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November 20, 2007

Tug McGraw’s Leap: Baseball and the Literary Arts

(or, "How Long Until Pitchers and Catchers Report?")

by Kevin O'Rourke

Timing is everything. Just when I couldn’t have been more distraught over the end of the 2007 baseball season, and moreover the manner in which it concluded (another sweep?!), my mother gave me a book. Namely Michael Chabon’s highly entertaining and evocative Summerland (Miramax, 2002). His tale of children & baseball & a fantasy world which exists in tandem with our own certainly did its very best to raise my spirits. So what if the book is supposed to be for kids? So was a certain other series about a boy wizard and his adventures. I enjoyed that one too, even if it meant removing the books’ dust jackets whenever reading them on the subway.

But I digress. Full disclosure: I am a huge baseball fan, I participate in a fantasy baseball league, and my idea of a good time tends to involve watching a game and jawing about, say, Rickey Henderson’s lifetime stats. I mean, the man stole 1,406 bases! Number two on the all-time list, Lou Brock, stole 938. Look at it this way: Henderson had 10,961 at-bats during his career, and his OBP (on-base percentage) was .401. That means he got on base about 4,395 times. Which means he stole a base approximately 32% of the time he was on base. This is completely ridiculous.

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