“There is no urgency to the game. Even in the pouring rain, there is the same easy lethargy of a sunstruck afternoon where bodies are bathed in sweat rather than rainwater.” ~ W.P. Kinsella, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy
I wrote about rain delays a week ago. It has rained here in Virginia every day since.
It is raining now.
The grass has grown up over my ankles and gone to seed, but it’s too wet to mow. The garden is a square box of mud, but it’s too wet to sow.
The grass has even overgrown the garden gnomes.
Everything’s a little slimy. My hair is rain-flattened and the screen door at our house has swollen itself shut. There is, I am not kidding, a palm-sized frog now living in a mud puddle in the middle of our road.
The rain on the tin roof at my studio in town has gone from “I love the sound of rain on a tin roof” to incessant and aggravating.
Baseball goes on in most other places. But, nothing much is going on around here.
It’s cold and wet and dreary and a little sad outside. It’s a good day to curl up with a book.
I’m not much for fiction, but this seems as good a day as any to recommend one of W.P. Kinsella’s early books, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy –TIBC from here on out.
TIBC came out in 1986, about six years before Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe which led to the “If you build it” Field of Dreams. (It’s not that I don’t like Field of Dreams, it’s just that … ok, it’s that I don’t like it as much as most people. It’s a little too sentimental and filled with moral lessons that feel like the stories politicians tell you when they’re trying to be folksy and sincere, but secretly they’re not.)
The Iowa Baseball Confederacy avoids most of that … well, a lot of that. It has its bumpy spots, but for the most part it’s trippy and fun.
It’s raw in places but you can see how the fantasy of Shoeless Joe first starts here in TIBC, with Gideon Clark and his friend Stan, finding a time wrinkle in a ballpark that allows them to step back to 1908 to prove what Gideon’s father insisted was true – that a forgotten ballgame between a forgotten amateur team from a forgotten Iowa town and the ‘08 Chicago Cubs actually happened.
These 1908 Cubs.
Sure, Gideon, who has marriage problems, ends up entwined with a mysterious woman. And, sure, Stan ends up playing for the amateur team. So does Teddy Roosevelt. So does a stone statue in the town. (Seriously. A statue. Don’t laugh, the Black Angel of Death swings a mean bat).
This Teddy carries a big stick.
(Just an aside here about this, and most, baseball fiction. Women characters are few, and the ones that do show up are generally one-dimensional, naggy, and try to destroy baseball or the men who love it. Also, just as annoying, baseball fiction is for the most part a white man’s game … the genre is still awaiting its Jackie Robinson.)
But, back to Kinsella’s 1908 game.
The game goes into extra innings – more than 2,000 of them – and expands over 40 days and an endless, flooding rainstorm (40 days, flooding … sound familiar, bible fans?). The teams keep playing through the flood, the ultimate extra-inning epic.
“They play sixty more innings on July 7. Sixty-four more on July 8. The rain continues, a steady, sincere, non-nonsense rainfall. The trees drip, the players drip, and the Iowa River rises an inch or two, its surface turning from turquoise to light brown, eddies swirling like tops beneath the large, mysterious trees.”
A little baseball and magic is nice reading. Sort of like last night’s Orioles’ game …
The Iowa Baseball Confederacy is not a bad way to pass the time as you wait for it to stop raining. It’s going to stop, right?
You can find the book here and, probably, at your local library.
Dear Kindlers, If you have Amazon Prime you can borrow The Iowa Baseball Confederacy as part of their free lending library. Just use your Kindle to find the book and you’ll see the option to borrow.