Josh Wilker posed an interesting question last week on his blog. Expanding on a list of his five favorite authors, Wilker offered an Opening Day batting order of his top nine writers. He asked about other people’s starting lineups, and I’m happy to offer mine here:
2B- Lawrence Ritter: A second baseman gets a lot of chances in the field, and who better for this than Ritter, who interviewed a couple dozen former greats in his outstanding oral history, The Glory of Their Times.
LF- Bill Watterson: The author of Calvin & Hobbes is perfect in the outfield, where his protagonist once accidentally stayed after his team went to bat and wound up catching one of its fly balls.
3B- Tobias Wolff: It’s a dream for any team to have a great infielder who can also hit, and Wolff could be its star. His memoirs This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s Army are two of my favorites– vivid, touching, powerful– and there may be no finer short story than Bullet in the Brain. Wolff is the Albert Pujols of this squad.
RF- John Krakauer: The author of three fine books in my collection, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer writes with a forceful, masculine style. He’d be the power hitter here.
1B- Joe Posnanski: How to protect Krakauer in the order? By having a bat behind him as good as Poz, the Sports Illustrated writer, inspiring blogger, and two-time Associated Press Sportswriter of the Year. With his warm, gentle style, Posnanski would do capable work at first base as well.
DH- David Sedaris: A designated hitter has one job and one job only: hit well. David Sedaris does not spur any great introspection in me. His essays leave no real lasting impact on my life. But they make me laugh, consistently. As a humorist, Sedaris is a .350 hitter.
CF- David Halberstam: A great center fielder has superb range, which Halberstam certainly had, starting as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnam correspondent for the New York Times before transitioning into writing sports books, among them the classic Summer of ’49.
C- John Irving: Catchers need to be sturdy and dependable, and Irving is a hallmark of this, having written good books since 1970. A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my absolute, top favorites, I read most of The Fourth Hand in one epic night, and I appreciated The World According to Garp, even if that sucker was long.
SS- Joan Didion: The lone female author here (though I also like what I’ve read of Sarah Vowell and Isabel Allende, to name two), Didion went to the same high school as me, albeit 50 years earlier, C.K. McClatchy in Sacramento. We both wrote for the campus newspaper, and supposedly when Didion did so, she’d crumple her articles and throw them away in frustration, only to have them retrieved by classmates. She went on to UC Berkeley and a lifetime of writing essays, screenplays, and books. Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The Year of Magical Thinking are both excellent.