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How Life Imitates the World Series (1982) made the Washington Post's Tom Boswell a national contender for intelligent fan's baseball writer, and he may have gotten the wrong message: most of the pieces in this second collection are purposeful studies of the game, labored and verbose as well. Take the longest entry (40 pp.), on the '82 Orioles: ""Bred to a Harder Thing Than Triumph."" It's meant to give us an inside look at a tough pennant race (""In the year when history calls the team to its accounting, we share the club's extremities of joy and anxiety. . .we sometimes fancy that we understand the club just a shade better than it understands itself. . .mightn't we watch the pennant contenders of the future with a deeper comprehension?""). It runs to heavy, high-toned irony: ""Above all, how can a big league team prosper when it not only shows respect for, but actually encourages, intelligence, humor, eccentricity and dissent?"" And, in recounting the race with the Brewers, it gets up no steam. Pieces on ballparks (how baseball differs in each), on types of manager (""Little Napoleons, Peeless Leaders""), on umpires (""Lives of Noisy Desperation""), on pitching rotations (""How to Control the Arms Race""), on catchers (""Half Gurus, Half Beasts of Burden"")--have at least some interesting content; some ideas. ""The Importance of Being Third,"" crisper than most, contrasts how Brooks Robinson and Graig Nettles play the position; ""Nine Against One,"" perhaps the best of the bunch, is a dandy appreciation of the niceties of defense. Along with other myths (like the notions that an 0-2 pitch should always be a ball, a 2-0 pitch a strike), Boswell reviews the revolution in swings started by Hank Aaron, ""codified"" by Charlie Lau. There are a couple of nice, conventional feature pieces: on the coming-of-age of college baseball; on the ever-present past--old-timers' gatherings and games. Boswell just works his subject too hard--or, as he says in the closing, title piece: ""Baseball offers us pleasure and insight at so many levels and in so many forms that when we try to grasp the whole sport in our two hands, we end up with nothing."" OK as commentary-and-analysis, disappointing otherwise.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday