When people suggest I am a “writer,” my inclination is to reject the characterization. Given that my life has been surrounded by writers, not a few of whom are famous — Richard Reeves, Gay Talese, George Plimpton, David Halberstam, Gloria Steinem, John Farrell, Michael Gordon, Gordon Edes, Dan Shaughnessy and Juliet Schor — I simply cannot accept that I belong in such company, because I know I don’t.
However, a couple of years back I began writing Baseball Notes during the season, seven days a week at the start, before finally deciding five is enough. Monday was my last posting for the regular season that ended Sunday.
That said, this is what I wrote:
Never before in human history has one scribbler written more words read by fewer people than those in Baseball Notes, as written by your humble servant. But that is the fate of many who scribble, scribble, scribble.
It is left to very few scribblers to rise to fame, the most noteworthy figure being that of Samuel Johnson himself, who gifted us with the incomparable gift of the first English dictionary (a copy of which sits on a library stand near my desk), but Dr. Johnson still drew the following in verse from Charles Denis in 1765:
But, Johnson, thwart their foolish Rage,
Nor ever in thy deathless Page
Be such vile Scribbles shewn;
On Parent Dunghill, where begot,
There let the Toad-stool Mushrooms rot,
Unnoticed and unknown.
Samuel Johnson I am not, nor even one of his “harmless drudges,” who might have judged, in unison with their leader, scorn for anyone who dabbles in such drivel as Baseball Notes. (Johnson probably knew the English game of rounders, baseball’s precursor, first introduced in 1744 when Dr. Johnson was 35, but his approval is unknown, as the only game referenced in his writings is golf.)
Moreover, in reflecting upon words written and unread, the Dead Sea Scrolls came to mind, as it wasn’t until 1946 when a shepherd boy stumbled upon their hiding place in a West Bank cave not far from the Dead Sea. In that cave, known as Khirbet Quaram, the parchments found became one of history’s great discoveries; parchments having been lovingly placed at Khirbet Quaram more than 2,000 years ago but preserved and readable thanks to dry desert air. If, therefore, the existence of holy writ is unknown for centuries, what chance has Baseball Notes? Need you ask?
Given that reality, why do it? Why spend one to two hours five mornings a week to such little effect, for an audience that many days may be in single digits? Perhaps it’s because I am like that little boy who found himself in a large room filled with horse manure (or an unprintable word to that effect), who began digging frantically, certain somewhere beneath the manure he would find a pony.
Or, we could just say it's me being me; which, to those who know me, is mostly self-evident, but they would also know, incomplete (I am more than the parts of my Baseball Notes).
The less complicated answer is likely the best – I enjoy the “creative” process of composing Notes; the discipline of getting up early, reading about baseball and box scores (a habit of 71 years), which propels me then to write a different take on America's Game.
You have, thereby, read in Notes items not found in other places and not thought by other minds, of that I am quite certain (how many baseball scribblers reference Gertrude Stein?). Whether good or bad or mediocre, Baseball Notes is me; and in this America, yours and mine, our national documents proclaim the uniqueness of every soul; and what are you, or what am I, if not unique — for it is in our uniqueness we are linked, brothers and sisters, drawn inexorably to find common ground in our love of America’s Game.
Tuesday, April 2 is the day I began writing Baseball Notes for 2013. Since that first posting, which followed the Red Sox winning their home opener against the Yankees at Fenway (the score was 8-2), Notes has appeared 123 times, resulting in approximately 92,225 words (the industry standard is 250 words a page).
So, if Baseball Notes were published as a collection in book form, it would run to 369 pages!
Wow, who knew? (My agent awaits your call.)
Baseball Notes go to several hundred people around the country as email and are posted on Facebook, but by whatever means of social media they arrive, those who respond, while few, are greatly valued – for it is a distinguished list, that includes:
Scott Alevy, Maurice Altshuler, Della Britton Baeza, Talmage Boston, Ben Bradlee Jr.,
Tom Clavin, Jim Parker, Donna Cohen, Mike Dukakis, Dick Enberg, Dick Flavin, Ron Fowler, Dave Friedman, Tom Garfinkel, John Hickenlooper, Carol Iseman, Jim Kennel, Jeff Kornhass, Larry Lucchino, Tim Mitchell, Bill Mitrovich, Pat O’Connor, Richard O’Hagan, Harry Sherr, Barry Shuman, Barry Soper, Dr. Charles Steinberg, Diane Tiernan, Nicholas Von Hoffman, Carol Waltz, Mark Winkler and Janet Wood.
However, in the case of Sherr, he responds to point out spelling errors, as when I miss hit my keyboard and a “d” became an “f” in a sentence quoting Larry Lucchino, so the word became “goof” rather than “good”, and Sherr, of Wellesley, Massachusetts, and La Jolla, fretted that Lucchino, the Princetonian/Yalie, would have his dignity offended. (Was he, Lucchino I mean, “offended?” I don’t know. He didn’t say. I didn’t ask.)
Quote of the day: “We have been here, the ribbon of reminiscences reminded me, many times before. Listening to the woven quilt of baseball on radio, I retreated to the announcers of my sleepy, sheltered childhood — back to the welcome beckoners of a thousand afternoons. Their voices, more than two decades later, were a part of me; they had settled on my consciousness. They formed as much the web of baseball as did my first fielder’s mitt, small and brown and fragile.
“In the tender ear of memory, they had gentled and rewarded youth; they told of plots and stories and comedy that rounded out scenes. They also introduce me, in their wise, knowing ways, to a world whose dividing line, few would double back upon…”
-- Curt Smith, “Voices of the Game”
Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader.