Jazz music is often said to bring about an energy of rapture that seizes its participants. This has been pointed out by jazz’s early denouncers who railed against the licentiousness it would surely bring, and by its devotees who experience an ecstatic fulfillment through the music. Baseball too has been observed to bring a rapturous energy to its players and fans. I propose that baseball and jazz both act as vessels for Dionysian energy. Both baseball and jazz became lodged into North American culture in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In this same period, the short story became an established literary form in the United States. I further propose that baseball contains narrative structures similar to those of the short story and that these shared narrative and temporal features also contribute to baseball’s Dionysian energy.
This study employs the dichotomy of Dionysus and Apollo elaborated by Frederick Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy. I am defining Dionysian energy as an ecstatic, overflowing, irrational and emotional energy. It can be joyous. It can be sorrowful. It can be both simultaneously. We feel the Dionysian when we listen to jazz. We feel it when we watch baseball. Since it is irrational, it eludes precise definitions, but to misquote Justice Potter Stewart, “We know it, when we feel it.”1 The Dionysian energy is not something new. It is as old as life itself, and it is, of course, named after Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. Like all intoxicants, it can bring a loss of control. Yet it can also be contained and channeled. It can be experienced alone. A solitary individual, alone in the moonlight, may feel the Dionysian. But I am examining the Dionysian as a cultural phenomenon, as an experience shared with other human beings. The energy is shared between creator and audience, and between co-participants, such as dance partners or audience members. In the three forms considered here — jazz, baseball, and short fiction – the Dionysian energy is experienced by both originator and consumer: the musician and the listener; the player and the spectator; the author and the reader.
Throughout human history, cultures have created vessels to serve as channels for this energy. In Ancient Greece, one celebrated form was the theater. Frederick Nietzsche praised the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles as consummate expressions of the Dionysian energy. Ancient Greece also celebrated the Festival of Dionysus, which also served as a vessel. But let’s leave Ancient Greece and move forward to the late 1800s, the passing of the Victorian Era and the beginning of the Modern Era. This was a period of concentrated cultural change, an era in which new vessels, new cultural forms, were emerging to channel the Dionysian energy. Among the vessels that emerged in this period were jazz music and the game of baseball.
Discussion of Dionysian forms must recognize his brother, Apollo, the Greek god of the rational. Nietzsche stated that the cultural achievements of Ancient Greece were manifestations of the tension between Apollonian and Dionysian forces. The rational energy of Apollo results in a formal beauty such as that of the Greek architecture, with its measures spaces between columns that provide a visual harmony. The rational energy of Apollo also provides the formal elements that allow for various channels to be built. Baseball and jazz are both wellsprings for the Dionysian, but it is their Apollonian elements that allow the Dionysian energy to flow through them. These Apollonian elements are the rational, fix structures within jazz music; and the rational, fixed structures within the game of baseball. These structures allow for the energy to be channeled in a constructive and sustainable manner. Without them, the Dionysian energy could only appear in irregular spurts rather than in a continual flow.
The Apollonian elements within jazz music include a structure of 32 measures divided into four phrases. Within these measures, there is an underlying harmonic progression for each of the four phrases. These elements are generally fixed, remaining rigid and constant. Yet it is precisely these rigid elements of jazz music that allow for its improvisation. They allow the soloist his or her freedom. A jazz musician feels the Dionysian energy. He or she begins to play, then lets it out in all its ecstasy and splendor. But this freedom and spontaneity are only possible because of the Apollonian formal elements within the music.
In baseball, the Dionysian rapture can be experienced by watching a home run, a walk-off win, a close play, rooting for a favorite team or player, or just being present at the ball game. We are familiar with the Dionysian rapture of baseball. Its Apollonian beauty is also easily recognizable. The baseball diamond has an Apollonian aesthetic; its symmetry holds a simple yet elegant beauty. But beyond its beauty, there is something deeper in the Apollonian structure of the game. Apollo, the god of light, is not associated with mysteries, yet there are mysteries within the Apollonian structures of the baseball. Red Smith, the sportswriter, provided this famous quote about the baseball diamond.
Ninety feet between bases represents man’s closest approach to absolute truth … and nobody knows for sure how it came to be.
The full quote reads:
Ninety feet between bases represents man’s closest approach to absolute truth. The world’s fastest man cannot run to first base ahead of a sharply hit ball that is cleanly handled by an infielder; he will get there only half a step too late. Let the fielder juggle the ball for one moment or delay his throw an instant and the runner will be safe. Ninety feet demands perfection. It accurately measures the cunning, speed and finesse of a base stealer against the velocity of a thrown ball. It dictates the placement of infielders. That single dimension makes baseball a fine art -and nobody knows for sure how it came to be. 2
Red Smith located the Apollonian element of baseball within the ninety-foot distances. Yet he claimed, “Nobody knows for sure how it came to be.” This kind of statement begs an investigation.
There are two myths about baseball’s origins that need to be addressed. The story that Civil War General Abner Doubleday invented baseball was crafted to increase the game’s popularity. Albert Spaulding lodged this myth into the popular mind. Spaulding, who founded the sporting-goods company that bears his name, was also a player and owner of the Chicago White Stockings.3 At the turn of the Twentieth Century, baseball was experiencing a surge in popularity within the United States. Spaulding used nationalism to promote the game, and he drafted Doubleday as its inventor. In 1907, Major League Baseball assigned a commission to determine the origins of the game. Under Albert Spaulding’s influence, this commission would seal the myth that Abner Doubleday had invented baseball.4
A more recent myth credits Alexander Cartwright as baseball’s father. Cartwright was a New York bank clerk and volunteer fireman. He would also participate in the colonization of Hawai’i. Cartwright was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938. His plaque in Cooperstown calls him the “Father of Modern Base Ball” and states that he “set bases 90 feet apart” and “established 9 innings as game and 9 players as team.” Cartwright’s contributions would become further embellished with the publication of Harold Peterson’s book The Man Who Invented Baseball in 1973. Peterson claimed that sometime around 1845 Cartwright made adjustments to the games of townball and rounders to give us what we now know as baseball.
Research by Monica Nucciarone, author of Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend, would prove that many of the claims made on Cartwright’s behalf were erroneous and based on a diary forged by his grandson. David Block, author of Baseball Before We Knew It, also confronts the assertions that Alexander Cartwright and his team the Knickerbockers originated many of the elements of modern baseball. Block finds documentation that many of the elements of baseball credited to Cartwright existed prior to his arrival.5
If we brush aside the myths, there is one fact about the origin of the baseball diamond that is know for certain. It is an established fact that a baseball convention took place on January 22 and February 25 of 18576 that standardized the infield diamond with 90-foot distances between bases.7 This convention took place in New York and was organized by members of Alexander Cartwright’s team, the Knickerbockers, with the purpose of standardizing rules for games between clubs in the New York area.8
A dispute exits, however, among baseball scholars on whether the 90-foot distance was a new innovation at the convention or just a clarification of an older rule. Earlier, the Knickerbockers rulebook set a distance between home plate and second base of “42 paces.” Baseball scholars disagree on whether the definition of 42 paces should be interpreted as 42 strides, or whether it should be guided by the dictionary definition of the period, which defined a pace as 2 ½ feet.9 Following the math, if one defines a pace as 2 ½ feet, the distance between home and second base becomes 105 feet. Using the Pythagorean Theorem, one would have a diamond with base paths of 74 ¼ feet. On the other hand, an athletic man of the 19th Century would likely have a pace equal to about one yard. If he strode 42 paces to mark the distance between home and second, he would cover roughly 42 yards or 120 feet, which would yield baselines of about 89 feet.
A case is made that Doc Adams, a physician and member of the Knickerbockers team, should receive credit for the 90-foot distances. Doc Adams served as the president of the Knickerbockers club and he was present at the 1857 convention. Just prior to the convention, Adams wrote a draft of the baseball rules that included the 90-foot base lines.10 According to John Thorn, author of Baseball in the Garden of Eden,Adams’ proposal for rule changes is the earliest written documentation of an infield with 90-foot distances.11
Newspaper accounts12 of the 1857 convention did not describe the 90-foot baselines in such monumental terms as Red Smith. They also did not discuss how this infield would affect the placement of infielders, or how it would measure the speed and cunning of baserunners. The absence of such discussions suggests that the midwives and those present at the birth were not aware of the significance of what was being born.
Historians may continue to disagree on the circumstances of the 90-foot infield. For now, let’s give history an off day and seek insight from another field, the field of mathematics.13 We can approach the issue of the baseball diamond as a problem of math, more specifically a problem of geometry. Clues emerge by contemplating the very old geometry problem of how to square the circle.
The attempt to square the circle is an effort to create a square that is the same area as a given circle with the use of only two tools, a compass and a straight edge. Another approach is to try to construct a square that is the same perimeter as the circumference of a given circle, using the same tools. One is only allowed a finite number of attempts, as a formula with an infinite number of attempts is disallowed. The problem was attempted by mathematicians of the great Ancient Civilizations: Babylonia, Egypt, Greece. More recently, it was attempted by brave souls in Victorian England as well.14
Nowadays, the idea of squaring the circle is considered a Quixotic quest. It is nearly a metaphor for a futile pursuit by someone with too much time on his or her hands. Like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, it is considered another example of useless mental activity. But for those who pursue it, squaring the circle is not merely a geometry problem but a spiritual endeavor as well.
The spiritual pursuit within the problem is discernible within the symbolism of the circle and the symbolism of square. The circle is symbolic of Heaven, God, and divine energy; while the square is symbolic of Earth, and life on the material plane. Here is an example from Masonic iconography.
In this familiar symbol, the compass and the square are less about what they do, than what they symbolize. The compass and the circle it draws represent the sky, the heavens, and divine realms. The square, meanwhile, symbolizes the earth and the material plane.
When placed together, the circle and the square represent the entry of spirit into matter, or as it is described in Christian terminology, to bring Heaven onto Earth. A passage from Joseph Campbell brings elephants, turtles, and other earthly creatures into the picture:
The dome of heaven rests on the quarters of the earth, sometimes supported by four caryatidal kings, dwarfs, giants, elephants, or turtles. Hence, the traditional importance of the mathematical problem of the quadrature of the circle: it contains the secret of the transformation of heavenly into earthly forms.15
The transformation of energy through a circle of heaven into an earthly square can also be described as creation.
The baseball diamond holds an uncanny relationship to the circle squared.16 The baseball diamond is, of course, also a square. When the 90-foot distances between all the bases, the four sides of the square, are added, the sum is 360 feet. Remarkably, this number of 360 matches the number of degrees of a circle. A circle is measured mathematically by degrees; the number of degrees in every circle is 360. This number 360 is indelibly associated with the circle; and this number 360 is manifest as the length of the perimeter of the baseball diamond, which is also a square. I ask the reader to consider the significance of the number 360 as both the number of degrees in a circle, and as the sum of the distances of the base paths of the diamond.
360 degrees: 90 + 90 + 90 + 90 = 360 feet.
This investigation cannot end here. These numbers beg us to examine the units of measurement in use. From where do the units of degrees and feet come? Are they not randomly chosen units whose only authority derives from convention? The assignment of 360 degrees to the circle has been handed down to us by the Chaldeans of Ancient Mesopotamia. The number 360 corresponds roughly to the 365 days that it takes for the earth to go around the Sun. In the history of geometry, perhaps its most practical application has been for building. Ninety-degree right angles, which are quarter divisions of the circle, are necessary for construction. Square corners need to be measured for buildings to stand upright. We measure such angles by degrees of the circle.
The unit of the foot begins with the human body. This unit is “anthropometric,” meaning that it uses a feature of human anatomy as a measurement. Other anthropometric measures include: “an arm’s length” for an intermediate distance; and “the blink of an eye” for a short span of time. Anthropometric measurements can be dismissed as folksy usages, but consider them as echoes of the declaration by Pythagoras that “Man is the measure of all things.” Philosophers from various ages have stated than each human being is a microcosm of the universe, and that he and she are created in the image of God. The human body participates in nature, but its features all have divine significance.
The unit of the foot, of course, originates from our two feet that hold our weight and allow us to walk on the Earth. Our feet are that part of us designed for intimate contact with the Earth. We stand on two feet instead of four feet like most other mammals. Our head and spinal column aspire upward to the sky, but our feet remain down with the ground. They keep us joined with nature and the Earth.
The foot has not been a constant length through history. Researchers trace the unit of the foot to Ancient Egypt where the foot had a length of 12.4 of our current inches. In Medieval England, a longer foot of 13.2 inches was in use. The current 12-inch foot would be introduced in England before 950 AD. A different standard was used after the Norman Conquest, but the 12-inch foot would reemerge. Its official sanction was issued by Parliament in 1760.17 Less than 100 years later, the Baseball Convention of 1857 would do its work under the influence of British culture and thus employ the 12-inch foot.
It can still be argued that anthropomorphic units are arbitrary. Man may be the measure of all things, but human beings are varied. Men and women have feet of different sizes. But when one contemplates the baseball diamond and the precision of the 90-foot distances between bases, Red Smith’s statement that the diamond is “Man’s closest approach to absolute truth,” may not be mere hyperbole. If the diamond is close to absolute truth, then perhaps its components, the 12-inch foot the 360-degree circle, are also close to absolute truth.
The short story came into its own as a literary form in the 19th Century, the same century that brought baseball and jazz. Although earlier centuries produced examples of short fiction, it was the rise of mass market magazines and the upsurge of a literate middle-class in the 19th Century that fostered the environment where the short story could thrive.18
A comparison of baseball and the short story falls on their temporal elements. The short story as an art form, as an Apollonian vessel, has a remarkable relationship to time. The short story can be as short as 60 words or as long as 30 pages. Truly it can be almost any length between a prose poem and a novella. Within these confines that contract and expand, it can contain decades of time or just a few minutes of time. Baseball has a similar relationship with time. Like the short story, the game has a flexible narrative structure. One can discuss not only the narrative of a game, but of a single at bat, a series, a home stand, a season, the season of a player, the season of a team, the history of a franchise, etc. Multiple time narratives proceed simultaneously. Occasionally these narratives unite in dramatic and historical moments. An at bat by Edgar Martinez in 1995, remembered as “The Double,” is described as the hit that saved the Seattle Mariners franchise.19
The short stories of baseball writers Ring Lardner and W.P. Kinsella demonstrate how the narrative structures of baseball and the short story overlap. “Horseshoes,” a 26-page story by Ring Lardner, proceeds along multiple time sequences, much like the game of baseball. The narrator of the story, a baseball reporter, is riding a train from Philadelphia to Chicago. In the dining car, he sits across from a man who turns out to be Dick Grimes, a pivotal player in the just concluded World Series between the Athletics and Giants.20 The narrator pretends to not know much about the Series or about the man across from him. After a few drinks, Grimes provides the narrator a blow-by-blow description of all seven World Series games. Grimes also tells about his career as a player, about events that happened to him before he became a professional baseball player, and of an event that will happen a few days after the last of the 26-pages has turned. In between, Grimes describes a brutal rivalry he has with a player on the opposing team.
Most of the pages within “Horseshoes” are a story within a story, as Grimes narrates the parallel lives that he and his rival Speed Parker lead. Grimes, a backup outfielder for the Athletics, hates Parker, his once childhood friend, who became the third baseman for the rival Giants. He tells how, as mischievous boys, Parker would escape blame while Grimes would be punished. Both begin playing professional baseball for the same team. According to Grimes, Parker has little talent but does have extraordinary luck, hence the name of the story, “Horseshoes.” Fortune follows Parker, through the minors leagues, into the majors, and through the seven games of the World Series. Grimes, meanwhile, rarely has a ball bounce his way and even experiences the humiliation of having his fiancée stolen by his rival. But in the end, he does exact vengeance.
In addition to its narratives, “Horseshoes” provides a portal to the 1910s, a decade when players traveled by train, and the Giants and Athletics had yet to move to California. First published in August of 1914,21 its minor characters include Connie Mack, John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and others players who would enter the Hall of Fame.22 These names were famous in their own decade but now are hardly known to those not students of the game. Still they contribute to a realism that transports one back 100 years. But more important, it is the game of baseball itself with its powerful nostalgia, that provides the time portal within the story. The game of baseball arrives with a built-in ability to sense the past.
In 2014, a short film23 was made from the story “Horseshoes.” Rather than place the characters on a train in the 1910s, the filmmaker Travis Mills sets the conversation between Grimes24 and the reporter within a diner and in current times. Grimes is of non-white ethnicity, likely Latino. His rival Parker is African-American. The reporter is depicted as somewhat unadjusted to the present decade. When his cellphone fails, he asks a young man who works at the diner for a phone book, a request that receives an odd look. But the character’s desire for a phone book, now an artifact from the past, echoes the nostalgic yearnings that baseball brings. More significant, the film demonstrates how baseball collapses time, how past and present are brought together. The game provides a constant that allows a story from the 1910s to be fluently adapted into a film set in the present with tech devices and ethnic characters.
“K Mart,” like many stories by W.P. Kinsella, also employs the nostalgia of baseball. But more so than Lardner’s story, “K Mart” demonstrates the emotional power of that nostalgia. Like “Horseshoes,” the story proceeds primarily along two different timelines. In “Horseshoes,” the narrator bears witness for the storyteller who goes into the past and presents a not totally believable account of events. In Kinsella’s story, some words tossed off by the narrator’s wife trigger a haunting memory. “The past is so melodramatic. … I keep remembering all those terrible life and death situations as a teenager. … None of them were ever so disastrous as I feared they would be,” she ignorantly declares.25 Jaime, the narrator, disagrees with his wife but does not argue with her. He remembers a girl he betrayed as a teenager, who would eventually commit suicide. His haunting memory of her is layered between happier memories of playing baseball with friends in an empty lot near his girlfriend’s house. Unlike Dick Grimes who wants the world to hear him set the record straight, this story teller keeps the memory to himself. “I have never mentioned Corey to my wife. In fact, I have never mentioned Corey to anyone, ever.”26 When the narrator returns to the town of his youth, he learns of the girl’s death and attends her funeral, along with two friends from childhood. Afterwards, the three friends step into a K Mart that has been built on their baseball field. Inside the department store, they gather gloves, balls, and a bat from the sporting goods section and play a makeshift game of baseball, defying the store manager and security guard. On the site of their old field, they go into a timeless bubble where all their old teammates magically appear. There they find solace and healing.
The nostalgia of “K Mart” does not include names of old baseball players like that of “Horseshoes.” Except for a brief fantasy by Jaime, no one in Kinsella’s story even thinks about playing in the Major Leagues. The nostalgia of “K Mart” works on a deeper, more intimate level. It is a look back to childhood and youth, but Kinsella does not paint these in rosy hues. Their town of Northside is poor, and its families are broken and dysfunctional. Only the baseball is remembered fondly. The narrator begins his reminiscence when his family is forced to move to Northside, a dingy factory town in Illinois. Earlier, he had lived in “a dreamy, small town called Onamata27 on the banks of the Ohio River.”28 At age 14, Jaime’s life has lost its innocence, as his father’s drinking has caused the family’s economic ruin and led to its exile from Eden. In Northside, he falls in with a group of boys who play baseball every day. The game provides him an escape from the poverty and hard family life. “Baseball was my salvation, for it was the only real connection between my past and present. The game we played here in this dismal factory town with its constantly gray skies was exactly the same game I had played in the sweet, green warmth of an Iowa summer.”29 Kinsella’s story remains one of loss, but the game that provided the narrator a refuge in his youth allows him a measure of healing as the story ends inside of the K Mart store.
Baseball’s fluid narrative structures and its powerful nostalgia are effects of its Apollonian elements. Beside the spatial components described earlier, the game’s Apollonian elements include temporal components. These components allow baseball a unique relationship with the beast of time, a relationship that encourages the Dionysian to emerge. Baseball’s temporal structure is distinct from those of football and basketball. Baseball does not proceed according to a clock. The game proceeds at a different pace than football and basketball, sports in which timeouts and the ticking of minutes and seconds are vitally important. Baseball time is measured, not in the standard units of hours, minutes, and seconds; but in balls, strikes, outs, and innings. With extra innings, each game has a theoretical potential to go on forever. Likewise, each inning and each at bat can also go on forever. Odd moments happen in baseball time that are unlike those in any other sport, such as the extra inning game that lasts into the next calendar day, and the batter with a three-and-two count who fouls off pitch after pitch. In such moments, the conventional flow of time becomes conspicuously absent or insignificant. The game leans into the future, much like the story “Horseshoes.” Lardner’s story ends not only with the narration of an odd wedding that will happen in two days, but with Dick Grimes’ anticipation of the following baseball season. Baseball’s Apollonian structure creates an opening for such future leanings.
Baseball’s temporal structure also opens the past. The game’s tempo alone can remove us from the present. The speed of the game is slower than most activities in our lives. At the ballpark, we can imagine ourselves in a simpler less hectic century. George Will remarks that the pace of baseball relates to the pre-industrial agrarian era.30 Today, in our industrial and digital age, time is broken into small units in which specific tasks are performed. We must “clock in” at work at a specified hour. Television programs are set in “time slots.” The word “slot” implies a designated location into which something firmly fits. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, when the economy was based on agriculture and the majority of people were farmers, time had a more amorphous quality. Time was not rigid and compartmentalized. Sundials, not clocks, marked the passage of the hours. It was of little concern that the inaccuracy of sundials lengthened certain hours of the day and shortened others. There is a relaxed ease when the clocks are put away, and one can indulge in the leisure of outs and innings to measure the passage of time.
Beyond its tempo from an earlier era, nostalgia surrounds the game. Baseball calls us back to our childhood, before the onset of adult demands and responsibilities. A stage of life when we had time to play. But more interesting, the game carries with it a romanticized bucolic past, a lost Golden Age. The narrator in Kinsella’s story is called back to halcyon days in Onamata, Iowa. The game tugs at us from a place of longing for a rustic and pastoral past. The smell of fresh grass from center field can do this to the most urban of fans. Furthermore, in no other sport is the past so venerated. Its records are carefully maintained and evaluated. Stars of past eras become semi-mythical figures. “Horseshoes” becomes an even more compelling story because it invokes the names of such figures as John McGraw and Connie Mack. In the Major Leagues, wooden bats are preferred to aluminum bats not only for custom but because wooden bats feel old and genuine. The aesthetic of wooden bats functions as a fortress against the current metallic and digital age.
As the game reaches both backward and forward in time, baseball appears as both immemorially old and forever young. The baseball season begins in spring, a time of youth and exuberance. It ends in fall, a season of reflection and consolidation. The game possesses the hopeful enthusiasm of youth and the crusty wisdom of age. It relates to both Father Time and to the baby of the New Year.
Baseball has been described as timeless, in existence beyond the procession of years. The movie Field of Dreams, based on the Kinsella novel Shoeless Joe, portrays baseball in such a timeless realm. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, another Kinsella novel, depicts a journey back in time to 1908, and a game played for more than 2000 innings between the Chicago Cubs and an amateur all-star team. There are various depictions of baseball played in an afterlife. A. Bartlett Giamanti titled his book Take Time for Paradise. Alexander Cartwright and the Knickerbockers played in a park called the Elysian Fields, a name that alludes to the Roman afterlife for heroes fallen in battle.
Although baseball time is not measured by the standard clock, time does pass as the outs and innings are counted. The advance of time brings a tension and an excitement to both the ending of a game and to the close of a season. Time cannot be eluded,31 and time eventually brings death. Connie Mack, the founder of the Athletics franchise began his autobiography with the following passage:
By the grace of God, if he so wills it, I enter my ninetieth year on December 23, 1952, with only ten years to go to cross the homeplate of the century mark. Whether I make it depends on the decision of the Great Umpire who sooner or later calls us “out.” The scoreboard at the moment says: “Two strikes – three balls.” Father time is in the pitcher’s box.32
Not all of baseball time is expansive and leisurely. It can also be concentrated and sudden. There are moments of baseball time that resemble a Christian millennium. There is a finality when the last out is recorded and a game ends. Similarly, there is a millennial quality to a game that ends in a final at bat, the walk-off win or loss. A game ends in a sudden and final manner. An outcome is suddenly manifest. Football uses the phrase “sudden death overtime” to describe an added quarter in which the team to score first will immediately win. Baseball seasons end on millennial notes when contending teams are eliminated and the championship teams win pennants and World Series.
Along with millennial endings, there are the waits for such climaxes. The beast of time forces everyone to wait, especially baseball fans. A fan must endure the trails of a long season. The baseball season, lasting from March into October or November, is longer than the seasons of football and basketball. There are also the waits that last well beyond a single season. Fans endure periods longer than a year for a promising young team to develop into a contender. To wait through such periods requires faith. For certain fans, such waits extend through generations. The fans of some teams, notably those of the Cubs, wait faithfully through their lifetimes and those of their antecedents for their teams to win the World Series. The faith of such fans resembles that of a millennial sect that patiently endures the travails of life on Earth. Such followers are braced by their belief that eventually their team will win the World Series, just as God’s Kingdom will someday arrive. Millennial climaxes are not part of mundane time, but they are experienced by baseball fans who participate in baseball time and witness events such as the Red Sox’ World Series victory in 2004. This aspect of baseball time does not serve Dionysius, the wine god. It is more of an observance for Jehovah, who promises to reward those who endure such waits that prove their faith.
In baseball, our normal mechanism of time is altered. Time is one of the most onerous of “real world” constraints, yet baseball allows us to step outside the demands of alarm clocks and deadlines.Baseball’s extraordinary temporal form serves the Dionysian by allowing that one has entered a timeless realm when playing or witnessing a game.Upon entering baseball time, one breaks free the everyday demands of arriving and departing at precise hours and minutes. Baseball time brings a liberation from the demands of the clock. This liberation contributes to its Dionysian rapture.
Baseball and jazz are both thriving as vessels for the Dionysian into the 21st Century. Born in the 1800s, both have passed the test of time. Their Apollonian structures have received minor tinkering, but they have remained basically unchanged.The short story also continues to thrive, but not as a vessel for Dionysius. Although it can bring moments of rapture, the short story does not channel the Dionysian with the gusto of baseball and jazz. In small part, the short story lacks current for Dionysius because the writer and the reader perform their acts in solitude rather than among the masses, as do the jazz band and the baseball team. But more significantly, the short story is polytheistic. It serves as a vessel for various gods, not just Dionysius. The short story holds these other energies as well. Nonetheless, that sensation one feels at a jazz club and at a baseball game can also be experienced when one escapes into the right short story.
Block, David Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game Lincoln, Nebraska:
University of Nebraska Press, 2006.
Boyd, William “A Short History of the Short Story” Prospect July 10, 2006 (online publication: www.prospectmagazine.co.uk)
Campbell, Joseph The Hero with a Thousand Faces Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.
Feather, Norman An Introduction to the Physics of Mass, Length and Time London: Edinburgh
University Press, 1959.
Hershberger, Richard “The Baseball Convention of 1857” p. 32 Base Ball Vol 7, No 1 2013
Kinsella, W.P. “K Mart” The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt: Baseball Stories by W.P.
Kinsella Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988.
Kinsella, W.P. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1986.
Lardner, Ring “Horseshoes” Haircut and Other Stories New York: Collier Books, 1991.
Mack, Connie My 66 Years in the Big Leagues: The Great Story of America’s National Game
Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1950.
Nietzsche, Frederick The Birth of Tragedy (translated by Douglas Smith) New York:
Oxford University Press, 2000.
Nucciarone, Monica Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2009.
Peterson, Harold The Man Who Invented Baseball New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973.
Seymour, Harold Baseball: Vol 1. The Early Years New York: Oxford University Press, 1960
Thorn, John Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game New York: Simon
and Schuster, 2011.
Will, George Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1990.
- Will, George Men at Work p. 259
- In the 19th Century, the team now known as the Chicago Cubs was called the Chicago White Stockings.
- Peterson, Harold The Man Who Invented Baseball. p. 5-6; Seymour, Harold Baseball: The Early Years p. 9
- Block, David Baseball before We Knew It p. 81-82, 72
- Hershberger, Richard “The Baseball Convention of 1857” Base Ball Vol 7, No 1 2013 (p. 32).
- Thorn, John. Baseball in the Garden of Eden p. 52
- Thorn, John. Baseball in the Garden of Eden p. 52
- Block, David. Baseball Before We Knew It p.81-82
- E-mail correspondence between John Thorn and this author. May 2016
- Interestingly, Doc Adams father, Daniel Adams, was the author of a popular mathematics textbook of the 19th Century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Adams_(physician)
- Campbell, Joseph The Hero with a Thousand Faces p. 42
- A letter by Alexander Cartwright’s grandson describes a moment when his grandfather may have held this mystery: “I remember seeing him draw a circle in the dust with his umbrella and then draw a cross through the circle. He then explained to the crowd who had gathered how he divided the “Baseball Square.” Nucciarone, Monica Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend. p. 219
- Feather, Norman Mass, Length and Time p.11
- Boyd, William “A Short History of the Short Story” Prospect
- No year is given for this series, but the players in the narrative are the same as those of the 1913 World Series.
- The box scores of the 1911 and 1913 World Series(es) between the Giants and A’s have the names of all the players in the text of “Horseshoes” except those of Speed Parker and Dick Grimes.
- Running Wild Films. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pijd9yBtV8
- In the film, Grimes’ first name is changed from Dick to Bill, as Dick is an uncommon name in the 21st Century.
- Kinsella, W.P. “K Mart” The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt p. 77
- Ibid p. 96
- Kinsella has set various stories in Onamata. These stories involve magical realism.
- Ibid p. 78
- Ibid p. 80
- Will, George Men at Work p. 130
- The lyrics of the song “Take Me Out to the Ballpark” contains the haunting refrain, “I don’t care if I ever get back.” But eventually the game ends, and we must leave the ballpark and return to the “real world” with real world time and its considerations.
- Mack, Connie My 66 Years in the Big Leagues p. 1