Claire Smith, who was inducted into the writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame at July’s end, tells a charming story about Don Baylor, who died Monday at 68, after a long battle with multiple myeloma. As an Angel, Smith remembers, Baylor once threw a postgame fit and leveled the clubhouse spread. Not because he himself was upset after a hard loss, but to draw the press away from a rookie Angel who’d had a worse game.
It’s a longtime baseball cliche that little men come up big in the clutch when you least expect it. The complementary cliche is the one about big men who aren’t as big as they look until you least expect it or you liberate them from an impossible world.
Baseball and the professoriat have never been strangers, and never will be. When they have met, the net results have offered delight and instruction at once. Most of the time. They have also produced intriguing consequences among the professoriat, not the least of which involved one (A. Bartlett Giamatti, Yale scholar—of Dante—and president in due course) becoming baseball’s commissioner, albeit too ill-fated, too soon.