Monday, June 23, 2008


[From the STMcC archive; 2005, March 17th]

Book: “DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER: Artists And Writers On Baseball” edited by Peter Gordon; 1987.

Grade: A -

Can it really be that no one has posted a review of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER at before now? Wow! "WHO'S ON FIRST?" It looks like I am!

The recent pennant-clinching victory of the Boston Red Sox (hate 'em) over their arch nemesis the New York Yankees (hate 'em) and curse-busting Series sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals (hate 'em now - the chokers!) inspired me to revisit my copy of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.

"WHOEVER WANTS TO KNOW THE HEART AND MIND OF AMERICA HAD BETTER LEARN BASEBALL," Jacques Barzun tells us on page 138. But I think Foghorn Leghorn said it best: There's something - ah say, there's something kind of Eeew about a kid that's never played baseball.

Although Football has now overtaken Baseball as America's favorite sport, the game played out on a green diamond is so ingrained in the American psyche that its idioms are commonly accepted facets of our lexicon. This is illustrated by Lesley Hazleton. Moving to the U.S., she was surprised to find that much of the English she had learned in Israel originated with our National Pastime: "I COULD TOUCH BASE, GIVE A BALLPARK FIGURE, STRIKE OUT AND REACH FIRST BASE LONG BEFORE I REALIZED THAT THESE WERE BASEBALL TERMS." (-page 15)

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is a "gem" of a compendium celebrating the sport with baseball-themed art, photographs and excerpts from a variety of books, essays and poems. It truly reflects the mythology, the emotions, the poetry, and the mystique of the game. I like very little of the featured art, but the writing, being "uniformly" topnotch, more than compensates, and each of the smattering of photographs are worth a thousand topnotch words. This book really does get to "the heart of the hide" - a double delicious dose of "Doubleday."

Although free agency and the record-skewing, steroid-laden hulks like Barry Bonds with the 'Frisco Giants (REALLY hate 'em!) have killed off much of my interest, Baseball will forever be a part of who I am. Twice I witnessed perfection while in a Baseball stadium: Kirk Gibson's game 1-winning World Series homer in 1988, and the 1991 mound mastery of Dennis Martinez - Major League Baseball's 13th Perfect Game. (Of course, the combination of grilled Dodger Dogs and cold, tap beer was yet another type of "perfection" I often experienced at the old ballpark.)

And if you're like me, then you learned some of life's most important lessons while on the green fields of Summer:

* I once got drilled between the eyes by a hardball thrown by Craig Richardson, our team's strongest (and most erratic) arm. LESSON: Never sit on the grass behind the "Hot Corner" when Richardson is playing First Base.

* After that, I always had one foot "in the bucket" at the plate, and that was the reason I struck out 21 times that season - a team high that I was never able to quite match again, but leading to another LESSON: The importance of setting and trying to achieve personal goals.

* The kid slid into Second Base on a steal attempt. I took the throw down from the catcher and applied the tag. And even as the umpire was signaling "Safe" I saw that no part of the boy's body was touching the bag, but the ball in my glove pressed against his calf. LESSON: Sometimes the "authorities" are wrong!

* Called to The Hill to pitch the Little League Yankees out of a bases-loaded jam, I saw that Yolanda was watching the game from behind the fence near our dugout. In my haste to get over there and talk to her, I fanned 3 consecutive batters. My Grandfather (the manager) came out to meet me. "You just struck out the side in order!" he excitedly informed me. I didn't know what that meant at the time, and furthermore, I couldn't have cared less; I had nothing but that little cutie on my mind. LESSON: A man's love for a woman will supersede his love for the "diamond", but conversely, the diamond is a girl's best friend.

* Growing up po' (not Third World po', of course, but American po'), one Summer my Brother and I played for a team in the "economically challenged" part of town. One day our Ma asked, "Do you realize that you're the only White guys on the team? Everyone else is Black." We both had to pause for several moments to contemplate that before answering, "Oh yeah, huh?" She later confessed that it was the proudest she ever felt of us. And she realized then and there that she had raised us well! LESSON: It doesn’t matter what color your skin is because when your team loses a ballgame, every player is BLUE!

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER really captures the magic of Baseball on several levels, but best perhaps in the photo on page 63: There's Wally Joyner, a California Angel in 1986, leaning against a thigh-high stadium fence, hand on hip, one leg casually cocked over the other, gazing off into the distant outfields, oblivious, flawless, looking like a Greek god. There next to him on the other side of the fence, two blonde brothers, maybe ten years old, heads tilted upward, mouths ajar, awe radiating from their eyes, and their bodies leaning slightly away from Joyner - one does not crowd a god!

If you are a literate person and a true aficionado of the game of Baseball, but my review has failed to convince you that you need DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER in your bookcase, then THERE IS NO JOY IN DOTCOMVILLE - MIGHTY STEPHEN HAS STRUCK OUT . . . again.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy


  1. Ok I'm convinced. Moreover I have to agree, this is one of your best posts.

    Although not an aficionado, I grew up in family of 'ball players'. Uncles, cousins, they all played on the city leagues and I spent many day at the diamond. Not bad, considering, that's where the boys were. That being in Chicago, where sports fans are little bit more crazy than just about anywhere else, should be 'enough said'.

    I encourage you to 'bring this one home' again in the Fall, when people are not on vacation and thinking World Series. It should definitely have more exposure.

    Glad ya liked it. I actually composed this review on Saint Patrick's Day, 2005.

    After I had posted it online, I said to myself for the first and only time ever: "I'm a writer."

    That's why I say that this, above everything else I've ever "penned", is probably the thing I'd most like to be remembered for having written. There is just so much "me" in this review.

    Thanks for the comment!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'


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