When i was an 11-year-old frequenter of flea markets and secondhand shops wheedling chump change off my mother for cheap baseball cards and cheap comic books and just generally cheap collectible stuff, i once accidentally ran across an intriguing sublime-looking little paperback.
It was white in cover with a baseball tucked neatly into one corner, knuckles riding atop as through to throw the Niekros’ (Niekroes’?) favorite pitch. The book had a cover quote describing the work as “a classic in the American vein,” while the final two pages were a long table of neat statistics (Statistics!) running under the headline “Tell Your Statistics To Shut Up.” Charlie Brown’s Peanuts meeting baseball in to what was to me-then a completely unique diary format?
I never knew books could be like this.
I did know i had to have it.
That book was, of course, Ball Four.
I’ve since reread Jim Bouton’s classic at least a dozen times, many occasions past the legal age to pound the old Bud, occasions more beyond being 30 (and i have these dreams), beyond baseball cancelling the World Series due to a player strike through those years when we didn’t admit everyone was steroid-laden, beyond the resurrection of the proud New York Yankees and even my Colorado Rockies making the series a couple of times.
Tell you what, too – Through it all, Ball Four has retained the rare quality that i have found in just three books: Namely, laugh-out-loudedness. (Hey, you try to find a single word for it; English is lacking here.) Those books? After Ball Four, that’d be Catch-22 and … my second life-altering mind-expanding book.
Just months after ripping through Ball Four – and immediately doing it again after finishing the first time – i found myself awake late, like around 11pm, and idly flipping between meager “choices” offered in those days.
(For all you young whippersnappers, back in the early 1980s, most folks got just four major stations and a handful of crappy local networks with dubious programming – and out in the sticks where i was unfortunate enough to grow up, we didn’t even get CBS properly; for years most of us reckoned M*A*S*H was about aliens invading Earth during the Korean War.)
On PBS that night – right before the station was hip for about 15 minutes – the screen filled with a bizarre tale of the destruction of Earth along with the relative irrelevance of that action, in the cosmic scheme of things. Meanwhile, a polite British narrator (and is there any other kind, really?) politely explained about Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon 6.
This series was, of course, the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
And while the other shows i discovered on PBS soon thereafter, little things called Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Doctor Who, would ultimately prove to have just as great an effect on my life as did Douglas Adams’ seminal first novel, it was Hitchhiker’s that truly opened up science-fiction – and novel reading, really – for me.
I got to the bookstore the next day via more wheedling and found that, yes, there was a book based on the show – yeah, yeah, i know now it was the other way ‘round and that both were based on the BBC Radio programme, but hey – and that set me off reading bizarre books you never heard of like Terra! by Stefano Benni and Options by Robert Sheckley.
Eventually i’d get onto Roger Zelazny and Arthur C. Clarke (especially the utterly fantastic City and the Stars) and Harlan Ellison and Stanislaw Lem. Not to mention being the final thread – a thread we can only see in hindsight – in bit of picardian tapestry determining i’d write. Yes, write is what i’d do: A decision made even easier with the impossible-to-deny realization that my athletic peak had been reached o so cruelly prematurely at age 12.
I’ve had varying degrees of success in the writing game, going from print media (back in the 90s, we had no internet; instead, there was this crazy thing called newspaper) to internet with the millennium turn. My fondest fancies in sports have gone from baseball to a few years of nothing (that cancelled ‘Series of 1994 really hurt) to NBA basketball to NFL football to European basketball. For my regular science-fiction fix it was Doctor Who to Star Trek: The Next Generation to movies to Doctor Who again.
But those two books have always stayed on my shelf. And in me, shaping me.
I think you understand.
BuckBokai.com will seek to explore sports played in the science-fiction/comic book/fantasy world. BuckBokai will travel to alternate universes and we’ll win the unwinnable. We’ll do it in the name of the human experience and the non-human experimentation. We’ll read books, watch movies and write about it all.
Because despite the seeming disparity of these likes, the galaxy-span of differences between a “Ball Four” and a “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” i know some of you love them both.
This blog is for you.
Now let’s go out there and pound those Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters.
Live long, prosper and na-nu na-nu,