Type of Document Thesis Author Wolford, Jennifer D. Author's Email Address email@example.com URN etd-06112005-173215 Title Rounding Third Degree Master of Arts Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Sheila Ortiz Taylor Committee Chair Elizabeth Stuckey-French Committee Member Julianna Baggott Committee Member Keywords
- Short Story
Date of Defense 2005-06-10 Availability unrestricted AbstractABSTRACT
“If baseball is a narrative, an epic of exile and return, a vast, communal poem about separation, loss, and the hope for reunion—if baseball is a Romance Epic—it is finally told by the audience.” These words come from A. Bartlett Giamatti’s essay “Baseball as Narrative,” and they are the inspiration behind my short story collection, Rounding Third. Baseball’s audience is its fans; these are the people who live and breathe in my stories.
Baseball’s literary tradition is rich with tales of players and coaches, those who are directly involved with the game. Those who play it and make it a career, especially at the professional level, are a staggering minority in comparison to those who love and cherish the sport from the bleachers, from televisions, from the glossy pages of magazines and collectible cards sold in shiny, metallic packages. This collection gives an ownership, urgency, and voice to the fans.
Giamatti, in the same essay, also writes, “In baseball, everyone wants to arrive at the same place where they start.” I began thinking about how this quote connected to the one mentioned earlier. The key lies in the phrase “separation, loss, and the hope for reunion.” Every journey has a starting point. In baseball, and in my stories about this beautiful game, the characters recognize their separation and distance from that starting point. Like Giamatti says, they “want” to get back; there are no guarantees. And even if they do, they arrive changed, people reformed by dealing with the challenges of life and the challenges of loving people, people going through their own changes.
So while my narratives parallel the structure of the game by having characters on a base path, attempting to reach an either familiar or unfamiliar “home,” they also thrive on it as subject matter. And it is really this structuring that inspires the title. “Rounding third and headed for home” is a common baseball phrase. It means that a player has reached a certain point in his offensive journey on the field and is coming into the final stretch where he will face at least one definite obstacle in the catcher. I feel like my central characters are all “rounding third.” I feel like the emphasis is on the journey, the striving to get to another point. These characters may or
may not make it home, and perhaps the home they reach is not the one they anticipated, but it is the movement, the “the rounding,” that is important.
Baseball is definitely one point of cohesiveness for this collection. But this collection is more than a group of five baseball stories; it is more than five baseball fan stories. Again I go back to Giamatti’s phrase: “separation, loss, and the hope for reunion.” This phrase is a thematic staple for Rounding Third. If someone had told me six months ago that I had to work with the theme of “baseball as a means for dealing with separation and loss,” I would have said, quite assuredly, that those were confines too narrow for more than a single short story. I would have been wrong. As I started to work with this theme, I realized that it was rich with possibilities for creation, originality, and stories that simultaneously inspire hope and break my heart.
My intention for this thesis is to produce a collection of baseball stories that are unlike any baseball stories being published. I can tell you why I want to write baseball stories . . . because no one is writing the baseball stories I really want to read. I’ve read about countless walk-off homeruns and no-hitters and eccentric rookies and has-beens making comebacks in the twilight of their careers. What I haven’t read is a collection of stories that gives fans an intimate ownership of baseball, an ownership that is critical and valuable. This game is so much more than a game, and I have been obsessed with proving this through my stories. Sports are always under fire for scandals, spoiled millionaire athletes, drugs, failed role models, corrupt business measures . . . but for all that and everything else, there is a purity of sport. To me, it is the tangible enactment of the human spirit. For me, baseball is a staging of the American dream of simultaneously being a valued member of a community and an individual who sets out and achieves personal success and differentiation. It is complex and exact and gorgeous, which is what I always try to have my stories be. So, while Rounding Third is a collection I’ve written about baseball, I also hope it is a collection where I have written baseball.
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