• Searching for Moby-Dick (and the Elusive Truths of America’s Pastime)

    Rick White on Bill James, Herman Melville, and the Whaleness of Whiteyball

    “Baseball statistics, unlike the statistics in any other area, have acquired the powers of language.”
    –Bill James

    Article continues below

    “There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.”
    –Herman Melville

    “One man in charge, no committees, no crap. Fish or cut bait.”
    –Whitey Herzog



    Article continues below

    I got my first job when I was ten years old. Without so much as a routine interview, the fine folks at the Babe Ruth baseball park in my hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas, hired me to be a scorekeeper. For two or three games each night during the summer, I tracked, with pencil and paper, every groundout to second base (4-3), hit by pitch (HBP), error on the shortstop (E6), wild pitch (WP), walk (BB), strikeout swinging (K), strikeout looking (ꓘ), double play (6-4-3, 4-6-3, 2-3-4, etc.), and more. I turned in my scorecards at the office at the end of each game and, in exchange for my labor, received a complimentary hot dog and a slushie of my choice. It was the best job I have ever had. It was also where I became fluent in my second language.

    I had been playing baseball and collecting baseball cards for over half my life, so I already spoke baseball and read baseball, both quite well. I could look at the statistics on the back of Willie McGee’s 1986 Topps® card and explain why he won the National League MVP in 1985: the .353 batting average, the .503 slugging percentage, the league-leading 216 hits. I could see his 56 stolen bases and 18 triples and know from the numbers alone that McGee ran the bases both aggressively and fast. Learning to keep score was like learning to diagram a sentence, though. Suddenly, I saw the mechanics of the working thing at rest—not just what certain numbers on the back of a baseball card meant, but how they had come to mean. And in the cyclical way that knowledge begets affection, and vice versa, I also began to see why those numbers meant so much to me.

    This is not an essay about Bill James, though. At least, it is not an essay about Bill James any more than Moby-Dick is a book about whales.

    “When the numbers acquire the significance of language,” says Bill James, “they acquire the power to do all of the things which language can do: to become fiction and drama and poetry.”[i] James is a fellow baseball lover and numbers nerd. Back when Willie McGee was stealing bases for the St. Louis Cardinals, James was in Kansas City trying to change how baseball people watched, played, and thought about America’s favorite pastime—with numbers, yes, but more so with words. For James, the story was in the statistics, but his ambition was to make good literature. “It is not just baseball that these numbers, through a fractured mirror, describe,” he says, conscious of alliteration and fearful of no lofty metaphor:

    It is character. It is psychology, it is history, it is power, it is grace, glory, consistency, sacrifice, courage, it is success and failure, it is frustration and bad luck, it is ambition, it is overreaching, it is discipline. And it is victory and defeat, which is all that the idiot sub-conscious really understands.[ii]

    In a 2003 profile of James in The New Yorker magazine, journalist Ben McGrath says of “the professor of baseball” that his “approach seemed distinctly American, descended from the nineteenth-century pragmatist tradition exemplified by his namesake, the philosopher William James.” While this may be true of James’s statistical analysis, his prose descends not from William James, but from the lineage of a different, and distinctly not pragmatic, titan of American letters. Bill James on baseball is Herman Melville on whaling.

    Article continues below

    The Anatomy of America’s Game

    Flip through any of James’s annual Baseball Abstracts from the Reagan years and the comparison I just made will not sound so grandiose. Tables of obscure batting and fielding statistics accompanied by illustrations of the complex mathematical formulas used to create them are interspersed with lengthy essays on, and rankings of, players, managers, and teams, all of it connected and dissected and opined on by a first-person narrator, Bill, an unabashed Kansas City Royals fan.

    For example, in the 1983 Abstract, in the section on third basemen, he ranks George Brett, a future Hall of Famer, as the fourth-best third sacker in baseball due to a slump in his batting statistics over the two seasons prior. James chalks this up, in part, to Brett’s seeing more curve balls from pitchers and not being able to hit them, but also, curiously, to Brett’s bachelorhood, and to the particular strain of masculine entitlement the hot-tempered Brett inherited from his father and brothers, which his former manager, Whitey Herzog, nurtured, but which his current manager, Dick Howser, does not. “[Brett] wants the Royals to tell him that they love him,” James says, “and instead they tell him it’s a business. Sure, he’s a spoiled kid, but we’re not all too adult to sympathize with those feelings, are we?”[iii]

    This is not an essay about Bill James, though. At least, it is not an essay about Bill James any more than Moby-Dick is a book about whales. But in the introduction to that 1983 Abstract, wherein James describes the “eccentricity” of his own style, both personal and literary, you will forgive me for seeing, through a fractured mirror, not baseball statistics but cetology, and not James in Kansas City, but Ishmael in New Bedford, or, better yet, at sea:

    The subject of the book is sabermetrics; SABR for the Society for American Baseball Research, Metrics for measurement, with an extra “e” thrown in so you can pronounce it. Most of the time, anyway; sometimes I take off on a tangent and start writing about Princess Margaret, call-in shows or shark jokes. But what the hell, sportswriters will stop writing about baseball at the drop of a hat and start writing about economics, drugs or lawsuits, and they don’t feel bad about it. Indeed, what is eccentric about my writing about baseball is that I write so much about baseball and sometimes will examine the tiniest parts of the game in exhaustive detail without seeming to feel any compulsion to leave the subject and start writing about leadership or character or personality conflicts or go do an interview somewhere.

    Article continues below

    Except, like Melville, leadership and character and personality conflicts are exactly what Bill James is writing about when he debates the value of advanced fielding metrics for managerial decisions. Also like Melville, James knows it, and is cunning enough to play coy.

    Digression and exhaustiveness are two features of the prose genre known as the anatomy. This term was coined in 1957 by literary critic Northrop Frye, both to distinguish the form as one of the “four chief strands” of Western literature—the novel, the romance, and the confession being the other three—and also to replace the term Menippean satire, used alternately, but which Frye found cumbersome and misleading.[iv] Whatever you call it, the genre’s mischievous lineage begins in the third century BC with the Greek cynic Menippus, whose works are lost, then resurfaces in the second century AD with Lucian and Varro, before running through Petronius, Apuleius, Rabelais, Swift, and Voltaire, among others.

    Whereas the romance concerns itself with the exploits of heroes and villains, the anatomy’s long-winded, cerebral digressions are characteristic of its “free play of intellectual fancy,” according to Frye. The structure such fancy dictates “makes for violent dislocations in the customary logic of narrative, though the appearance of carelessness that results reflects only the carelessness of the reader.” Whereas the novelist is concerned with the individual’s relationship to others or with society at large, the anatomist “shows his exuberance in intellectual ways, by piling up an enormous mass of erudition about his theme,” such as whaling or baseball. “The words might run on for many pages,” writer Michael Lewis says of James’s writing, “but they were typically presented as digressions from the numbers….The Baseball Abstracts were one long, elaborate aside.”[v] In his own words, James says he sought to approach the subject of baseball “with the same kind of intellectual rigor and discipline that is routinely applied, by scientists great and poor, to trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe, of society, of the human mind, or of the price of burlap in Des Moines.”[vi]

    Moby-Dick cannot only or merely be an anatomy of whales, whaling, and the whalers who whale, anymore than Bill James’s Abstracts are only or merely Menippean satires of baseballs, baseballing, and the baseballers who baseball.

    Melville, too, in what scholar Andrew Delbanco calls his “ambulatory style—always digressive, never consecutive,” was an anatomist at heart, “happier to wander than to go straight. Restlessly experimental, he was by turns playful, ironic, somber, and uproariously funny, sometimes dropping into bawdy comedy, sometimes soaring into soliloquies worthy of King Lear.[vii] Whereas James sticks to the first-person point-of-view characteristic of the form Frye calls the confession, Melville begins there (“Call me Ishmael.”) but abandons it as his fancy deems he must, ranging into omniscience, internal monologue, diatribe, and even, for brief chapters, into choral narration, as in a script for a Broadway musical. He blends Captain Ahab’s stentorian oratory with the vowel-heavy pidgin of Queequeg the “head-peddling harpooner.”

    Not content to merely infer from the evidence, statistical or otherwise, the reasons for a slump in performance of some particular mate aboard the Pequod, Melville takes up residence in the mind of Stubb or Starbuck for a chapter or two, giving voice to their fears, desires, dreams, and dispositions, in their own words. In so doing, Melville and his masterpiece are exemplars of what Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin calls “the carnivalesque.”

    Article continues below

    Were this a Menippean satire and not an essay, I would here digress from my analysis of—wait, what was it that I was analyzing? Melville? Menippus? The Kansas City Royals? And what the hell is this Whiteyball business anyway? Sounds suspect to me.—to expound upon all fourteen elements of the carnivalesque in the Menippean satire form, which Bakhtin identifies, and which he himself, in true Menippean style, expounds upon all but ad infinitum. Alas, I fear the crude slum naturalism (element number four) of this essay may be far too crude already. I will point you instead to pages 106-37 in Bakhtin’s Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics.[viii] I trust you can, and will, read all fourteen items yourself, if you so desire. If you would rather not, I can’t blame you; Jack Flaherty is on the mound for the Cardinals right now in the top half of the third, and he’s got his slider working today, painting the corners of the plate like Pablo Picasso.

    Where was I? Oh, right. Melville, the anatomy, the carnivalesque… let’s just say that Moby-Dick, like its Menippean brethren, is funny in the way that this cartoon is funny:

    …although it does not steal intellectual property from its predecessors to quite the same extent, or with quite the same bravura, as Laurence Sterne thieves from François Rabelais and Robert Burton, or as I just plundered the above cartoon from a random website on the internet, whose author appears to have stolen it from the December 18, 2017 issue of The New Yorker magazine, without license.

    No matter. What is important for our purposes is that Melville’s prose reflects his embodiment of “carnivalistic thought,” as Bahktin calls it, that “drive-shaft between the idea and the artistic image of adventure.” Which is to say that Melville’s grand whaling epic “lives in the realm of ultimate questions… of life and death… but gives them no abstractly philosophical or religiously dogmatic resolution.” Digressive, exhaustive, and morbidly fascinated with the slippery spermaceti of death he may be, but polemicist Melville is not.

    Like all Menippeans, he is less interested in offering answers to life’s ultimate questions than in forestalling death with words, words, and more words. These he uses masterfully to illustrate the drama of a whale hunt; the peaceful repose of a lookout shift atop the masthead; the detailed cetology of whales generally and sperm whales particularly; the soul-slaying terror of a boy overboard in the vast void of the Pacific; and the complex psychological physics of obsession, monomania, and demagoguery; thereby playing out, as Bakhtin puts it, “the concretely sensuous form of acts and images.”

    Since this is an essay on Moby-Dick, let us begin with tabletop baseball, the precursor to today’s multi-billion-dollar fantasy baseball industry.

    Of course, Moby-Dick cannot only or merely be an anatomy of whales, whaling, and the whalers who whale, anymore than Bill James’s Abstracts are only or merely Menippean satires of baseballs, baseballing, and the baseballers who baseball. No fun in that, says our old buddy Northrop. Most anatomies merge with other forms—Moby-Dick with the romance, the Abstracts with the confessional, and both, I would argue, to some extent with the novel. To confirm or refute such a scandalous claim—that a book of baseball statistics might rightfully share a shelf with, say, William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf—may I refer you again to the work of Mr. Michael McKeon[ix] and Mr. Ian Watt.[x] These fine gentlemen would be happy to assist you in your pursuit of the answer to that less-than-ultimate question: What is a novel and what is a novel not? For my seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay, though, I’ll stick to the safer shores of baseball and whaling. Novel questions are not the ships I care to sink on.

    The White Whale of America’s Game

    Anatomists of all stripes tend to first delve into their subject of choice for similar reasons, and with similar purposes, as Melville’s aimless Ishmael, broke and bored, sets sail into “the watery part of the world.”

    It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation…This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.[xi]

    Today, we might say that the impulse to dissect baseball, or whaling, or Western literature, amounts to a peculiar, and perhaps peculiarly masculine, means of battling the malaise of depression. Shortstops, ships, Shakespeare—the subject matters little. What the anatomist seeks, above all else, is a measure of psychological relief. At least, that’s where the story begins. Eventually, as Ishmael’s gallivanting globetrot yields in Melville’s epic to Ahab’s darker, more harrowing quest, James and Melville and their similar creative motives—as evidenced by their parallel careers and by the characters who come to fascinate their attention—eventually take up more serious concerns, and as a result, suffer more serious consequences.

    Since this is an essay on Moby-Dick, let us begin with tabletop baseball, the precursor to today’s multi-billion-dollar fantasy baseball industry. Tabletop baseball was, in the late 1970s, like a neighborhood poker game but for baseball nerds. You drafted a tabletop team of players from actual professional teams, and these tabletop players amassed points based strictly on their individual statistical performance in different categories, such as on-base percentage (OBP) or runs batted in (RBI). Winning his tabletop league was a kind of Ishmael moment for James, the initial impulse to put wind in his sails, so to speak.[xii] In time, however, his innocent quest for objective baseball knowledge through unorthodox statistical analysis would morph into what he calls a “horrible compulsion to understand.”[xiii]

    By the mid-1980s, this compulsion turned his hobby into obsession, his Abstracts into bestsellers, and James the writer into a figurehead for a new kind of baseball nerd. “The sheer quantity of brain power that hurled itself voluntarily and quixotically into the search for new baseball knowledge,” says Lewis, “was either exhilarating or depressing, depending on how you felt about baseball.”[xiv]

    At the same time James was thrusting through the prison walls of conventional baseball knowledge, another baseball man was on a parallel quest, not to win a tabletop league, but to win the World Series. Whereas James was an advocate of “big ball” baseball, which prioritized power-hitting players and statistical outcomes like the three-run home run, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Whitey Herzog, preferred playing “small ball,” and the 1985 Cardinals team he build according to his “master plan” embodied it to similarly compulsive extremes.

    As for James’s quest to break the code of baseball? Well, it worked, but it ended up breaking baseball itself.

    Led by MVP Willie McGee, defensive wizard Ozzie Smith, and rookie Vince Coleman, the Cardinals hit the fewest home runs in the league by a wide margin, but they led the league in stolen bases and defensive runs saved, among other statistics, thanks to their players’ athleticism and speed. They played their fast-paced, exciting brand of baseball so well that it became known by sportswriters as “Whiteyball.” And it worked for Herzog’s Cardinals better than the “big ball” James preferred for two reasons: many ballparks in the National League, including Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals played half their games, had big outfields, which made home runs hard to come by; also, the playing surfaces were covered in Astroturf, on which both batted baseballs and running baseball players moved much faster than on natural grass.[xv]

    You would think this style of play would make Herzog a natural target of James’s ridicule, but you would be wrong. “If you were to sum up Whitey Herzog as a manager and as a man in one word,” James writes, “the word would have to be ‘aggressiveness.’… He has no use for anyone or anything who is tentative, indecisive.”[xvi] James may as well be Melville writing a book report on Captain Ahab. “Herzog may be baseball’s most controversial manager, which is probably why I feel drawn to the man; I’ve little use for your button-down company men in any area, and no use for them at all in sports.” James saw in Herzog, through the fractured mirror of Whiteyball, a reflection of himself and his own sabermetric quest, differently expressed. They were both outsiders, both possessed by a singular quest to solve the impossible riddle of America’s game, men built for the rough seas of a 162-game baseball season in the Midwest’s crushing summer heat, captains for whom the port of conventional wisdom “would fain give succor.”[xvii]

    The On-Deck Circle

    (Enter Ahab: Then, all.)

    All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the moldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask.… That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him.[xviii]

    You don’t want to know what people say; you are, in fact, sick to death of hearing what people say. You want to know what the facts are, and once in awhile you can even dream of moving beyond what the facts are and learning what the truth is.[xix]

    Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing… seems blasphemous.

    Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.[xx]

    So what do you do?[xxi]

    You find yourself one guy who knows the sport inside out, top to bottom, and you put him in charge. You let him run the show totally. No bullshit. No committees. No second-guessing.[xxii]

    Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool![xxiii]

    Moby Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seekest him![xxiv]

    There are three elements of a managerial blunder:

    1. It is a move which goes against the conventional practice.
    2. It occurs at a key moment of the game, and
    3. It doesn’t work.[xxv]

    The Chase

    Speaking of managerial blunders, I seem to have gotten myself into quite the pickle here. I planned to write a 5,000-word essay on Herman Melville and Moby-Dick and here we are, 3,364 words in, rounding third on a beeline toward home, and I have yet to so much as mention the 1985 World Series. O man! That epic seven-game battle between Herzog’s Runnin’ Redbirds and James’s beloved Kansas City Royals. Against the conventional practices of all style guides, MLA and otherwise, I’m now contracting words like I and am, I’m single-spacing block quotes, and I’m excising entire sections of literary analysis I had intended to write, all in a desperate attempt to save precious space on the page.

    At least the whaleness of Whiteyball can be inferred from the chorus of quotes above, but what of “The Whiteness of the Whale,” that inscrutable chapter in Moby-Dick I originally set out to examine? Where be the room on the page left to sufficiently scrutinize that mystical, all-color, no-color indefiniteness at the heart of the color wheel, which “shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation”[xxvi]—where be it now, Mr. White, after all your extravagant hardball verbosity? And what of “The Try-Works” and of the Pequod’s fiery furnace of death and sorrow, in the glow of which our fair Ishmael “but the better saw the redness, the madness, the ghastliness of others?”[xxvii] What shall come of all the vain, wind-chasing hours of Sisyphean research and reading done in and about the book of Ecclesiastes, that “fine hammered steel of woe” from which Ishmael inferred, and Melville intoned, the wisdom of absurdity? What of this quote from Albert Camus, on which one could rightfully compose another five-thousand-word essay altogether, likely a better one than this unwieldy mess:

    To work and create “for nothing,” to sculpt in clay, to know that one’s creation has no future, to see one’s work destroyed in a day while being aware that fundamentally this has no more importance than building for centuries—this is the difficult wisdom that absurd thought sanctions. Performing these two tasks simultaneously, negating on the one hand and magnifying on the other, is the way open to the absurd creator. He must give the void its colors.[xxviii]

    What of “wisdom that is woe” and “woe that is madness” and “‘All is vanity.’ ALL.”?[xxix] With all this blabbering about baseball, how are we ever supposed to pontificate upon Delbanco’s assertion that the “outrageous freedom” of Melville’s prose anticipated literary modernism by some 80 years, Melville being “the first to understand that if a literary work is to register the improvisational nature of experience, it must be as spontaneous and self-surprising as the human mind itself?”[xxx] And did not the idea for this essay originate in a flash of insight that Melville’s book, like Ahab’s hunt, like Bill James and baseball, had something to do with, and something to say about, the United States of America and the character of its citizenry?

    I planned to write a 5,000-word essay on Herman Melville and Moby-Dick and here we are, 3,364 words in, rounding third on a beeline toward home, and I have yet to so much as mention the 1985 World Series.

    “Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm!”[xxxi] Thanks my exhaustive digressiveness, the white whale that was my essay’s thesis has escaped again, and gone with it the space needed to make the ingenious comparison between the Cardinals’ thirty-one-man (24 players, 7 coaches) World Series roster, the Pequod’s 30-man crew, and the thirty states in the Union in 1851, 15 free and 15 slave, which in admitting California as the 16th free state, heated to a boil the simmering debate about what to do with fugitive slaves; upset the precarious voting balance that existed between the evenly-divided states; exposed and denied the “mental refuge in willful insouciance” previously taken by white Americans both north and south; and appeared to thrust the young nation headlong into impending civil war.[xxxii]

    Gone, too, the comparison of pitcher Rollie Fingers’ brief, Bulkington-like tenure in St. Louis, here one day and gone the next, literally, to the Brewers of Milwaukee, thanks to Herzog’s ruthless, autocratic trades, which he executed both impulsively and according to his master plan. Gone, too, the starting lineups! No room left to compare Willie and Ozzie to the valorous harpooners Tashtego and Daggoo. No lines left to make mention of the resemblance between Vince Coleman’s injury at the foot of a monstrous infield tarp before Game 1 and Queequeg in his coffin. No, Joaquin Andujar will not become Pip, the stranded pitcher gone mad. Whitey’s bullpen by committee will not be Ahab’s Fedallah the Parsee, called upon only when the white whale is in sight. John Tudor, Darrell Porter, and Jack Clark will remain neither knight nor squire, despite their obvious parallels with the first-mate Starbuck, second-mate Stubb, and third-mate Flask. “Strangest problems of life seem clearing; but clouds sweep between—Is my journey’s end coming? My legs feel faint; like his who has footed it all day.”[xxxiii]

    Gone, too, the dramatic April-to-October season’s quest for the elusive championship trophy, that enigmatic white whale of the Major Leagues, a journey capped by the heartbreaking seven-game chase that was the 1985 World Series. “The harpoon dropped from his hand.” The drama! The intrigue! How leave the reader without describing the 3-1 series lead squandered by the favored Cardinals to their upstart underdog foes? The blown call in Game 6 by devilish umpire Don Denkinger! “What breaks in me? Some sinew cracks!—’tis whole again; oars! Oars! Burst in upon him!” The unraveling that followed the Denkinger call! The clutch-hitting Royals! The loss of Game 6! The hull breached! Andujar livid! Whitey ejected! Ahab towed under! The loss of Game 7! The Pequod sunk! “Oh, now I feel my topmost greatness lies in my topmost grief.” The mates and harpooners drowned! The loss of the Series! The loss of everything that means everything to a hot-dog-eating, slushie-swilling, scorekeeping St. Louis Cardinals fan! “Thus, I give up the spear!”


    “The drama’s done. Why then here does any one step forth?—Because one did survive the wreck.”

    Melville’s 1851 masterpiece was “mutilated” by publishers and roundly “mocked” by critics when it finally went to press.[xxxiv] His next book, Pierre, confirmed suspicions, held by nearly everyone but himself, that Melville had completely lost his mind. The carnivalesque freeplay of his literary fancy, so ahead of its time, had backfired on him. The American Whig Review went so far as to say his “fancy is diseased.” He went on to write other master works, both short and long, but his promising career as a writer of exuberant American prose ended in 1857, a scant twelve years after it had begun.

    Bill James’s initial literary career spanned a similar stretch of years, from 1977 to 1988. Like Melville, he was, says Lewis,“from time to time, aware of the absurdity of devoting an entire adult life to the search for meaning in box scores. He never seems to have resisted his instinct to do it.”[xxxv] His unorthodox approach and approachable style attracted him a legion of fans and followers among his fellow baseball nerds, who quickly annoyed him right out of the game he loved.“ What James’s wider audience had failed to understand,” says Lewis,“was that the statistics were beside the point. The point was understanding; the point was to make life on earth just a bit more intelligible; and that point, somehow, had been lost.”

    As for James’s quest to break the code of baseball? Well, it worked, but it ended up breaking baseball itself. Like Moby-Dick with the modernists, James’s forgotten ideas were unearthed in the late 1990s by savvy executives of the small-market Oakland Athletics. When they started winning on a shoestring payroll budget, other teams took note, followed suit, and those with the most money began winning championships using Jamesian methods. Two decades later, sabermetrics are the only metrics that matter,“big ball” is baseball, baseball is boring, and Whiteyball has gone the way of the “Pequod” and the hand-hurled harpoon. What else should one have expected? It was, like Melville’s masterpiece, and like all other fine works of American art, destined in time to be swallowed up like Jonah, either in obscurity or by the whale of American corporate oligarchy. But I only, a Whiteyball orphan, am escaped alone to tell thee that it was, like Melville’s masterpiece and Ahab’s ill-fated quest, sure fun while it lasted.



    [i] Quoted in Lewis, Michael. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. 2003. W. W. Norton, 2004, p. 65.
    [ii] See above.
    [iii] James, Bill. The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1983. Ballantine Books, 1983, p. 167.
    [iv] Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. 1957. Princeton, 1990, pp. 309-312. See also: Weinbrot, Howard D. Menippean Satire Reconsidered: From Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century. Johns Hopkins UP, 2005.
    [v] Lewis, pp. 73-74.
    [vi] Quoted in McGrath, Ben. “The Professor of Baseball.” The New Yorker. 14 Jul. 2003.
    [vii] Delbanco, Andrew. Melville: His World and Work. 2005. Vintage, 2006, pp. 11, 22.
    [viii] Bakhtin, Mikhail M. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. University of Minnesota Press, 1984, pp. 106-37.
    [ix] McKeon, Michael. “Watt’s Rise of the Novel within the Tradition of the Rise of the Novel.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 12, no. 2-3, Jan.-Apr. 2000, pp. 253-276. See also: McKeon, Michael, editor. Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach. Johns Hopkins UP, 2000.
    [x] Watt, Ian. “From The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding.” Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach, edited by Michael McKeon, Johns Hopkins UP, 2000, pp. 363-381.
    [xi] Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick: Or, the Whale. 1851. New York, Penguin, 2003, p. 3.
    [xii] Lewis, pp. 87-88.
    [xiii] Quoted in McGrath.
    [xiv] Lewis, p. 81.
    [xv] Herzog, Whitey, and Kevin Horrigan. White Rat: A Life in Baseball. 1987. Perennial Library, 2008, pp. 121-122. See also: Feldmann, Doug. Fleeter Than Birds: The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and Small Ball’s Last Hurrah. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002.
    [xvi] James, Bill. This Time Let’s Not Eat the Bones. Villard Books, 1989, pp. 190-191.
    [xvii] Melville, p. 116.
    [xviii] Melville, p. 178.
    [xix] James, This Time, p. 2.
    [xx] Melville, p. 178.
    [xxi] James, This Time, p. 2.
    [xxii] Herzog, p. 147.
    [xxiii] Melville, p. 623.
    [xxiv] Melville, p. 619.
    [xxv] James, This Time, p. 330.
    [xxvi] Melville, p. 212.
    [xxvii] Melville, p. 463.
    [xxviii] Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus. 1942. Vintage, 2018, 114.
    [xxix] Melville, p. 465. See also: Bennett, Stephen J. “‘A Wisdom That is Woe’: Allusions to Ecclesiastes in Moby-Dick.Literature and Theology, vol. 27, no. 1, 2013, pp. 48-64.
    [xxx] Delbanco, p. 146.
    [xxxi] Melville, p. 464.
    [xxxii] Delbanco, pp. 149-53.
    [xxxiii] Melville, pp. 617-623.
    [xxxiv] Delbanco, p. 178-179, 4.
    [xxxv] Lewis, p. 65, 95.

    Rick White
    Rick White
    Rick White is at work on his dual MA/MFA in Literature and Creative Nonfiction at the University of Montana. His work has been published in High Desert JournalThe A.V. Club, Westword, and Camas, and was recently nominated for Best American Essays.

    More Story
    Lit Hub Asks: 5 Authors, 7 Questions, No Wrong Answers The Lit Hub Author Questionnaire is a monthly interview featuring seven questions for five authors with new books. This month...
  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.