(Author’s Note: I didn’t have the heart for tonight’s baseball game. The Diamond Dogs have been sapping the life right out of me, so I just wasn’t up to covering Friday evening’s series-opening
loss to game at Mississippi State. Fortunately, what with literature having been among the topics of discussion around here lately, I was able to enlist the aid of three prominent writers, who will provide game coverage in my stead. My profuse thanks go out to Messrs. Faulkner, McCarthy, and Wolfe for their contributions.)
The first through third innings are brought to you by Cormac McCarthy.
See the batter. He is lean and athletic, he wears the tunic of his team. He grounds out to third base. Ringed round the infield are dour defenders arrayed about the bases and outfielders beyond in the stillness of a stadium situated in a village known and named for its starkness. Peter Verdin singled to the pitcher in mute affirmation of his conviction that the secrets of Kendall Graveman would not be shrouded from him, lest he be beaten into dust by the hard falling needles of the rain and dragged to the earth by the bony blackened claw of his own fearful heart. Levi Hyams grounded into the double play that denied the right fielder his chance to pluck from the tapestry of fate that lone thread which would enable him to take charge of his whole world.
The home team strode to the plate in weary succession, but, upon their common failure to record a hit, the contest carried forward in the sunblanched springtime wasteland with the ghostly quality of a drunkard’s fevered hallucination. No visiting batter made the lonely ride to meet his destiny at first base, that pockmarked whitened square in the dirt marking the sole familiar touchstone and talisman stranded in the raw untamed epicenter of a strange and foreboding land.
Mississippi State batted in the bottom of the second inning. Russ Sneed doubled and Ryan Collins sacrificed and Wes Thigpen walked and Jet Butler singled and Jeff Walters unleashed the dull seamed spheroid in a wild arc far from its intended target but its random bounding did not permit more than a single run to score. The third inning was naught but a single negated by another double-play ball and walks which went to waste when subsequent batsmen swung their clubs and missed or watched strikes pass them by, but no resonance was to be found in the midst of this insignificant sequence. No man danced, nor did he sleep, as the redness grew in the west and bathed the field in the blood in which each of them had been steeped since birth. The players say that they will never die.
The fourth through sixth innings are brought to you by Tom Wolfe.
The battling baseball Bulldogs of the University of Georgia, following in the footsteps of Walter Gropius and his Bauhaus School, started from zero in the top of the fourth frame, scattering hits like buckshot all around the outfield. Johnathan Taylor pelted a leadoff single into center field . . . stole second . . . Verdin walked . . . Hyams singled . . . bases loaded!
With a quivering in his solar plexus, Zach Cone sent a base hit into center field, producing not just another baserunner but a pair of runs, one understands? With a dynamic emotive naturalism redolent of the baroque, the Diamond Dogs continued their barrage against their hosts. Robert Shipman drew a base on balls . . . Caleb Reed emerged from the bullpen to be assigned the Promethean role of pitcher . . . Colby May struck out swinging. The visiting fans experienced a tingling in the giblets when Chase Davidson doubled to bring home two more runs, do you see?
Kyle Farmer walked . . . Christian Glisson struck out looking . . . Taylor singled, again displaying the Right Stuff! Another two runs scored! Butler erred in the outfield! Reed hung his head---the pitcher’s role could blow at any seal!---but he struck out Verdin to end what would come to be known for Georgia as the We Inning and the Fourth Great Awakening!
The bourgeois sensibilities of the home team found expression in a three-up-and-three-down inning before their Athenian assailants flexed their flexors and extended their extensors, spraying singles to score still another run in the fifth frame! The Mississippians got those runs bayack later that same inning, when Sam Frost walked . . . Nick Vickerson singled . . . Frost was thrown out, but Vickerson advanced on a wild pitch! Luke Adkins reached on an error . . . another walk, this one to Connor Powers . . . Sneed scored two with a single . . . Collins scored Powers . . . Thigpen scored Sneed . . . an error on a failed pickoff attempt scored Collins! Just like that, it was 7-6, you see?
In the meantime, Chase Hawkins had taken over for Walters and now Justin Earls took over for Hawkins. Imprisoned in what the late French philosopher and literary critic Michel Foucault would have called the "invisible panopticon" of the pitcher’s mound, Earls struck out Butler . . . surrendered the game-tying single to Jonathan Ogden . . . gave up a double to Frost to bring the hits nearer to even (9-8, in favor of the visiting Bulldogs) . . . then, finally, Vickerson flied out to end the triumphal inning of the beleaguered home team’s valiant comeback!
Following the twinned teams’ virtuoso performances in the preceding cantos---six runs in the top of the fourth! six more in the bottom of the fifth!---not much was expected in the way of fireworks in the ensuing sixth stanza. The visitors’ half of the inning was an E-Z-Paint-by-Numbers affair in which the batters served themselves up for the pitcher like coq au vin ringed with pearl onions on a silver salver so ornate it would have made Louis XIV blink, surrendering swiftly on a pop-up, a flyout, and a lineout, but the home team displayed the minutiae and indicia of its status in the bottom of the frame, getting down the bunt single and taking advantage of the wild pitch that allowed base hits by Powers and Sneed to give the native Bulldogs the lead. The home crowd cheered, their cowbells ringing as they signaled their support, the nostalgie de la boue that drew them to Mississippi State University athletics, then three outs followed in quick succession, one notices?
The seventh through ninth innings are brought to you by William Faulkner.
From a little after 7:30 until after sundown of the long chill drowsy dying March evening they played in what State fans still called the park because Ron Polk had called it that---a dim ringed baseball diamond cool in the dark even as an odor of lilac and magnolia, wisteria and verbena, wafted across the field and hung in the air, portentous and profound---but above all, the mound; the epicenter, the locus, the raised hub about which the spokes spin in their whirring and wheeling span; squatting, hovering, in the middle of the diamond’s circumference like a lone hawk circling in the ring of the horizon, casting its vast shadow to the uttermost rim of the world’s encircling edge; mulling, pondering, avatar and synecdoche, high as the sky, inscrutable as the earthworks dotting the landscape ominously left lonely and mute by the Indians in their time, towering over all: repository and vanguard of the ambitions and the dreams. My pitcher is a fish.
As the seventh inning got underway, I could just remember how my old coach used to say that the reason for playing baseball was to get ready to stay beaten a long time, but the sport of the long season calls us to toil, admits no apostasy, uncoils incrementally, undeterred and unbidden by time clicked off by little wheels, embodiment and epitome of all the passions and foibles of the human heart in conflict with itself, the players like mules who labor ten years willingly and patiently for the privilege of kicking you once. I feel like a hot pitch fouled off the wild blind bat.
Without knowing it then, since he had not yet discovered that innocence which cannot be acquired but by the losing, sacrifice, of that which was without meaning until it had been named, Verdin led off with a double to center field. Hyams popped up and Cone grounded out, sending into the bland gloved hands of the awaiting infielders the horsehide that was not an actual horse, living creature, to writhe and whinny and expel sonorously the rich zephyrs of its voluptuous and feminine-encompassing entrails. Shipman singled to score a run, evening integer of achievement and striving. The baserunner smelled like trees.
Once a loss, always a loss, what I say. I says you’re lucky if us losing a baseball game is all that worries you. Steve Esmonde opened the bottom of the inning by striking Ogden, granting him first base uncontested, the ensorcelling sack awarded after a plangent plunking. Did you ever hit a batsman? Did you?
The runner was sacrificed over to second by Frost, a prime freshman who emanated a quality, inviolate and invincible, that seemed to suggest that, between an RBI and nothing, he would take the RBI. A pair of outs, moist conjoined and annealed, the image of each shattering and combining with that of the other in a ripple of fading sunlight through the trembling verdant fecund leaves of spring, followed without scoring ensuing. The seventh inning wasn’t dead; it wasn’t even past.
Carson Schilling sardonically smacked a two-out double, desolate doomed and futile, into left field in the eighth frame, and his teammates surrounded it by actual strikeouts. "Sho now," the catcher said, and spat, seated shrewdly in the dugout as though perched atop a buckboard, the reins dangling loosely from his tanned hands. Powers was hit by a pitch and Sneed walked in the bottom of the canto, the former finally scoring on a wild pitch lofted, flung, into the thick damp evening air like an overripened peach bursting with the old Dionysian honeyed symbology of all mammalian rapacity suffused with scornful and graceless unrequited longing. Save us, ump, the poor sons of bitches.
Through the screen, between the tiny diamond places, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the plate was and I watched behind the screen. The pitcher was throwing the ball from the mound. He threw the ball, and Verdin hit. Then Verdin went to second and I watched behind the screen. Hyams flied out to left. "Baseball, s---!" the tall infielder said.
Cone walked and Shipman walked. My, my. A body does get around. Here we ain’t been coming from first but three batters, and now it’s already third. May struck out and Davidson grounded out and the diamond was empty and green and serene again as three baserunners were stranded, each in his ordered place, and the Diamond Dogs fell 9-8 to lose their seventh straight.
"I don’t hate baseball," Quinton McDawg said, hastily, at once, swiftly; "I don’t hate it," he said. I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron Mississippi dark: I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!