“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules, and realities of the game.”

Baseball returns this week. Teams from all over the country have left their spring training sites in Florida and Arizona and are flying north to whatever city in which they open their season, including Cincinnati where the very first professional team the Resolute Base Ball Club of Cincinnati, played their first season in 1869. U.S. Grant was president and General Custer could have attended the opening had he been in town.

The quote with which I began this piece is often attributed to Marianne Moore, poet extraordinaire who lived right around the corner from the Irondale Theatre in Brooklyn. She was also a long-time member of the Presbyterian Church which to this day occupies the other half of the building in which we are located.

Contrary to popular legend she didn’t write this. It was written in 1954 by cultural historian and Columbia University professor Jacques Barzun.

But great baseball fan that she was, she did write this:

Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either
how it will go
or what you will do;
generating excitement—
fever in the victim—
pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
The victim in what category?
Owl man watching from the press box?
To whom does it apply?
Who is excited? Might it be I?

And though I no longer follow baseball with the passion I once did, when I measured whether it had been a good year by what had transpired not in my own personal life but by whether or not my beloved Cardinals finished in the first division, I still feel the excitement of the beginning of a new season. It happens every spring-that first game like spring itself a time of fresh beginnings, coupled with the uncertainty of how many of the perennials in. our garden made it through the winter.

This, I confess, is what is foremost on my mind this morning. And now that I’ve gotten it out there I can move on. Just before I sat down to write this, Terry and Vicky and I re-recorded the last two little sections of Mother Courage. According to our engineer, the previous version was a little “hot.” And now the whole project is in the hands of Jeff and Sam, two wizards who will put it all together. It’s exciting, it’s a bit scary for a directorial control freak like myself as I sit here staring at the untended garden through the kitchen window and asking the as yet unanswered question of “What next?” 1599, Brecht in Exile, what next? And I turn not to baseball, but to the books around me, stacked up on the small fold-up table and spilling onto the floor on all sides of my chair.

Barbara once called these books a mass of clutter that should be returned to shelves upstairs, in which she had taken time out of her own busy schedule to create more than adequate space, or better yet, should be carted back to our little flat in Brooklyn from whence they came in bits and pieces, dribs and drabs over the course of the last year.

I call this, granted unseemly arrangement, my indispensable filing system. Through Barbara’s innate goodness as a human being, she has ceased lecturing me about where my books belong and have shown great patience, tolerance, and even understanding that the arrangement and occasional promotion and demotion of books from this prime location in the living room to other equally messy depositories located about the house-descending in order from the coffee table in the tv room, to the night table in the bedroom, to under the bed, to locations that even I am uncertain of, are all pieces necessary to complete a jigsaw puzzle of ideas that hopefully leads to the first step and only the first step of the new Irondale theatrical project.

Right now stacked on the little foldup are Shout The Beatles In Their Generation, The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide (How did that get in there?), William Redfield’s Letters From an Actor, the texts of Streetcar, Death of a Salesman and Long Day’s Journey, the Annotated Huckleberry Finn, and Stella Adler on American Master Playwrights.

How do all these add up? Do they add up? Do they even inspire, or stimulate beyond a moment’s diversion?

“That which is not yet known has not yet emerged” is one of my most favorite Viola Spolin quotes.

“You have to do something.” Is one of my favorite of Stella Adler’s.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra.

Yes.

Damn Yankees (Original Broadway Cast) – Heart

 

 

Jim Niesen

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