Book Review: K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches
I am fascinated by books where the author chooses to write about a subject and then invents parameters for the storytelling. Poets are the masters of this and the haiku is probably the most extreme: you can write a poem but the first line must only contain five syllables, the second line seven syllables and the third line is five syllables. That's all you have to work with.
Novelists have many techniques for this kind of self-imposed creative structure.
Every now and then you see this in nonfiction and the book usually ends up being a delight to read.
There is The History of Fly Fishing in Fifty Flies by Ian Whitelaw.
And there is And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis.
For baseball fans, there is Tyler Kepner's book, K: A History of baseball in Ten Pitches. Kepner has been the The New York Time's national baseball writer since 2010.
In this book, the self-limiting structure is simple and elegant: explore the history of baseball through ten major pitches. That's it.
The table of contents lays it all out:
1. The Slider: A Little Bitty Dot
2. The Fastball: Velo Is King
3. The Curveball: A Karate Chop with a Ball
4. The Knuckleball: Grabbing the Wing of a Butterfly
5. The Splitter:Through the Trapdoor
6. The Screwball: The Sasquatch of Baseball
7. The Sinker: The Furthest Strike from the Hitter's Eyes
8. The Changeup: A Dollar Bill Hooked on a Fishing Line
9. The Spitball: Hit the Dry Side
10. The Cutter: At the End, It Will Move
It is a great read for all baseball fans, especially those that are pitchers or have an interest in pitching. And for those that have a deep interest in batting, too, as a good batter should have an understanding of what is in a pitcher's toolbox.
For most people, recording a pitch as a strike or ball is enough. But if you want more detail to describe a pitcher's performance in Playmaker Journal, use this cheat sheet of pitch-type abbreviations:
1. Slider: SL
2. Fastball: FA
3. Curveball: CB
4. Knuckleball: KN
5. Splitter: SP
6. Screwball: SB
7. Sinker: SI
8. Changeup: CH
9. Spitball: it's an illegal pitch so in theory this wouldn't be recorded, but if there was one thrown, I'd record it as "DB" as in "doctored ball." Because it is not just saliva that can be applied but also grease, hair oil, boogers or tobacco juice.
10: Cutter: FC