There is a certain type of story that is unique to all other types of plots. The content may vary, the themes might oppose one another, and the setting will almost always never be the same. It is a type of storytelling that I have been falling more and more in love with, and honestly I don’t even know if there’s a technical name for it.
I call it “singular plot” storytelling. I doubt if it could ever work for fiction. But what I mean by singular plot storytelling is that type of story that focusses exclusively on one split-second time frame, in one location, plucked out from all of history and examine it exhaustively from every angle. Fans of movies like 127 Hours, World Trade Center and Phone Booth will know what I’m talking about. It’s the type of story that stays in one place and only leaves the setting or the characters through a series of flashbacks, if any.
The Bottom of the 33rd is one such book, where we never leave the ballpark. To do this as a storyteller is deserving of my admiration. Author Dan Barry has earned said admiration. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide if I’ve come across a writer that possesses such great prose since Charles Dickens.
It’s difficult to own up that going to a ball game this summer would not be the wisest use of our money in this economy, but I feel like Mr. Barry provided me with VIP tickets complete with locker room tours, pre-game exposure, and everything else a baseball fan could ask for in this unforgettable book.
James Patterson fans and baseball haters may now excuse yourselves if you wish. This book is not a pulse-pounding thriller, but it delivers a grand slam of a a singular story about baseball’s longest game ever played. Even though it wasn’t televised, it’s all true, and the publishers provide a photocopy of the ridiculous scorecard to prove it.
Join the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings on Easter Eve, April 18, 1981. It’s the AAA minors, the game is unimportant as there aren’t even any scouts, and almost every player is sporting a mustache carried over by the ’70’s. Barry does a masterful job at retelling the play by play, pausing at just the right moments (“Dave Koza drifts to his right… ready to catch a ball he believes is his…”) to flash back in time to enlighten his readers about each influential player, manager, and batboy about who they are and why they’re still at the local ballpark at 3 in the morning on Easter Sunday, trying to keep warm, praying that this game would just be over already.
Being a fan of brilliant and rare writing styles, America’s favorite pass time, and stories that revolve around singular plot lines, I cannot recommend this book enough, especially with the temperatures rising and the grass shining green just off the patio. Treat yourself to a simpler time and take a tour of the small town called Pawtucket (Paw-TUCK-et) tucked in the small Rhode Island state and stop by McCoy Stadium on your way to the Easter Church service, and ask the Pawtucket’s manager, Joe Morgan, what he’s doing peering through a hole in the backstop at 3 in the morning. I’ll be revisiting this book for many more summers.
Disclaimer: This book contains frequent use of the F-word.
I also recommend: Calico Joe by John Grisham