The story is not about any of them. It is about what Dan Barry does so well: small towns, high hopes, and a stubborn disposition not to be rendered irrelevant by the ways the “real world” does things, things like promoting and marketing a sports team, how and where to build a stadium, or making heroes of mere men playing a sport that is played by children.
Among the many subplots of Bottom of the 33rd, are those about children watching the game with their dads, husbands who can’t get back into their apartments because their wives won’t believe they were out all night just playing baseball, relief pitchers catching some shut-eye during the game, and a scorekeeper who prepares his scorebook the same way he has done for every game, every day, every year, as if it will be encased in a shrine, as though every errant pitch might be found later to have historic significance.
Baseball is a game of statistics, considerable skill, and rules. The one rule about baseball that no other major American sport has is that it is played without the use of a clock. Baseball games aren’t over, until, as Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “’til it’s over.”
Barry’s masterful treatment of baseball and its traditions is like reading one’s own triumphal biography, pure enjoyment. The value of this alone is pleasurable enough.
However, the greater reading experience, one that soothes the anxiety of those everyday Americans who see the world passing them by, unabated, is the author’s connection with the people who see it all happening, and his prophetic account of how one minor league baseball game refused to end gracefully, as most do, thus announcing to baseball fans everywhere, “I am here, and I will not go away.”