RIGHT OFF THE BAT PODCAST: 01
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Martin: Welcome to the very first Right Off the Bat podcast—your must-listen station for news and views about the weird and wonderful worlds of cricket and baseball—or should that be baseball and cricket? Either way, my name is Martin Rowe, and I’m here with my colleague Evander Lomke. Or is that Evander Lomke here with me Martin Rowe?
Evander: Hello, listeners.
Martin: It’s Friday the 13th of May, and as far as we’re concerned we could walk under a ladder with a broken mirror and a litter of black cats and it couldn’t be a more auspicious day, since we’re expecting at any moment the arrival of our book Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life, in which Evander and I expatiate on the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the past and present, and the myths and truths surrounding the two games that we love so much: cricket and baseball. But since this is the first podcast we’ve done—on this or any other occasion—we’re going to take up your time in this one by telling you a little bit more about who we are. If you want to see what we look like, read more about the book, or check out our blogs, visit our website: rightoffthebatbook.com. OK, so first of all, Evander: Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Evander: OK. I was born in the New York suburb of Mount Vernon, but I’ve lived almost all my life in the Bronx. My mother, Rosalia, “Leah” as she was known in America, was invited to the U.S. with her family from Palermo. Grandpa Giovanni, who was a sculptor, founded the art department at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. When Giovanni became too sick to work in Ohio, he took his family to Brooklyn. Leah became a lifelong fan of the Yankees, to the point of keeping daily score cards from Mel Allen’s radio broadcasts.
My father, Lester, was the firstborn American on the Lomke side of my family. His father, Simon, known in America as Samuel, was likely from Lithuania or Belarus. A maker of bed frames, he married Aneta, known to me as Anna, in her home city of Odessa. Though he loved to play baseball and its urban variants, young Lester had poor eyesight. Lester was a big Yankees fan, a Babe Ruth man, and even more, a Hank Greenberg follower.
Mom and dad permitted me to learn baseball at my own pace. I remember going to a game, with a plastic bat, a rubber ball, and a small glove, at the age of six or younger—though I believe I was taken to Ebbets Field at three. Most of my family, on both sides, were Yankees fans, but other members pulled for the Dodgers or Giants.
I was never terribly athletic, though I was once timed running 40 yards at 4.9 seconds. I had passable reflexes, and a decent throwing arm. But I couldn’t reliably catch fly balls no matter how much I practiced. In the field—whether engaged with baseball, softball, punchball, or stickball—I was more apt to make a spectacular play, blowing ten easy ones for each circus catch.
What I was really good at, however, was watching baseball games and reading baseball biographies. At nine, ten, and eleven, I devoured the boy bios. I went to a lot of Yankees and Mets games during the Wonder Years. I had better-than-average baseball-card collections. I collected Street & Smith’s and Who’s Who in Baseball (I practically memorized them). And even as I grew into adulthood, marriage, and fatherhood, I continued to devote way too much time to watching—even better, listening—to games on the radio. I never kept score as Mom did. But I’m sure I have listened to more games than she did.
In Right Off the Bat, Martin and I attempt to demystify the respective lores of baseball and cricket. We want you to see a game, baseball or cricket, even to try your hand at it. In this crazy world, these games can somehow distill some of the best aspects of humanity: unscripted drama with a tinge of artistic and religious zeal. Like life itself, these games can be a bore at many times on many levels. But when the action reaches a fever pitch, there’s nothing quite like them.
So that’s my story. Now it’s Martin’s turn to tell you a little bit about himself.
Martin: I was born and raised in England and learned cricket from my father and the two schools I went to from the age of eight to eighteen. I was always more enthusiastic than talented, and I think I was allowed to be a member of the various teams I played for because I was the only one who understood the rules. In 1978, my father realized a lifelong ambition and got a job at the Marylebone Cricket Club (or MCC), the storied home of cricket at Lord’s cricket ground in North London. The perks included free tickets to games and indoor coaching, which I received gratefully for two years beginning when I was thirteen. It didn’t make me any good at the game, but it ignited my enthusiasm, and while the strength of my hand–eye coordination has waned, that never has. Even though I haven’t played seriously in over twenty years, I follow games online and in due course joined my father as a member of the MCC.
Evander took me to my first baseball game in 1996, but I’d cast an interested eye over the sport since my arrival in the U.S. in 1991. At first, it was hard to get used to the noise and extraneous entertainment of the American game, but as anyone who’s been to or seen a one-day cricket match anywhere in the world will know, cricket is no longer a game of polite coughs, gentle applause, and the occasional strangled shout of “good shot.” Perhaps it never was that really. Anyway, that first game stimulated between us a conversation about baseball and cricket that’s been going on ever since. Last year, we decided to turn that discussion into what we fancifully call “prose,” and it’s called Right Off the Bat, and it’s arriving today.
Right Off the Bat is a reflection on, and celebration of, the numerous parallels and several tangents that have marked the mutual histories of baseball and cricket. We didn’t want to overwhelm the reader with the technical stuff that can easily put the casual observer off either game, and we wanted to avoid the tendency that both neophytes and old-timers have to wander off the clear path of understanding and illumination for the thick reeds of jargon and the thornbushes and briars of arcane lore. It’s our contention that, at heart, both games are pretty simple: a guy with a piece of wood in his hand is trying to hit a spherical object, and usually missing, and one team is attempting to score more runs than the other. And that, Evander, is that.
Evander: OK. There’s a lot of baseball happening at the moment, since the season in the U.S. is well underway, and the competition is heating up. I’ll have more to say about it in the next podcast. But you can read my tips for the playoffs right now at rightoffthebatbook.com.
Martin: And, after months and months of one-day cricket of one sort or another, we’re now beginning a stretch of the year where the longest form of the international game—Test cricket—is being played. So, we’ll fill you in on that in due course. You can sign up to receive news about our podcasts by going to the website: rightoffthebatbook.com. You can get our book on Amazon and, by the end of this month, you’ll be able to download the e-book—chock full of extraordinary facts and shocking revelations (and that’s only the copyright page). Until next time, then. This is Evander Lomke and Martin Rowe . . .
Evander: Or should that be Martin Rowe and Evander Lomke?
Martin: . . . signing off, and wherever you are and whichever game you play, may the ball always meet the middle of your bat or arrive in the gloves with a satisfying thud.