A Fan’s Notes from Left Field, by Josh Ostergaard. Coffee House Press, 2014.
(Not to be confused with Confessions from Left Field: A Baseball Pilgrimage, published by Raymond Mungo in 1983.)
To be honest, I did not have high expectations for this one after reading the review in the NY Times‘ Sunday book supplement a few weeks back. It somehow reminded me of The Art of Fielding, another “literary” treatise (albeit fictional) that was getting more credit than it seemed to deserve. Maybe part of it is jealousy. A whole page for one book where 501 didn’t even sniff a mention in “Paperback Alley?”
While I maintain my opinion of TAOF, I acknowledge my mistake regarding Snake Curve, a quirky journal of Ostergaard’s thoughts and memories of the game.
He follows a roughly chronological format, with passages akin to blog entries ranging in length from a paragraph to several pages. Most of these pieces seem to concentrate on the Yankees (points off), with an “us vs. them” leaning (bonus points) when it comes to player against management, particularly the franchises know for them conservatism, like the Yankees and Reds when it comes to tidy hair styles. In fact, there are a disproportionate number of items concerning grooming. Hmmm.
Ostergaard seamlessly meshes baseball with pop culture and politics, both in the U.S. and around the world. Many of these are amusing, while some are more serious and thought-provoking, such as how many home runs hit were eventually lost to rain outs and similar officially incomplete games? No way to know. Or pointing out that Pete Rose and Mark McGwire were each presented with the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, bestowed on those players who exemplify, on and off the field, the qualities of the Yankee Clipper — yet neither man has actually been inducted into the Hall because of what many might describe as character flaws.
Some of the entries are downright ponderable:
Does anyone know how many games old Pud Galvin really won?
Who’s on first?
That’s the entire item.
Oddness aside, Devil’s Curve is a pleasant pastime, easily suited to inning changeovers and calls to the pen.