Curtis Granderson hit his league-leading eighth triple last night. I don’t know what triple statistics measure, exactly—line drive power to right, speed, and a willingness to try for the extra base, I guess. Triples are more exciting than (outside-the-park) home runs. The all-time leader in triples is Sam Crawford, with 309. He played right field for the Tigers from 1903 to 1917. Like Cy Young’s 749 complete games, that isn’t a record anyone is going to break without some radical changes to the game. (These records are unknown today because no one could ever break them, not because they’re less important than, say, a hitting streak.)
Sam Crawford was my favorite historical baseball figure growing up, and not only because of his aptitude for triples. His chapter in The Glory of Their Times is wonderful, in part because of his clear-eyed observations of Ty Cobb, who played next to him in center field. Crawford was the polite, honest, and slightly less-skilled second fiddle to the nutty, racist, tormented Cobb.
This line of thought got me started on my current writing project, a novel narrated by Sam Crawford but structured around the rise and fall of Cobb, a kind of dead-ball-era On the Road. I figure they’ve been dead long enough that I can add some sexual tension, maybe a near-kiss or something.
Other projects currently in the works:
- An operetta about the 1987-1991 Pistons, tentatively entitled Ragazzi Difettosi. Ambition, frustration, triumph, downfall. I’m still ironing the kinks out of a tricky section where Magic and Bird sing in counterpoint and (if I can get the funding) Rodman descends from the ceiling. For the finale, a soprano duet by Jordan and Isiah: “We have swept you! We have swept you!” “But I will not shake your hand! I will never shake your hand!”
- An installation piece about Cyclo-Cross Racing, tentatively entitled “Mud, Mud, Everywhere.” I’ve worked up several sketches, but i’m still searching for sponsorship and the right venue. MME will require a fifty-two-by-twenty-eight-foot indoor space, nineteen hundred pounds of mud, and the skeletons of two dozen rusty old bicycles.
- A one-man play about the 1984 Tigers, tentatively entitled Tigers, Tigers, Burning Bright. Sparky Anderson (played by Brian Dennehy or, if he’s available, Peter Fonda) looks back on the season, the Series, and the ensuing riots. It requires only a single spotlight, a stool, and a cuspidor. I’ve written a short musical piece for timpani and cymbals to be played during the riot scene, as Sparky weeps into his cap.
- An endurance piece about horseracing, tentatively entitled “My Derby Year.” For one calendar year, I’ll wear blinders and a bit, have a spider monkey in purple silks ride on my back, and keep a daily log of my weight and how long it takes me to run from my apartment to the bus stop and back.