The book: “I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever”
The authors: Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster
The vital statistics: Grove Press, 342 pages, $16
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: Here’s where we pull a U-turn on this April roadie.
This one came out just too late for the 2014 review list, and too early to be included in what we like to do for the 2015, but it did get a mention last December when were put together holiday gift ideas.
Because we need for a mental road trip at this point in our journey, and this has been reissued this month in paperback at $16 (from the $24 hardback), we’re calling shotgun.
Plus it beats two top-deck tickets for a game where we would have got stuck in traffic the whole way up and been cursing by the time we hit the parking toll booth.
So, we circle back, because we care about these two Harvard grads — Ben Blatt, a staff writer at Slate whose writing has appeared on Deadspin, and Eric Brewster, a Long Beach native whom we really don’t need to know much else about except that he’s doing this somewhat because he seems bored.
They met at Harvard one day when Brewster was wearing a Dodgers cap.
“You’re a Dodgers’ fan?” Ben asked.
“No, but the sun’s out,” Eric said, ending the conversation.
He’s already won us over.
Eventually, they devised a plan to make a major road trip to visit all 30 major league baseball parks in 30 days, starting June 1, 2013. The schedule says one thing. Mother nature, human error, time-zone mix-ups and the best-laid plans say another.
But they do get it done in just under the wire: 29 days, 20 hours and 22 minutes, ending this American journey in, of all places, Toronto on Canada Day.
Having seen 8,913 pitches.
Through their own skepticism, optimism, naivety, smarts and constant bantering, they survive in what is a cathartic, caustic, insightful and thought-provoking journey.
“Our road trip was devised to touch every base of that 30-ring circus,” they wrote in the preface. “It was our suspicion that if we saw it all – the good, the bad, the ugly and the Miami Marlins – we’d have no choice but to have learned something by journey’s end. … This is a story of how the ultimate trip through America’s pastime nearly killed us, baseball and everything we thought we know about swinging for the fences.”
And, for no other reason that because it happened at Angel Stadium, we choose to focus won how they learned that no everyone sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” the same.
After hearing the seventh-inning stretch song 21 days in a row, they noted that, in 13 parks, there’s the line “I don’t care if I ever get back.” But in the other 10, it was “I don’t care if I never get back.”
(Note: Reference back to a previously review book, “The History of Baseball in 100 Objects,” the correct response appears to be “never.” But never say never, some might say)
Why the discrepancy? Does it mean you don’t care if you never get back home? But it appears by the lyrics that you’re signing it as if you’re already home, because you want someone to take you to the game.
“But we are already at the game,” Eric argues.
“You can sing a song about something without physically being where the song takes place.”
“But you wouldn’t make that song an anthem sung only at the place where it says you aren’t.”
“But they did. It does.”
“Who did? Baseball? The narrator?”
“What do you mean, who?”
“Who’s on first?”
“What’s on second.”
“All I’m saying is ‘I don’t care if I never get back’ and I’m saying that at the ballpark.”
“Well I’m saying it at home.”
“But you’re at the ballpark.”
“Then I’ll say it when we get home.”
Pause for effect
“Want to go home?” Eric asks.
“When the game ends,” Ben replies.
And there’s your book title.
But not before the boys draw another circular conclusion, after arriving at Eric’s house in Long Beach, where his dad and grandfather are living, and maybe this whole objective of what baseball really is all about – trying to get home – now makes sense:
“Eric’s house was a jarring sight because it was a house … we had seen almost no homes over the course of the month. … it was somehow possible to notch thousands of miles across America’s vast landscape without encountering almost any American domiciles.
“Aside from the daily dose of 40,000 people with whom we occupied a concrete playhouse, it was gas station attendants from here to infinity with little else to greet us along the way. We were seeing America, but we weren’t seeing Americans – at least in any manner that could be considered close to a natural setting. …
“If baseball was an American emblem, this should have counted for something, but it was the only emblem we had to go on. It was a sterilized, stigmatized kaleidoscope of red shirts and blue hats and burns and yawns and smiles. We were encountering an American stereotype, day in and day out, a first-world Utopia built of free time, free speech and expensive beer.”
We can’t be sure at this point if any pharmaceutical drugs were harmed in the creation of this narrative. But we couldn’t get enough of this.
Especially, when pulling into Dodger Stadium for Game No. 23, when Ben makes the observation:
“If Eric was a baseball fan, he would have a fan of the Dodgers … They were dependable, a feat exemplified by their announcer Vin Scully … if baseball could speak, it would sound like Vin Scully.”
If all baseball road trips taken by two guys trying to figure out life could produce a script, ready to be made into a buddy film, it would read like this.
More to know:
== As long as we’re going a little retro, and want to go back in time for a moment, we’ve also been fond of the re-release of “Slouching Toward Fargo: A Two year Saga of Sinners and St. Paul Saints at the Bottom of the Bush Leagues with Bill Murray, Darryl Strawberry, Dakota Sadie and Me.” Neal Karlen’s Avon-published 1997 effort, updated with new material last September by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, reads as fresh as ever and continues to inspire us to someday make this journey to St. Paul, meet Mike Veeck, and enjoy the game as it should be.