Intersections Investigated: Baseball-style

It’s spring, though it doesn’t feel like it in northwest Iowa.  Around the country, spring sports–youth, high school, professional–are popping to life like we can only hope the trees will in time.

Already we’re two weeks into the Major League Baseball season (and I’m two weeks into my annual blood feud with my wife).  Just days ago, on April 12, the film 42 opened, and today, professional ballplayers will wear that number to commemorate Jackie Robinson’s first day in a Dodger (then Brooklyn) uniform.

Baseball’s full of intersections.  Naturally, there’s bat and ball.  Pitcher and batter.  (Which can dissolve into something much more primal and violent, as it did Thursday between Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke.)

The World Series is decided by bringing together the winners of the American and National Leagues.  Rare as it once was, now there’s interleague play almost every day.

There are the moments when “play” appears to melt into “art.”  (I grew up watching Ozzie Smith, so I had plenty of those moments.)  Fans of opposing teams clapping together to acknowledge a special defensive feat.

One intersection we don’t think of much in baseball anymore is race.  I lived in Chicago when Japanese All-star Kosuke Fukudome was signed by the Cubs in 2007.  It was a big deal–because he was good, not because he was Japanese.  (Even more so because the Cubs have been on the short end of the good-stick recently.)  Japanese players had been around the Majors for a while; baseball fans were already familiar with the names Ichiro and Matsui.  Nowadays the MLB is full of talent–black, white, whatever–from all around the world.

But in 1947, there was no intersection.  White ballplayers, white ballplayers, and more white ballplayers.  Jackie Robinson shattered that homogeneity.

Atlas and Alice is a magazine of intersection.  I’m sure we’ll never publish a piece with the cultural relevancy of Jackie Robinson’s historic career–I’m pretty sure nobody will.  But I think the idea of intersection is important.  Bringing things together.  Deforming and then reforming them.

Though we may struggle as artists, deep down, I think we’ve got it easy.  We set out to write a prose poem.  Or an inventive piece of found art using our FY 2012 taxes.  It fails.  So be it.

But outside of art, we’re not often afforded the luxury of the do-over.  Think of what might have happened if Jackie Robinson had been a dud.  I don’t mean as a talented, hard-nosed ballplayer; I mean as a talented, hard-nosed human being.  If the Jackie Robinson experiment had failed, if he hadn’t handled himself on and off the field with the poise and grace we now know him for, I’m sure he would have gotten his pats on the back, but I doubt we, as a country, would be quite where we are now.

And I think we take that for granted.  White, black, brown, tan, yellow, red, green, blue: all of us.  Somewhere down the line, I have to believe we had someone standing up on our behalf, confronting adversity, prejudice, or just the sheer cliff of uncertainty so that we could live the lives we lead now.

Atlas and Alice is a tiny online literary magazine.  We hope to publish some great writing and introduce you to new ideas and new authors.  But we’d also like to think that we (editors, readers, contributors) can be as brave in our real lives as we are in our artistic ones and engage the boundaries around us to the point we think/fear/hope they might break.

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