It’s baseball week for me as the ill-fated Chicago Cubs come to Turner Field for three games against the Atlanta Braves beginning tonight. I have already taken my Cubs 1908 World Champions T-Shirt out of the storage closet in preparation for attending Thursday night’s game.
As a Cubs fan, I have learned that it is critical to focus on other aspects of baseball besides cheering the team from Wrigley Field. Thus, I recently finished reading a baseball classic – if peculiarity counts – Robert Coover’s 1968 book, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.
Coover’s book centers on Henry Waugh, a lonely accountant who created a baseball league of fictitious teams and players. After work and on weekends, Waugh uses dice and statistical sheets, to play out entire seasons -- even going as far to write up the results in a league history. Waugh becomes so connected to his creations that he becomes emotionally unraveled when one of his favorite players dies. (Waugh’s game is similar to Strat-O-Matic baseball board games and the online fantasy leagues of today. Coincidently, Jack Kerouac was a big fan of fantasy baseball and his notebooks are now on display at the New York Public Library. See article.)What makes the book interesting is Coover’s underlying theme of exploring the relationship between creator and creation.
Unfortunately, what kept this book from becoming a personal classic is that the plot lines between Coover’s Waugh and Waugh’s Universal Baseball Association (UBA) blur more and more as the book progresses. It eventually became difficult to follow the interactions among the dozens of UBA players – especially since there was no “scorecard” of characters.
While reading, I briefly entertained the thought of creating a cheat sheet of Coover/Waugh characters to assist myself and future readers of this ultimately disappointing book. But that would take time – lots of time that would interfere with watching baseball. Of course, if the Cubs don’t play well in Atlanta this week, I may rethink my priorities.