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The Only Game in Town: Sportswriting from the New Yorkerby David Remnick
Synopses & Reviews
FROM THE BLEACHERS
THE WEB OF THE GAME
An afternoon in mid-May, and we are waiting for the game to begin. We are in shadow, and the sunlit field before us is a thick, springy green —an old diamond, beautifully kept up. The grass continues beyond the low chain-link fence that encloses the outfield, extending itself on the right-field side into a rougher, featureless sward that terminates in a low line of distant trees, still showing a pale, early-summer green. We are almost in the country. Our seats are in the seventh row of the grandstand, on the home side of the diamond, about halfway between third base and home plate. The seats themselves are more comforting to spirit than to body, being a surviving variant example of the pure late-Doric Polo Grounds mode: the backs made of a continuous running row of wood slats, divided off by pairs of narrow cast-iron arms, within which are slatted let-down seats, grown arthritic with rust and countless layers of gray paint. The rows are stacked so closely upon each other (one discovers) that a happening on the field of sufficient interest to warrant a rise or half-rise to one’s feet is often made more memorable by a sharp crack to the kneecaps delivered by the backs of the seats just forward; in time, one finds that a dandruff of gray paint flakes from the same source has fallen on one’s lap and scorecard. None of this matters, for this view and these stands and this park—it is Yale Field, in New Haven—are renowned for their felicity. The grandstand is a low, penumbrous steel- post shed that holds the infield in a pleasant horseshoe-curved embrace. The back wall of the grandstand, behind the uppermost row of seats, is broken by an arcade of open arches, admitting a soft backlight that silhouettes the upper audience and also discloses an overhead bonework of struts and beams supporting the roof—the pigeonland of all the ballparks of our youth. The game we are waiting for—Yale vs. St. John’s University—is a considerable event, for it is part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s northeast regional tournament, the winner of which will qualify for a berth at the national collegiate championships in Omaha in June, the World Series of college baseball. Another pair of teams, Maine and Central Michigan—the Black Bears and the Chippewas—have just finished their game here, the first of a doubleheader. Maine won it, 10–2, but the ultimate winner will not be picked here for three more days, when the four teams will have completed a difficult double-elimination tournament. Good, hard competition, but the stands at Yale Field are half empty today. Call them half full, because everyone on hand—some twenty-five hundred fans—must know something about the quality of the teams here, or at least enough to qualify either as a partisan or as an expert, which would explain the hum of talk and expectation that runs through the grandstand even while the Yale team, in pinstriped home whites, is still taking infield practice.
I am seated in a little sector of senior New Haven men—Townies rather than Old Elis. One of them a couple of rows in front of me says, “They used to fill this place in the old days, before there was all the baseball on TV.”
His neighbor, a small man in a tweed cap, says, “The biggest crowd I ever
David Remnick has been the editor of The New Yorker since 1998. A staff writer for the magazine from 1992 to 1998, he was previously The Washington Post's correspondent in the Soviet Union. The
A latest entry in the best-selling series features contributions by leading sports and literary writers, from Roger Angell's assessment of the famous pitching duel between Ron Darling and Frank Viola to David Owen's views on Tiger Wood's legacy.
For more than eighty years, The New Yorker has been home to some of the toughest, wisest, funniest, and most moving sportswriting around. Featuring brilliant reportage and analysis, profound profiles of pros, and tributes to the amateur in all of us, The Only Game in Town is a classic collection from a magazine with a deep bench.
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