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.