The beauty of the written word can strike anywhere. It has struck me while reading on my front porch, in the park, waiting in line, and in the hospital with family members. The latest strike was last Wednesday in the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark. I entered the ballpark at the third base gate and printed in big letters along the promenade wall was this gem by former Major League Baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti:
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”
Not a particularly uplifting passage, but a beautiful meditation on baseball and time. I thought about it throughout the game. The passage is obscured in San Francisco. Wearing a sweatshirt and vest I could easily have been convinced summer had indeed ended, yet baseball played on. Back in Austin I went straight to the stacks and found A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti. The passage comes from the first paragraph in the book’s opening essay titled The Green Fields of the Mind. Giamatti (actor Paul’s father) was a comparative literature professor at Yale and served as Yale’s president from 1979 to 1986 before leaving to become president of the National League from 1986 to 1989. He was appointed commissioner of baseball in 1989, but only served for five months due to his untimely death. It was a memorable five months though as he served with dignity and grace, even while banishing Pete Rose from the game. Collision at Home Plate is a fascinating account of the intersection of Rose and Giamatti’s lives.
Giamatti certainly was baseball’s most eloquent commissioner. I read the first three essays last night (they’re more meditations than essays) and was struck not only by their eloquence, but by Giamatti’s dual love of baseball and language.