Jesse Jarnow

the curious case of sidd finch

Perhaps it is true of all sports, but magical realism/fabulism seems to go particularly well with baseball, from Philip Roth’s malfunctioning Ruppert Mundys of the Great American Novel to the entire career of W.P. Kinsella (who I’ll probably post more about as the season moves along). A good answer is suggested by George Plimpton in his own contribution to the genre, The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, about an aspiring Buddhist monk who can pitch 168 miles per hour (and does so over several games with the 1985 Mets):

Baseball is the perfect game for the mystic mind. Cricket is unsatisfactory because it has time strictures. The clock is involved. Play is called. The players stop for tea. No! No! No!… On the other hand, baseball is so open to infinity. No clocks. No one pressing the buttons on stopwatches. The foul lines stretch to infinity. In theory, the game of baseball can go on indefinitely.

On Finish’s first big league performance:

Sometimes in a stadium, if it is tense, and the place has a good crowd, enough people identify with the actual flight of the pitch ball — an exhalation of breath — so that the pitch is accompanied by a slight whoomph. With the first ball that Finch threw there was no time for any kind of reaction: we heard the slam of the ball driving the air out of the catcher’s mitt with a high pop! — audible, I suspect, in the parking lot beyond the center-field fence. This was followed by a high exclamation from Reynolds, a kind of squeak, as he stood up from his stance, reached into his glove, and began pulling the ball free.