NFL Football is a sport that is much better on television than in person. The concentrated bursts of action between long periods of inactivity are enhanced by instant replay, color commentators, and beer commercials featuring scantily clad women. Anyone who has ever watched an NFL football game in person knows that inevitably fans at the game end up watching the game on the stadium jumbotron as if they were home in their livingrooms anyway.
Not so with baseball which is best experienced in person. (The next best option, of course, being radio.) Television ratings for the two sports bear this truth out.
In 1954, writer and editor Arnold Hano took in a baseball game and wrote a book about it. The fact that the game he went to was Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, that Willie Mays made “The Catch,” and that Hano is a wonderful and observant writer, has created one of the 10 best books about baseball ever written– a true “classic” in every sense of that over-used word.
From his perch in the bleachers, Hano gives an inning by inning narration of the first post-season game between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Giants. In Hano’s capable hands the game takes on mythic proportions with all-time great Willie Mays and his catch of Vic Wertz’s long, long drive taking center stage.
Like a novelist, Hano lets us get to know the characters of the drama that enfolds before him: Mays, Wertz, Larry Doby, Bob Lemon, Sal Maglie…. His understanding of baseball is thorough, his prose is wonderful and evocative, his insights about the game enlightening, his passion for both the nuances and the grand gestures of a game quite evident.
In A Day in the Bleachers, one great game in 1954 with the greatest of all great catches has clearly found its great witness.