John Thorn penned this essay in the Sunday New York Times Book Review about baseball fiction and its problematic relationship with the people who should like it: baseball fans.
And there's the rub, or at least the first of two. If the best writing about the game is grounded in detail about double switches and squeeze plays, this is a good description of baseball journalism, which has truly been the game's literary glory. While we still want our baseball novelists to get the details of the game right it fatally impugns their authority to do otherwise we need more from them in the way of creating memorable characters. Then there's the other problem: we crave realism from the imaginative renderings of an activity that itself is not real. Play is metaphoric action. Like novelists who write about theater or film, the writer tackling baseball always starts off at one remove from reality, and is always playing catch-up.
Thorn was the winner of the Bob Davids Award at the SABR convention, which is SABR's highest award. He was presented the award by last year's recipient, Dave Smith of Retrosheet.