Beyond Belief, Josh Hamilton

LibraryThing.com, a wonderful bookish website, not only allows members to maintain inventories of their personal libraries, it also gives away books!  Free books!  All that is asked in return is a review, though it isn’t required. (It just improves one’s chances of snagging future books.)

The first book Library Thing sent me was one I faced with some trepidation: Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back by Josh Hamilton and Tim Keown.

Josh  Hamilton was the number one draft pick in 1999, selected by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Josh was a natural on the ball fied and nice young man.  He had a close, supportive relationship with his parents.  And he threw it all away.

It started with tattos and led to crack.  Josh turned into an unrecognizable addict who tried everyone’s patience to the limits and beyond.  Everyone but one, who provided him the time and space to find his way back through the Grace of God.

Josh Hamilton is not an introspective person, so a reader shouldn’t expect to find deep thoughts or painful soul searching.  This volume pales in comparison to Bob Welch’s heart-wrenching, deeply personal “Five O’Clock Comes Early.” Josh delves only so deep in dealing with his addictions, but he delves only so deep in life, so the story he shares is an honest one.  The reader will see this young man  up front about who he is and what he has done.

It is a book about recovery through faith published by a Christian company which at first deterred me from reading it, thankfully Josh is low keyed about his faith and even addresses this issue.

There were times when I wanted more, more insight, more questioning, more expounding, yet none of those would have been true to the man who lived this story. It was a story that captured my attention and held my interest all the way through. 

Josh Hamilton’s stats from www.baseball-reference.com.

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Filed under Autobiography, Biography, Books, Non-fiction

The American National Game Base Ball by Currier & Ives

The American National Game Base Ball

The American National Game Base Ball

Let’s start with the original iconic image of baseball, the Currier & Ives lithograph titled “The American National Game of Baseball. Grand match for the championship at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, N.J.” 

This hand-tinted print was produced by the popular illustration firm of Currier & Ives in 1866 when the game was on the verge of becoming a professional sport rather than an amateur’s social game.

Prior to photography, images were captured by hand.  The drawing was engraved or etched on a metal plate which was inked in a solid color (black), then pressed onto large sheets of paper.  The resulting prints were colored by hand in an assembly line  factory where each person applied a single color.  Since reprints were produced at different times, various versions of the image exist, from simple black and white to highly colored.

Through most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,Currier & Ives produced a wide variety of scenes, both historical and contemporary, that reflected American culture.  Many of them displayed the pastoral yearnings prevalent in society as it grew more urban and less rural. This same attitude led to the creation of Central Park, a respite of rural tranquility in the midst of the wild hurly-burly of the city, and the rural cemetery movement in which cemeteries were established as parks where families could enjoy a picnic in a bucolic setting.

This portrait of baseball reflects that pastoral image, an image that clings to baseball even today.  The setting is the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, which is the site where tradition holds  that baseball as we know it sprang forth from Alexander Joy Cartwright as Athena sprang forth fully formed from Zeus’s head.  The Knickerbockers, Cartwright’s club, played a game at that field in 1846 because they could not play that day in Manhattan, and as Cartwright is purported to have written down rules that could be common among teams, this spot is the mythical birthplace of baseball.

At the time the print was first produced, baseball was taking the country by storm. Amateur teams played one version or another in cities and towns across a good portion of the country, with a heavy concentration in the northeast.

This image is important as a historical document not only because it commemorates the origin of the game, but because it captures the specifics of the game as it was played then.  The path from home to pitcher’s spot, the dirt paths between bases,  no infield dirt we take for granted, no outfield wall.  Spectators form the outer reaches of the field of play.  The players play barehanded, the catcher stands some distance back of home base and does not crouch, the lone umpire takes his position off to the side.  The pitcher throws not overhand but underhand.   The team at bat lounges off to the side, no bench, no dugout.

Baseball like no other sport  cherishes its history so this image of the game is one that is embraced. “The American National Game of Baseball” is a classic piece of Americana, the type of image that would later be produced by Norman Rockwell.

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Filed under prints and paintings, Visual Art

Greetings!

Baseball is a games of inches.    It is measured and sorted, rated and ranked, percentages, dollar signs, numbers upon numbers.

But baseball is also a thing of beauty.

It is a ballet.  It is a dramatic comedy.  It is full of color and sound.  So much of what is baseball, what makes baseball so appealing,  cannot be captured in a box score.

Baseball, perhaps, can be appreciated best through the humanities, in words, in music, in images.

This space will present and explore avenues of appreciating baseball through the artists’  lens and pens.

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