How Washing and Waxing an Itasca Mini-Motorhome Helped Procure My Copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia

This book weighs 4.5 pounds. Four-point-five pounds of mostly raw statistical data sans statistical analysis on over sized coffee-table style pages with teensy margins, font size at most 7, printed on something like rice paper, only the paper is not opaque; the flimsy type of paper comprising most Bibles. This edition approaches 2,300 pages. That's 2,300 pages of raw baseball statistics. Imagine reading all seven volumes of Proust's In Search of Lost Time, only instead of reading about bucolic introspective meanderings throughout the lovely French countryside as remembered by a sickly, housebound young Frenchman, you read about nothing but home runs and earned run averages and balks, on pages tissue-thin, the tiny text printed all the way out to the edge of distant margins, printed practically off the edge of the page like "bleeds" (that's printer's lingo for you).

1969 ed., edited by Joseph L. Reichler, image from Rare Book
I washed and waxed one Saturday afternoon in 1982 my father's twenty-five-foot long Itasca mini-motor home in order to earn the dough to pay for this $29.99 baseball behemoth of behemoths, on sale at -- it was either B. Dalton or Waldenbooks, I believe. I've never worked so hard or with such purpose in my life; I really wanted that book--and fast!

So what's the big deal about a book one could just as easily use as a clunky dumb-bell filled with nothing but arcane baseball numbers dating back to 1861; a book dealing with often obscure, obfuscating percentages such as slugging % (total bases divided by at-bats) versus on-base-average (walks, hits, reached base on error, but *not* hbp (hit by pitch) or fc (fielder's choice) divided by at-bats; the stats correlated and itemized to every player in the history of Major League Baseball who ever played the game (included even if that player played in only one game, one inning for that matter) he's itemized like a nominal tax deduction for all time and eternity; so again, the question is: what's the big deal exactly?....

To this day, I do not know. I know only that the numbers and statistics about baseball fascinated my then burgeoning thirteen year old brain (as they do to this day, minus many brain cells), and that I was willing to spend seven sweltering, ungodly humid summer hours scrubbing and waxing and rinsing and drying with a shammy...what in hindsight amounted to nothing more than a rectilinear-ten-ton-monstrosity-on-double wheels, in order to obtain it, The Baseball Encyclopedia, which, if my division is correct, comes out to working for $4.28 an hour for a book weighing 4.5 pounds, or rather, working for 95 cents a pound per hour.


  1. And worth every droplet of sweat and every blister, especially since the ultimate result was this musing essay.


Post a Comment