The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Dreaming .400 – A Book Review

It isn’t often that I have the opportunity to read and review a book that I’d been looking forward to so much as I have Steve Myers’ collection of short stories, “Dreaming .400.”  To get right to the point, it was worth the wait, and then some.

If you are familiar with his blog, “Brewers Baseball and Things,” then you are already aware that Steve has a voice all his own, and that he knows a thing or two about baseball.  But it’s one thing to be periodically entertained by a casual blog, and entirely another to be able to enjoy a concentrated, distilled form of Steve’s work.

To begin with, this is not merely a baseball book, in that if you are expecting a more traditional baseball narrative, with the by-now familiar theme of father and son playing catch in an Iowa field while the sun sets over the corn, you will be in for a shock in much the same way you would be if you thought the Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen” would sound reverent and respectful.

That’s not to say that the writer doesn’t respect his subject matter.  Baseball is clearly expressed throughout these stories as one of God’s great, universal gifts, there for the taking, if only for a day, an evening, or a moment, while dreamers spend their time in other pursuits both mundane and sublime.

And what dreamers they are.  In “Thunderheart and the New Addictions,” Jeffrey Thunderheart wants badly to lead his restless gang of Habbies out of a rehab clinic in Bolduck, Wisconsin down to Houston to catch the Astros in Houston on Opening Day.

More to the point, he wants to move, to go, to enjoy the experience of taking one’s life and not waiting around watching days go by:  “We’ve got nothing to lose,” he intones. ” We’re going to keep the rally alive no matter what it takes.  Every one of us is a player-manager in full control of our lives.”  That this might not quite be the case is beside the point.  It’s the dream that matters.

In “Close Encounter,” Sam Doobins wants to go to Roswell, New Mexico.  There, he will carry what he believes to be the semi-secret identity of the only baseball player born in Roswell, a player now virtually alien to baseball history, from a place made famous by aliens.

That he experiences a different kind of encounter altogether (far away from Roswell) with a waitress in a hamburger joint enjoying free food on account of some recent success by the Milwaukee Brewers is not the fortuitous rendezvous with destiny he might have imagined.

Meanwhile, Timmy Kruthers and Frank Moreno form a bond born of baseball, but ultimately, their friendship transcends time, place and circumstance.  Corresponding by mail as they grow up and move into adulthood, their letters reflect a friendship evolving, yet always retaining an essential, timeless core of love.  “To Be Frank,” is one of the most poignant musings on the deep power of friendship you are likely to read.

Each of these eleven stories is unique, yet each demonstrates the power of Steve Myers writing, his ability to tap into those almost subliminal currents of life that most of us only momentarily glimpse.  You will have your favorites which will stay with you long after you finish reading them as well.

“Dreaming .400” isn’t just for baseball fans (though it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with Mike Scott, Ellis Valentine or Joe Niekro.)  This book is an enjoyable experience for anyone who appreciates an author who so obviously loves the power of writing, and has something to say in a way which we haven’t quite experienced before.

I can’t recommend this book strongly enough.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Dreaming .400 – A Book Review

  1. Wait, Steve wrote a book?

  2. Pingback: not exactly starting over | brewers baseball and things

  3. Great review. Kudos to both of you!

  4. glenrussellslater on said:

    Very good review, Bill. You know that I love the book as well. And, boy, was I looking forward to it!

    I have to disagree on one point, though. The baseball knowledge part. I bought two copies of “Dreaming .300” from the publisher. I was originally going to give the other copy to my sister.

    But I’m going to give it to my father, instead. My sister, with all due respect, doesn’t know Tom Seaver from Joe DiMaggio (okay, so that’s a little bit of an exaggeration), and my father, who doesn’t know the names of many baseball players who played after, say, 1960 (when he began raising kids), he’ll still recognize certain names. No, he won’t know Jose Cruz or Terry Puhl or Mike Scott or Rob Deer or Warren Cromartie and Garry Maddox and Chet Lemon. But he does know Bill Mazeroski and Casey Stengel and Gil McDougald and Herb Score and others. In fact, my Mom might enjoy the story called “Batting .300” because there are names in there that she’s familiar with, not because she was ever a baseball fan or knows anything about baseball (she doesn’t), but being that she grew up in Pittsburgh, such as Ralph Kiner and Honus Wagner. (Well, at least she’s be familiar with Ralph Kiner!)

    My point is that it really helps a LOT to be familiar with certain baseball players to some degree, because there are a LOT of baseball players mentioned in the book. Now, I KNOW that Steve is capable of writing ANYTHING, whether it has baseball in it or not. But in this case, it would be really difficult for a reader to be able to FULLY appreciate the stories without at LEAST a cursory knowledge of baseball, some of the players, maybe understanding the infield fly rule or what a balk or a pitching rubber is.

    It’s a great book, one of the greatest I’ve ever read, and it’s not because I know Steve. I swear, I really feel that he’s one of the greatest authors I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of the greats!

    But I also feel that many of the allusions to baseball rules or players would make it very tough for a person who never had even the smallest interest in baseball to get into.

    Just my opinion, Bill.

    Glen

    • And I’m going to have to offer a minority report to the minority report. I’m in Scotland and share a chromosome set with your sister. I know (next to) nothing about baseball, the names of players could as well be chess grand masters or the town council members of a Mormon parish to me, and what little I do know is because I asked Steve what a particular term was that he was rolling around his blog. And most of those I have forgotten.

      Nevertheless I am buying ‘Dreaming .400’. I am buying it because nobody writes like Steve does. Like viscerally (my favourite word lately). The things I don’t know about make the experience of reading his writing dream-ish to me, I’m inhabiting a sideways-on universe. Let me put it another way: if Steve wrote about cricket – a sport I know much better than baseball – his writing would still have the same effect on me, and knowledge or ignorance of the sport would be hardly relevant. He writes what he sees and feels, and it’s not always what you’d expect, it’s not tidy, it’s not conventional, it’s not anything that writing’s ‘supposed’ to be. There are not enough writers who take this kind of risk, and there have been damn few since Katherine Mansfield, Joyce, Woolf, T S Eliot, Kerouac Ginsberg, or Manuel Puig, and any writers who made dear George Orwell despair. And he doesn’t think he’s doing anything special, that’s the wonder.

      M.

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