Baseball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Batter's Box

By Eric Bronson | Go to book overview

Pre-Game Warm-up:
Who's on First?

Baseball has always been a thinking person's game. Just ask the wise philosophers, Abbot and Costello.

Their baseball dream team featured “Who” at first base, “What” at second base, and “Why” out in left field. That's a formidable lineup when you stop and think about it. If any of us could keep track of the Whos, Whats, and Whys in our lives, our daily grind would be a whole lot easier to bear. Poor Costello, though, never could seem to get it right, and most of the time, we can't either. “Who” are we? “What” should we do? “Why” are we here? Throw in “I Don't Know” at third base and you have the foundation for some of the most perplexing philosophical discussions throughout the ages, all on the field at the same time. Can you blame Costello for not getting it straight?

Played without time limits, baseball encourages its participants to pause and think. There is time enough for infield shifts, meetings at the mound, phone calls to the bullpen, and time in between for armchair managing. It's not unusual for St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa to don his reading glasses during the game, as he pours over the latest statistics. Or, think of cerebral Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux (a.k.a. “the Professor”), shaking off sign after sign, as he paints the corners with off-speed pitches.

There is also something about baseball that appeals to men and women of letters. Off the field, intellectuals like Bart Giamatti (Yale University President and later Baseball Commissioner), scientist Stephen Jay Gould, and political commentator George Will spent years seeking to understand baseball's place in American popular culture. When Giamatti wrote his now famous article for Harper's Magazine, he noted how baseball happily takes you through the summer and early fall, but “just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

Every year, scores of new baseball books are published to help us make it through the twilight. Such stories cover

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