Crack of the bat: the sweetest sound in sports. Maybe the best sound ever heard by the human ear.
Oh, sure, other sports sounds are thrilling, memorable. Some rattle your spine: a hockey check or a linebacker sacking a QB at full-speed. The exquisite sound of perfect pool shot or nothing-but-net swish. The zipping through the air of a boxing glove delivering a jab or a 110-mph tennis ace. And to stand at the finish line of any horseracing track as the ponies thunder to the wire is to witness more than a sound; it’s a primeval echo in the gut.
As a Little League 2nd baseman and later a park district 16” softball 1st baseman, that crack of the bat has always spurred a clenching of throat and tummy. Get ready. Here it comes, CW. Focus. Don’t blow it. That sound caused as much anxiety to an infielder as joy. For the batter, making perfect contact is nirvana, a fleeting moment afforded us by sport to feel excellence. A glimpse of Quality.
The Earth Baseball Tourney: An Invitational to Disaster is my ode to baseball’s ability to make us better, to American Dreamers, to a shrinking globe. It can be termed “dark comedy” for its critique of materialism, nationalism and technologies that develop faster than humanity’s ability to use them appropriately.
Just as the story’s protagonist asks why it is called the “WORLD” Series when there are no teams from Mexico or Japan, I’ve always been fascinated with baseball’s reach, sparked by a 1964 Masanori Murakami baseball card.
In 1997, my essay on the history of baseball in Asia and the marketing of baseball to Asian-Americans was the cover story for AsianWeek, a national magazine. During vacations with my wife to Cambodia, Peru and Costa Rica, itineraries included futile searches for baseball diamonds. Finding a mosquito-infested field in Eleuthera was a highlight of our Bahamas trip (well, for me).
Researching this book was eye-opening. America’s Pastime has been played for decades in unlikely places from Aruba to Sweden. Big Leaguers in the 1890s hailed from Australia, France, Germany, Holland, Norway, Scotland, Ukraine and Wales. Hawaiian players have been in the Bigs since 1914. Polish-born Pep Peploski was a star Boston outfielder in the late ‘20s.
Leagues have long-existed in dozens of countries, featuring teams with such excellent names as Belgium’s Borgerhout Squirrels, Taiwan’s Brother Elephants and the Oslo Pretenders.
As baseball lends itself to statistical analysis, so too does it unselfishly offer itself up as a topic of haiku, dreams, tales. Chess on grass, a ballet move called the 6-4-3. Scent of grilled onions, icy cold beverage, blue sky. The greatest game. Play ball!
Claude Walker, Chicago, 2012