Bottom of the 33rd
Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game
Harper, $26.99, 259 pp.
I grew up hearing Jim Murray, the inimitable Los Angeles Times sports columnist, being read aloud by my father at the breakfast table. On principle, my dad intensely disliked sports writers. He had a long memory and, as vice president and business manager for a Triple A baseball franchise in the 1930s, had found them to be a bunch of freeloaders. Not only did he have to negotiate players’ salaries, keep the lights on at the ballpark, and oversee the grounds crew; he had to make sure these self-absorbed dandies were supplied with free drink and food—in that order—lest they turn against the Angels (his team).
But Jim Murray was in an altogether different league from those scribes. Arriving at the Times after my dad’s former team had been forced to leave town by Walter O’Malley’s interloping Brooklyn Dodgers in 1958, Murray’s column ran on the front page of the sports section, top-left, his Irish countenance radiating from a line drawing that emphasized his wavy hair and heavy horned-rimmed glasses. What my father liked about Murray were his cadences and how he could pile on the similes, like a counter man at Katz’s (or, in Los Angeles, Philippe’s) layering on the brisket, one precisely shaven tier atop the next until your breath was taken away. Even before my dad would cut into the sausage and apply Tabasco sauce to his eggs, those Murray similes would multiply and sizzle—the words commingling over the food like a blessing.