Baseball ain’t a kid’s game. It’s a disease. It’s a mindless amoral blight that turns healthy young men into brittle shells of bone and skin. It’s a dirty, sweaty beast with thirsty teeth and coiled haunches, always on the prowl for fresh blood. They can try to cover this up with picnic areas and pavilion seating and free umbrellas, but that’s like trying to hide a corpse with Wet Naps and some Febreze.I can only wish I could write something this goddamn good.
Sometimes I love this bastard of a sport. Sometimes the smell of pinetar and cleat-cleaved dirt reminds me of cool early summer breezes and fresh lilacs and girls in sun dresses drinking lemonade on their porch swings. Sometimes I see a kid like Granderson gather a fly ball in his glove, or that beautiful bastard Verlander’s fastball slice past a batter’s stunned eye, and I forget that I’m a broken old man carrying enough tar in his lungs to fill the cracks in every goddamn one-way street in Manhattan.
I have this wild theory developing in my warped brain that W.P. Kinsella is actually J.D. Salinger. Sure, Salinger went all crazy and all, but pain like that manifests itself in mysterious ways. No one with any talent for writing has ever stopped writing except in death, whether it be a natural death (which is rare for a great writer,) an alcohol induced death, or death by one's own hand. We all know that Salinger has written things that he suddenly pulled just before publication, but how do we know he isn't publishing under another name? We don't. And who knows, maybe Salinger himself is the brilliant mind behind Yard Work.
Why would my deranged brain come up with something as illogical as W.P. Kinsella being J.D. Salinger? Well, for starters, Salinger is the real writer in Shoeless Joe, the beautiful novel on which Field of Dreams is based. Secondly, the characters in the book are as jaded as Holden Caulfield. And frankly, the style of writing is similar. Read the book again if you don't believe me.
So why would Salinger write about baseball? Simple - baseball heals. There is something magical about the game, something you immediately feel when you enter the seating area from the concourse to a sea of screaming emerald, sun shining brilliantly, forcing the colors to compete for your attention, your passion. The sounds - the sounds make up the game, the leather on wood, the pop of a glove. The collective breathing of tens of thousands of people, holding their breaths as a ball sails towards a fence, sails into the night sky under the incandescent glow of the lights as dusk settles onto your little part of the world. The vendors calling out to your sense of taste, your longing for one of the few constants in this ever-changing world, that taste of a hot dog, some peanuts, ice cream in little helmets, a condensating beer. You think now of the smells, the smells of those hotdogs, of the fresh leather of a baseball, of a glove, of the grass...you are transported back into your childhood, when you learned to love the game, love the sensualism before you even understood what senses are. Those senses bring you back to innocence, the reason we love the game. Those memories, they remind us all of what is good in life, what is true, and no matter how much pain we feel, how many problems we have to deal with, it is baseball that takes us from these feelings, from these problems. Yes, baseball heals.
Ok, so it makes no logical sense that Kinsella is Salinger. After all, Kinsella has been interviewed, Kinsella was in a car accident in 1997 that he claims took his concentration and his ability to write. But it all sounds like Salinger to me, and conspiracy theories are fun. And no, it is not madness I have uttered. I just watched Field of Dreams.