During some lazy afternoon reading-while-grilling, my mind connected a movie and a wind band piece: Angels in the Outfield and Angels in the Architecture (Frank Ticheli). Frankly (pun intended), that Ticheli piece doesn’t appear on my list of favorites of his. Parts of it remind me of the older Vesuvius, but Angels uses a soprano voice along with the winds and percussion, and a soprano, in my book, is often a detriment. Plus, I prefer many better baseball movies over “Angels in the Outfield.”
Nonetheless, there is that “angels” thing that connects the two with the noted baseball writer Roger Angell. I just read an Angellic passage that I wanted to share. Put this in the categories of random delights, skilled writing, and musicianship—actually being a musician, not just someone who plays “my music” through earbuds as she hibernates from humanity while walking around or hanging out with friends. Of course, add the category of baseball. Allow yourself to imagine, to get lost in the little thing called the baseball “box score.”
A box score is more than a capsule archive. It is a precisely etched miniature of the sport itself, for baseball, in spite of its grassy spaciousness and apparent unpredictability, is the most intensely and satisfyingly mathematical of all our outdoor sports. Every player in the game in every game is subjected to a cold and ceaseless accounting; no ball is thrown and no bases gained without an instant responding judgment—ball or strike, hit or error, yay or nay—and an ensuing statistic. This encompassing neatness permits the baseball fan, aided by experience and memory, to extract from a box score the same joy, the same hallucinatory reality, that prickles the scalp of a musician when he glances at a page of his score of Don Giovanni and actually hears bassos and sopranos, woodwinds and violins.
Just as one’s baseball imagination can be enlivened by reading a box score, particularly if one knows the players’ names, a similar “hallucinatory reality” permits the conductor to audiate as he studies (and conducts from) a music score. Those notes are not just gobs of ink. No, they mean something! They stimulate the memory and imagination. They can become uniquely enriching for the human soul.
→ For more on the many-faceted word “score,” try this. It’s fun!
This week marks the last of my son’s fourth baseball season. Three games this week! He has in some ways had his best season ever, and his comprehension and love of the game have grown, but those stats could use some improvement. (Good thing they don’t publish box scores for this league.) He’s gotten to pitch a little, and he loves every practice and every game. We’ll both miss the season when it’s over.
Baseball is a great game, and the relatively slow pace of the game is good for the soul—not lazy at all if you like strategy and imagination! Thanks to Roger Angell for writing so marvelously about baseball. Your work, as it deals with the most appealing kind of sports field there is, is also good for the field of the mind.