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What if America’s Greatest Authors Played Baseball

A few years ago my friend Riley read me a poem by Charles Bukowski called “The Batting Order” in which Bukowski creates a baseball lineup made up of famous writers. Salinger was, appropriately, the catcher, Dostoevsky was in the five spot, Nietzsche is the pitcher, and so on. You can read the poem here.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about it and wondered what my lineup would look like were I to attempt something similar. The following is that lineup.

Now, certainly Bukowski’s poem is filled with a number of humorous plays on words and is driven by a significant satirical bent. I have no real intentions to create any kind of social commentary or even much of a literary commentary per se.

My choices derive from three things:

– My opinion of the place the writer holds in America’s literary history.
– The kind of writer they are.
– My love and knowledge (albeit minimal) of the game of baseball.

A few rules I set for myself:

– The author had to be American. No time-frame in particular.
– The author had to be a novelist. No poets this time.
– This particular lineup had to be based on my opinion of the stature of these various authors and not my personal preferences. If I chose from my favorite authors this list would look significantly different.
– Try to write like it’s a scouting report.

I would love to see what your own lineup cards would look like. Post them in the comments section. Play by your own rules. You can fill out your list simply based upon your preferences and tastes, based upon your critical opinions, or based upon their names.

Here’s my lineup:

1. Short Stop F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’d play Fitzgerald at SS because he would surely display a stylish glove, would be consistent at the plate and defensively, and because he would probably be fast on the base paths. Always fun to watch, Ole’ Fitz would hit with a bit of power too, I’m sure. He’s the kind of guy I feel good about starting out the game. He would probably wear his socks high.

2. First Base. James Fenimore Cooper
One of the most important early American writers, Cooper helped define the American novel. While a bit plodding and slow, he would surely hit for just enough power and would be a consistent source of leadership in my clubhouse. Perhaps not much of an athlete, but he won’t make many mistakes and will be able to get Fitzgerald over to the next base when necessary. Perhaps not a defensive standout but he should make the necessary plays to make us an above average team. Almost certainly a stirrups guy.

3. Left Field. William Faulkner.

Perhaps the most skilled hitter in my lineup, Willie Faulkner can hit to all fields with great creativity, has a firm sense of what this team is all about, and consistently hits for the power necessary to drive in a ton of runs. Quintessentially American, Willie F. will be the catalyst for my offense and a sure glove in the outfield. He has good range, particularly near the wall, and solid speed when necessary. He has the superstar’s eye for detail.

4. Third Base. Edgar Allen Poe.
A surprise pick to hit cleanup? Maybe. But E.A. Poe was a leader for this team in the past. Although perhaps not a consistent contact hitter, he hits for great power and to all fields. Now a veteran, he once was one of the young stars who introduced the long ball to this team. A big-time RBI guy, he’s intimidating and ruthless when he needs to be, but is also characterized by a certain poetic authenticity reminiscent of the old-time ball players like Ruth and Cobb.

5. Center Field. Flannery O’Connor.
Versatile, consistent, and surprisingly agile, Flannery is a must have in this lineup. She’s nimble enough in the outfield to cover the necessary ground in center field and will hit for a surprising amount of power in the middle of the lineup. She’ll keep the pitcher throwing strikes to E.A. Poe – and when they don’t she’ll make them pay. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she’ll want the big at bats at the end of the game. Sporting a creative, Southern sense of humor and a ton of resiliency she’ll keep the guys lose and working hard.

6. Second Base. Wendell Berry.

The young gun on this team, Wendell is an up and coming mega-star. Some might be surprised to see him in this lineup, but his consistency and creativity in the infield demands that he see at bats. Plus, the kid can play multiple positions – and well. His intelligence and subtle insights into the game are invaluable and his ability to hit for power in key situations demand that he see the field. He rarely ever makes an error and has a shockingly low strike-out rate, making him an attractive option in the middle of this star-studded batting order. Watch out, he may climb this list soon!

7. Catcher. Nathaniel Hawthorne.

What you thought I’d play Salinger here? Nope. I swapped him in a trade for this guy, heads up. Seems that other teams fear he won’t age well and are looking for a more energetic approach to the position. Well, I’m looking for consistency out my catcher, and the ability to call a good game. Nate has that, absolutely. He gets the flow of the game, what pitches to call when, and when to just give up that free base. Plus, like Cooper, his leadership will be valuable with my pitchers. He’s not the fastest guy anymore, but he can get from first to third when he needs to. He’s got a good arm and will hit for enough power.

8. Right Field. Washington Irving.
A crafty veteran with solid defensive prowess, Irving won’t hit a ton of home runs but he won’t hurt his team much either. He’s a nightmare for opposing pitchers to strike-out. He walks a lot so hopefully he’ll set the tone for the top of the order guys. Like O’Connor, he’s a bit of prankster so you never know exactly what you’re going to get from him.

9. Designated Hitter. Herman Melville.
A free agent pick up this off season, Melville seems to have been cast overboard by a number of teams. He’s had a great career though so he deserves another chance. Probably not appreciated like he should be. He’s gonna hit for a good bit of power, but he’s got a bit of hole in swing where pitchers can get the strike-out. Didn’t cost much to get him so there’s not much risk, but the reward could be phenomenal by year’s end. Give him a chance, he may surprise you.

Starting Pitcher. Mark Twain
The Ace of my staff is Mark Twain, a small town kid with nasty stuff and a wicked breaking ball. You never know what he’s gonna throw at you in the key situation: the fastball inside or the big curve ball tailing down and away. He’s got a ton of stamina and the ability to go late into the game. While he can be a bit of a live-wire, the leadership on this team should help settle him down. Should be a star for a long time.

Set-up Man. Ernest Hemingway.
A side-armed lefty, Ernie isn’t a conventional pitcher, but he figures out ways to get people out. He can’t necessarily pitch a ton of innings but we think he can bridge the gap between our Ace and our closer. He’s good at gauging a situation and determining the appropriate pitch for the time. He’s a bit of a brooder, though, and doesn’t do great with failure so we’ll need to put him in the right situations to succeed.

Closer. John Steinbeck.
A hard throwing righty, Steinbeck can be gruff and imposing on the mound, but he’s got the ability to get out of a jam with the deftness of a treed raccoon. Can’t go to him for long periods of time but he’ll throw darts for strikes when he’s in. Got to be careful of overuse.

Multi-tool player. Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Another free agent, Wilder is versatile and can fill in in any situation. She can pinch-hit, pinch-run, or come in for the double switch. Not a power hitter, but a solid contact hitter who sure makes life better for the rest of us. A necessary commodity on any team. Should see a fair amount of playing time, especially when it’s time to rest one of those plodding, aging infielders.

So there it is. What would your line-up look like? Determine your own criteria and have fun!

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