Thomas Wolfe on baseball


“Spring trainin’.”

“You mean you don’t like it?”

“Like it! Them first three weeks is just plain hell. It ain’t bad when you’re a kid. You don’t put on much weight durin’ the winter, an’ when you come down in the spring it only takes a few days to loosen up an’ git the kinks out. In two weeks’ time you’re loose as ashes. But wait till you’ve been aroun’ as long as I have!” He laughed loudly and shook his head. “Boy! The first time you go after a grounder you can hear your joints creak. After a while you begin to limber up—you work into it an’ git the soreness out of your muscles. By the time the season starts, along in April, you feel pretty good. By May you’re goin’ like a house a-fire, an’ you tell yourself you’re good as you ever was. You’re still goin’ strong along in June. An’ then you hit July, an’ you git them double-headers in St. Looie! Boy, oh boy! … “you ever been in St. Looie in July?”


“All right, then,” he said softly and scornfully. “An’ you ain’t played ball there in July. You come up to bat with sweat bustin’ from your ears. You step up an’ look out there to where the pitcher ought to be, an’ you see four of him. The crowd in the bleachers is out there roastin’ in their shirt-sleeves, an’ when the pitcher throws the ball it just comes from nowheres—it comes right out of them shirt-sleeves in the bleachers. It’s on top of you before you know it. Well, anyway, you dig in an’ git a toehold, take your cut, an’ maybe you connect. You straighten out a fast one. It’s good fer two bases if you hustle. In the old days you could’ve made it standin’ up. But now—boy!” He shook his head slowly. “You cain’t tell me nothin’ about that ball park in St. Looie in July! They got it all growed out in grass in April, but after July first—” he gave a short laugh—”hell!—it’s paved with concrete! An’ when you git to first, them dogs is sayin’, ‘Boy, let’s stay here!’ But you gotta keep on goin’—you know the manager is watching you— you’re gonna ketch hell if you don’t take that extra base, it may mean the game. An’ the boys up in the press box, they got their eyes glued on you too—they’ve begun to say old Crane is playin’ on a dime—an’ you’re thinkin’ about next year an’ maybe gittin’ in another Serious—an’ you hope to God you don’t git traded to St. Looie. So you take it on the lam, you slide into second like the Twentieth Century comin’ into the Chicago yards—an’ when you git up an’ feel yourself all over to see if any of your parts is missin’, you gotta listen to one of that second baseman’s wisecracks: ‘What’s the hurry, Bras? Afraid you’ll be late fer the Veterans’ Reunion?'”

— Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again, Book One, Chapter 5


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   August 2017

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