Dewey has written some 40 books of fiction and nonfiction, as
well as contributed scores of stories to magazines and other
periodicals. He has also had some 30 plays staged in Europe
and the United States. Dewey was editor of the ASME-award winning
magazine Attenzione and was editorial director of the
East-West Network, overseeing a dozen in-flight magazines and
the PBS organ Dial. Don's latest book, Franchisement:
The Alan Gibb Story, is now available.
of baseball’s earmarks is in upholding the myth business
itself -- not merely in terms of individuals and their statistical
deeds or even in the perpetuation of such canards as Abner Doubleday,
but in creating a virtual world for its deeds and having it
accepted as a reality. The megatrillions of dollars invested
in motion pictures and television are to observe, record,or
emulate everyday human actions for appealing to an audience;
by contrast, baseball, like other sports, concocts a cosmos
of rules and behaviour for the same purpose, but reduces the
spectators on which it depends to so many Gullivers in the land
of the Lilliputians. Whiffle ball may be the introduction for
children playing baseball, but the relevant relationship for
the fan -- the lungs of its business -- is ambi-dimensional,
such as when a boy maneuvers his figurines across his bedroom
the jargon of the day, this makes the players pieces; in the
adulation industries of the day, it makes the public not the
fans of fanatics but, dating back before contemporary rotisserie
leagues and the infinite convolutions of game statistics, the
fans of fantasists. Some imaginations conjured up the feats
of Zeus and Odin, others those of Babe Ruth and Willie
as a game says much less than it delivers. Since it involves
invented rules and behaviour for play, that description is unsurprising.
also reflects a period when the English language was reeling
to the unbridled, the rapacious and the self-indulgent. A hired
killer was a
regulator, if not a peacemaker. Settling the West meant colluding
in mass exterminations. Information was what the William Randolph
the Joseph Pulitzers could boast about improvising for sale.
was looting, then restoration as if nothing had happened. A
trust was never
to be trusted. The ideal was not to curb greed, but to organize
As for a game, it was what commercialized as much joy and satisfaction
from athletic activity as paying customers would tolerate. They
have been lies in a lexicon sense, but descriptives from the
their own rebuttals, and organized baseball was no exception.
What you got
was not necessarily what you saw. Not many junctures in American
were so indebted to Let’s Pretend.
said, the national receptivity to baseball was hardly inevitable.
Regarding just bat-and-ball sports, cricket was not only so
entrenched as to draw as many as 25,000 followers to matches,
but it had influential friends behind it; e.g., for years it
was the only sport that could get city permission to play in
New York’s Central Park. Attaining popularity let alone
status as a patriotic pastime required circumstances as often
triggered by large-scale rancour as by sectorial encouragement.
Immigration trends weighed mightily in baseball’s ultimate
ascension over cricket, but no single factor compared to the
proselytizing impact of wars -- first the Mexican War (1846-1848),
then the Civil War (1861-1865) -- during which troops from around
the country mingled and converted bivouac areas into playing
fields between battles. (A legendary story said that up to 40,000
Union troops were within sight of a game played on Christmas
1862, but the accent there is on legend). The sport was also
familiar enough to figure as a ubiquitous poster motif in the
presidential election campaign of Abraham Lincoln, and already
by 1873 newspapers were reporting that every hamlet throughout
the country had one ballclub if not more. Cartoons mocking immigrants
from abroad often did so by depicting their inability at baseball.
But it would still be a few years before the sport gained a
professional standing, another couple of decades before it was
stabilized by its original myth maker, and two decades beyond
that before its most abiding myth took hold in tribute to an
era already fading.
the meantime, baseball was a very marginal pursuit amid economic
depressions, labour strikes and management thuggery, massive
immigrations, sweeping industrialization, foreign wars, and
myriad other social eruptions that had produced the transformation
of a country that no longer resembled what George Washington
or even Abraham Lincoln would have recognized.
Europe the designation of an age covered centuries, in the United
States it answered plausibly only to a decade or two. Except
for one thing, the claim cannot even be made that baseball was,
as it is said, emblematic of the swift changes overcoming American
society at the end of the nineteenth century. There were other
sports drawing enthusiasts, other entertainments establishing
a premise of mass audiences, other physical activities that
were equally routine for cities and rural areas. Its elaboration
as ‘directed play’ in a century when there were
equal commitments to vaunting the youthful and collaborative
while also maintaining a super-structural order was a sine
qua non but not exclusive to a diamond. The one thing that
the sport did mine uniquely, however, were the veins of mythology
that glistened with opportunity for contentions of strictly
American creativity, and, together with monopolistic promoting
in an era when the nationalization of culture was paramount,
that proved to be enough for its thriving. It was what people
-- American people -- did and watched after many centuries of
not doing and watching it and for that acquired identification
within its specific historical context. Sometimes the connection
was blatant, sometimes only reflexive, but always it was organic.
the height of the Cold War, rare was the scientific, cultural
or social breakthrough anywhere in the cosmos that the Tass
news agency did not claim had been discovered years earlier
by the Soviet Union. As absurd as Moscow’s obsession for
having been first was, it had a precedent in the nineteenth-century
United States. The vanity of being the best in some category
might have hinged on fickle opinion, but being the first attracted
as far less disputatious. The only thing to be demonstrated
was prior absence, and if an American cultural outlook conveyed
anything in the nineteenth century, it was how comprehensive
a prior absence could be interpreted as being. The Garden of
Eden had more of a past history. Those were the groundrules
of the game -- and the sport, business, and mythology -- and
the context for everything that followed.
Oh, and one other thing. There has never been anything new about
a mythology based on factual fraudulence. Far rarer has been
one elaborated precisely because it is fraudulent. Context was
all. Without it, the Doubleday story has no seriousness whatsoever,
is at best a graceless ploy by sectarian hustlers that ended
up being called quintessentially American. And therein also
lies the story of two noted men who never met and who added
to their individual fames because of it.
by Donald Dewey:
Playing It Safe
Not to Live By
to the Rescue
Playing It Safe
Them Entertain Us
a Kindergarten Life
of Humour in the Cinema
THE ALAN GIBB STORY by DON DEWEY
becoming the world's most respected life, death, and everything
in between coach, Alan Gibb shared that common frustration over
the failure of astrology, numerology, and similar religions
to direct all aspects of human behavior. They might have all
been sacred systems for establishing a personal identity, but
there was a rusty screw at their core. Even when the revolutionary
tenets of Franchisement occurred to him, he knew they might
remain stillborn without the attacks, arrests, and tragedies
customarily accompanying an original vision. Happily for Gibb
and the tens of thousands of his fellow believers, he was assaulted
in physical, mental, and dietary ways and hauled in as a fraud,
thug, and stalker even as he pressed forward on his crusade
to share Franchisement with the hordes crying for it as a national
pastime superior to baseball. More happily, the tragedies struck
others, not him, enabling him to enjoy the millions Franchisement
brought through the Internet, the telephone, and pay-on-demand
cable. As he noted repeatedly, the delivery vehicle was unimportant
as long as a customer thought he wanted what he was getting.
"If you listen to people, the world is divided between
the Yankees and the Red Sox," he liked to chuckle fondly.
"Tell that to those with a crush on the Minnesota Twins.
A vision that isn't comprehensive sees only its own nose."
OTHERS ARE SAYING:
there are many similar books too numerous to count, but this
book is sui generis." --- Benjamin Acocella, S.J., President
of the Council for Mental Observances.
book changed my life when it most needed changing." ---
Sidney Willinger, Leisure Sciences Department, University of
love is a 13-letter word." --- Jennifer Pryor, Harvard
School of Theoretical Business.
demonstrates how life is more than steak knives and storm windows."
--- Joel Sternheim, Informercials Institute.
Trade Paperback - 6 x 9 x .7
FICTION / Humorous / General
FICTION / Satire
FICTION / Sports
& Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the
Library and Archives Canada.