pretty good observation that may reflect Sobsey’s background in theater production and playwriting. You don’t have to be a fan of the Bulls or their parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays, to enjoy his work.