Genre: Fiction, short stories, baseball
An eighty-three year old is signed to a major league team just to bunt. The hitter and catcher of a homerun ball stay mysteriously connected throughout their lives. A little league coach’s players don’t follow his signs but still win the game. All these are subjects in Bob Weintraub’s collection of fictional baseball stories. In the eleven stories, the author displays a deep knowledge of baseball: how the game is played, players, scouting, fans, management, etc. He presents scenarios that seem as if they are real, but adds something that puts them just a little out of reach. He creates characters that the reader will probably find likable, and his stories are creative, though sometimes get a bit heavy on the baseball jargon.
If I am reading a sports story, it is because I hope to be able to talk to my husband or friends about it. See, in my current circle of friends, I am the only one who doesn’t know the sports commentators by name, voluntary watch televised games, or visit espn.com on a daily basis. You could say I am a casual fan and am mostly interested because those around me are. So when I saw a book of baseball stories, I thought it might be interesting and maybe I would learn something I could share with my friends. However, I realized shortly after starting the first story that this collection was obviously fiction and would provide me with no interesting facts or anecdotes to discuss. I read the first five stories, but my interest waned and I simply stopped. It is to the author’s credit that a non-sports fan such as me got that far in the book and was able to mostly follow the jargon and explanations of happenings in the game. That proves the author wasn’t writing only to hardcore fans. However, being a casual baseball fan only, five stories was the limit of my attention span, and I decided to hang it up and find something more engrossing. Short stories (and essay collections, for that matter) are always a bit of a hard sell because without the continuous narrative there is little to keep the reader turning the pages. Collections are more suited to being read piece by piece, so the reader must truly enjoy each story and be drawn in by the voice of the author to want to continue on. For me, this book and this author did not draw me in. A real baseball fan may find the collection more enjoyable, but I cannot speak for such a person. Hopefully the author can find the right audience for this book. Perhaps one of my friends would like it.
Weintraub, Bob. Painting the Corners, Volume I: A Collection of Off-Centre Baseball Stories. Toronto, ON, Canada: Iguana Books, 2011.