Ian A. Andrews is a high-school social sciences teacher and editor of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s Focus.
In Baseball Love, former Canadian Poet Laureate George Bowering proclaims himself a “cantankerous intellectual tourist” as he and his companion frequent mostly minor-league baseball parks, and local art galleries, on their trek across the North American continent. In this essentially autobiographical work, baseball is the common thread. From a childhood spent in the Okanagan Valley, through an academic career in Montreal and Vancouver, Bowering has never been far from the game. Whether playing recreational sandlot ball or collecting decorative minor-league caps with unique logos (like the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Eugene Emeralds, and the Toledo Mud Hens), Bowering required a baseball fix.
During his transcontinental baseball odyssey, Bowering explores the impact baseball has had on his life, using poetic license to describe the characters he meets along the way. According to geographical location, each minor-league crowd possesses a different ethnic makeup. Bowering’s wit and critical eye, along with self-deprecating acknowledgement of his own idiosyncrasies, provide the fan with a contribution to baseball literature in the spirit of Damon Runyan, Ring Lardner, Roger Angell, and Roger Khan.
Bowering grew up following the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was a Yankee hater—although he acknowledges the lure of their logo. He listened to baseball on the radio, devoured baseball literature, and reveled in the exploits of “flakes” like Jimmy Piersall, Jim Bouton, John Kruk, and Bill Lee. However, his early socialist optimism, inspired by the hippie generation, was crushed by reality: “We really thought that civilization had turned a corner. We had no notion that Nike and Walmart were coming.” Social commentary is an integral part of Baseball Love.
Bowering’s love affair with baseball has never waned. His pilgrimage ended at his Mecca at the stadium in Boston: “Christians, Muslims and Jews have the Dome of the Rock. People of my faith have Fenway Park.” Baseball Love aptly describes the author’s passion for a game, an addiction that has influenced his entire life. It is a life well worth exploring.