A nostalgic history of a small-town high school baseball team.
In his debut memoir, Smith offers a happy reminiscence of his youthful baseball-playing days. It begins with his earliest introduction to the game, and recounts how he formed a bond with his father as he learned to play. Overall, it serves as a kind of retrospective love letter to the author’s youth, describing in great detail the equipment and uniforms the author used, the friends with whom he played, his joy at Fourth of July picnics, and his senior prom. The story crescendos with the Paducah Tilghman high school team’s 1970 season, which ended successfully despite an inauspicious start, many challenges, and low expectations. Old photos of friends, baseball fields, and even score cards make the work feel like a well-crafted scrapbook. Smith uses extensive archival research and interviews to provide an impressively detailed historical snapshot that would likely satisfy most scholarly standards for rigor. However, this very personal memoir isn’t likely to appeal to a broad readership; it has the peculiar magnetism of a yearbook, as its target audience seems to be the very people the author describes and their acquaintances. Smith aims to paint a beautiful picture of small-town life, brought together by common, wholesome interests, such as our national pastime, and he does a credible job of avoiding retrospective idealization, acknowledging the political and social upheaval that unsettled the country in the 1960s. He devotes special attention to civil rights, as many high schools, including his own, were originally segregated institutions. However, the author’s own youthful experience as a baseball fanatic forms the core of this recollection: “If you had asked me…‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ any time before age twelve, I would have answered, ‘A pro baseball player.’ ” As a result, this is a sweet, uncomplicated account of a happy childhood, written in a breezy, anecdotal style.
A sentimental memoir that will particularly appeal to those familiar with the 1970 Paducah Tilghman high school baseball team.