"Bunts," explains peripatetic political commentator and baseball rhapsodist George Will, "are modest and often useful things." So is his latest, fittingly titled foray into the National Pastime. Unlike his splendid Men at Work, which offered long, detailed exegeses on the way Tony Gwynn, Orel Hershiser, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Tony La Russa sweat the details of mastering specific aspects of the game, Bunts is a less unified, but wider ranging collection of Will's shorter baseball journalism--columns, essays, and book reviews--assembled chronologically from 1974 through the 1997 season. Each piece may be brief, but taken individually or as a whole, the collection is certainly useful, and like a good outfielder, it covers plenty of territory.
Will, to be sure, is an elegant writer, a little verbose at times, but dependably knowledgeable, stirringly erudite, thoughtfully opinionated, and, here and there, delightfully personal--as in the volume's leadoff hitter in which he traces his own conservative principles to growing up a Cub fan. His lineup continues with a breezy ode to Louisville Sluggers; encomiums to Casey Stengel, Camden Yards, Ripken, Gwynn, and Curt Flood; a startling about-face on the DH; an early homage to statsmeister Bill James; and indictments on the selfishness of Ted Williams, the callousness of the owners in labor- and fan-relations, and the sordid personalities of Pete Rose and Billy Martin. The volume ends with a pair of doubles in the form of larger essays on Jon Miller and the distinctive craft of broadcasting, and a concluding one on the state of the game.
"Baseball," Will observes, "is a habit. The slowly rising crescendo of each game, the rhythm of the long season--these are the essentials and they are remarkably unchanged over nearly a century and a half. Of how many American institutions can that be said?" The answer, of course, is not many, which is why Bunts provides a necessary and pleasing public service. --Jeff Silverman
From Library Journal
Edward Herrmann reads these essays on our national pastime with genuine enthusiasm. Political columnist Will states here that nothing about baseball is trivialAand he proves his point. As a bench sitter for an underachieving Little League team sponsored by a funeral home in Champaign, IL, Will began studying the game at an age when most boys were actually playing it. We should all be pleased that he didn't turn out to be just another great player. His observations are richly textured and colored with anecdotes that one will never forget. Baseball personalities seem to stride onto the field as if they never left. Chicago Cubs fans may want to chill out before listening to the author's opinions on their team, but all baseball fans will love this excursion into nontrivia. A home run!ARay Vignovich, West Des Moines P.L., IA
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