Saturday, October 26, 2013

Five top works of baseball fiction

Leigh Montville's books include biographies of baseball greats Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, 7-foot-7 basketball player Manute Bol, motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, and the Mysterious Mantague, a forgotten golfer from the 1930s. He was a sports columnist at the Boston Globe for 21 years and a senior writer at Sports Illustrated for nine years.

One of five enduring works of baseball fiction he tagged for the Wall Street Journal:
The Brothers K
by David James Duncan (1992)

This is the baseball entry in The Best Book Ever Written contest. David James Duncan pounds out a family saga that collects thoughts about life, death, religion, the Vietnam War, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Darwin, Porky Pig and the cosmos, wraps them inside a horsehide cover, and sews up the seams with red thread. How good is this book? Papa Chance, the patriarch and a former minor-league pitcher, tells this story about Ted Williams: "One bleak Boston winter's day Mr. Theodore No-Nonsense Garbo Splinter Williams finally grants some overjoyed worm of a writer an exclusive audience. Just asks the guy over, sets him down in his comfortablest chair, lets him fire away with the questions. Of course the dolt starts off with the usual: 'What's your favorite breakfast cereal?' 'Who do you like for President the next election?' 'What's the meaning of life?' 'How long's your weenie?' and so on." There has been no better description—ever—of a sportswriter at work. And I'm a sportswriter.
Read about another entry on Montville's list.

--Marshal Zeringue