By Neil D. Isaacs
From one hundred seventy interviews Neil D. Isaacs positive factors first-hand tales of batboys who served in the course of 9 many years of baseball. In chronicling them he indicates how fact neutralizes illusions and the way conventions of the game implement lifelong values.
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Extra info for Batboys and the world of baseball
Spalding did more than any other individual to establish the especially national character of baseball (see Levine). In the succeeding century, however, while the specialness has persisted, the publicly jingoistic nature of the game has subsidedor gone underground. It is instructive to see Spalding's own brief comments (12-15) on the Commission's efforts, so dismissively accepting as to question the seriousness of the endeavor. It is also instructive to see how such professional historians as Voigt and Seymour disdain the Spalding-Doubleday myth.
The anonymity persists as a literary convention. In Bernard Malamud's The Natural, when Roy's "Wonderboy" splits, the batboy's part in the subsequent action is incidental to the point of nonexistence. In Barry Levinson's altered (corrupted) movie version, the batboy's role is significant but still anonymous, which probably contributes to the ironic effect when that scene is parodied in Ron Shelton's Bull Durham. Jerry Klinkowitz's Short Season, in which twenty-eight stories make us so familiar with minor-league personnel that we even know the bus driver by name and idiosyncrasy, the batboy is still anonymous, and the only role he plays, in the characteristically wry story "Nicknames" (79-84), is as close-up reporter of an invented piece of instant legend.
It is one of the great ironies in our cultural history that the Black Sox scandal of 1919 changed public attitudes so little. And it is testimony to the gritty persistence of those attitudes that a majority of fans would vote Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame today (as they would have voted Joe Jackson in earlier, perhaps as a charter member). The dominance of baseball as a national pastime had as its corollary the dominance of baseball as a sporting proposition. Among all the sports, it was baseball, by far, that attracted the most widespread betting, and for the largest stakes.
Batboys and the world of baseball by Neil D. Isaacs