"He needed some answers and he needed them right then and now; needed an awakening; an inward deepening; a bold choice about the kind of life he wanted to live; an authentic decision that would transform his life; a design whereby he could fully devote himself to an existence that would uplift and sustain his being; a leap of faith, an epiphany, a raison d'être -- a main purpose for his existence. A Kierkegaardian Leap was the only way he was going to get out of this slump of an existential crisis."

“Bobby was a stargazer who lived by proxy, and as a teenager, satisfied his wish-fulfillment as an athlete vicariously by transcending; by living a competitive life through the actions of his trained protégé. The brothers became close with a cohesiveness more like that between sisters or twins, certainly not like two brothers separated by seven years. It was older brother Bobby who taught his younger brother how to play the game of baseball.  Bobby who molded his younger brother into the ballplayer who he himself wished to be; Bobby who introduced him to the world of books and critical thinking; Bobby who turned his brotherʼs world upside down by leading him into the realm of idealism, mysticism, and existentialism. It was Bobby, the only one capable of understanding this philosopher-ballplayer, who suggested the greatest thinker of the twentieth century; Bobby who recommended the brilliant Bertrand Russell as new mentor and polestar. ”

    A novel by

Jimmie Quinlan

"Like an ominous dark cloud looming over Seattle, a stalking umbra of ill fate hovered over Van Roth where ever he roamed. At times, baseball put this philosophical ballplayer in a happy space, but tragedy always seemed to rain on his parade; hence, his up-and-down roller coaster ride of life -- flying high above the clouds one day; only to come crashing down to earth the next. He constantly found himself dodging the shadowy fringes of society and was now quite certain that the gameʼs waters were shark-infested. It was Joltinʼ Joe DiMaggio who said that baseball was no longer a game when the fun was taken away."

"He set a ton of records, then just disappeared. Rumor has it that an injury ended his baseball career. Some say he moved to San Francisco, became a hippy, and hid out during the Vietnam war. Others have said that he wound up in prison after nearly killing someone in a fistfight, while some say he gave up baseball, moved away, and became a school teacher somewhere up north. Any way you look at it, he never played ball around here again."

EXCERPTS

"There was something about the man that coaches didnʼt like, even detested. Perhaps it was his aura or the persona that he exuded; or perhaps it was that look in his eye or that hot rod he drove. Maybe it was because he came from Olivehurst-Linda, or most likely, it was because he refused to bow down."

"So, there he was, a stranger in some distant land, on his way back from the local Dairy Queen with a copy of Russellʼs History of Western Philosophy tucked under one arm; all the while, munching on a cherry sundae parfait. He donned a faded pair of Leviʼs with a hole in one knee, plain open-collared shirt with sleeves rolled up, un-tucked, and Converse tennies ...  no socks. He wore a single-stranded leather anklet while a few curly locks protruded from under his ball cap. Odd, how he must have appeared in this small prairie town which seemed to have gone back in time."

"I aimed two inches above Tuckerʼs head with a little extra on the pitch so he couldnʼt tomahawk the ball. Sure enough, he was leaning towards the outside part of the plate. His head snapped back and his feet jerked out from underneath him. Down he went. I thought he was going to charge the mound; but instead, jumped up quickly, dusted himself off and dug in, more determined than ever. The last thing in the world to do next would be to throw a fastball, not in any location."

"There was fun and laughter on the practice field and the revered coach was right in the middle of it. All revolved around coach Engelken, or the 'Big E' as they called him. The big bubba with the raspy, cigar-toned voice was charismatic and a father-figure to some. Everybody liked the man. The beloved manager was the quintessential playerʼs coach -- a leader who motivated by way of persona, creating a triumphant atmosphere of joyful well-being. A Yogism would state that the adored coach had a knack for getting 110 percent out of his ballplayers."

“It was the rediscovery of the “Dipsy Doodle” -- a pitch that didn't require a great deal of arm speed nor any violent turning, twisting, or supination of the shoulder and elbow; moreover, a pitch that could be thrown without pain. The forkball was a pitch that older brother Bobby had taught him after reading a magazine article about Elroy “The Baron” Face, the great relief pitcher of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifties and sixties. Face was a pioneer of relief pitching and the archetype of what later became known as “the closer.” Perhaps this forkball or “Dipsy Doodle” as Van Roth called it, would be the answer to all of his problems. Dipsy doodle, defined as artfully shady or a bewildering plunge.”

"I was getting close to the core of the matter by wading through the ballplayerʼs river of consciousness and organizing his mindstream -- nearing his essence; his self-actualization or impulse to convert oneself into what one is capable of being; his psyche, his consciousness, his fierceness, his competitive being, his “vital breath” -- his Latin Spiritus."

"He disliked the man in a suit and he especially loathed politicians. Expose a hundred and ninety will appear as pinocchios dangling from the strings of Satan. Like J.D. Salingerʼs Holden Caulfield, Williams had a distaste for phonies. One might wonder if the king of baseball liked anyone at all. He liked the popcorn and ticket vendors; the parking lot attendants and those who swept up after the games. He liked the average joe on the street. Theodore was different. “Teddy Ballgame” was a rebel."

"McCrackin was not pushinʼ for better performance; not pushinʼ Van Roth to be all that he could be. No, ... McCrackin was pushinʼ Van Roth to succumb; to get on his hands and knees and bow down to the idol McCrackin wished to be, but that just wasnʼt going to happen with Van Roth, for he would bow down to no mortal, even if his career was on the line; thus, there would be no team spirit, no team camaraderie, no family, and as a result, no championship."

"Jackie Jensen started on the mound for Berkeley in game two and took a 7-3 lead into the fourth inning when he lost control of his blazing fastball and allowed Yale to knot the score at seven apiece. The Golden Bears took an 8-7 lead with an unearned run in the seventh inning before Yaleʼs George H.W. Bush stepped up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and ... struck out! Cal became college baseball's first National champion and can thank “The Busher,” Yale's captain  and first-baseman, for going 0-7 in the series."

 "They met toe-to-toe, face-to-face, vis-à-vis. I can only imagine the look on Van Rothʼs face as he hurled the rake aside -- cold-blooded glacial eyes with the lethal fixed stare of a basilisk, king of all deadly serpents; that same look described by Mr. Hughes -- sharp malignant peepers: a leery gaze not unlike one described in Joseph Conradʼs Heart of Darkness -- 'an immense stare of condemnation and a loathing for all the universe'." 

"I was apprehensive when I first approached the “Rotten One.” He was wearing a faded Leviʼs, a pair of black Reebokʼs, and a dark blue windbreaker. His persona was more akin to one of Satan's Angles than an ex-ballplayer. Come to think of it, there was an old Panhead parked outside. Although he had the mocking attitude of an Aristophanes and the personality of a Don Rickles, there was something engaging behind his belligerent, pugnacious crudeness."

“He loved every aspect of the game -- the smell of fresh-cut grass, the pop of the ball hitting the pocket of the glove, the sound of the bat after making solid contact and the echo that followed, pepper and warming up when everyone was a pitcher practicing their curves and knucklers, the chatter of ballplayers and coaches -- hey babe, attaboy, keep your head in there, eye on the ball, level swing. He didnʼt play organized football or basketball nor cared much about school; merely waited all winter until practice began the following spring. Baseball became his religion and reason for living. God, it was great to be alive!”

“'But I must think, he thought. Because it is all I have left. That and baseball,' so said Hemingway's Santiago, that lonely old fisherman while adrift far out in a shark-infested sea."

“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth--more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.” (Russell, Bertrand. Why Men Fight. NY: The Century Company, 1917. pp 178, 179

"He wanted to know the being behind the appearance. Esse est percipi -- if not perceived, then non-existence. His lifeworld of “unwelt” wasnʼt working; hence, his self-imposed psychotherapy; his mesmerism of psychic phenomena; his entering a dimension of supernatural consciousness; his paranormal experience -- his philosophical exploration of removing all barriers in an attempt to find his personal “homeworld” -- his meaning of “being in the world.” He had examined his tragedy with an existential microscope and didnʼt like what he saw. What was this life without baseball? Being and Nothingness?"

"The pitching philosophy was fairly simple--pound the low outside corner of the plate with four-seam fastballs, overhand curves, and late-breaking sliders until the batter begins to lean in that direction or crowd the plate; then bust him inside with heat just below the belt, and occasionally deliver a little chin music, just to keep the hitter honest.”


"He looked ahead and could see the dusty outskirts of Dauphin, Manitoba -- “Gateway to the North” and home of the Redbirds. Ahead in the distance, he saw a glimmering light. His mind turned heavy as his sight grew dim. Good God, he thought. What the hell did I get myself into this time?"

"He would be living in cramped quarters and share a barracks with thirty-nine other soldiers, most of which would be headed to Vietnam. He would be facing the nakedness of man with all his absurdity while taking orders from one of the most tyrannical beings on the face of the earth -- a United States Army drill sergeant. There would be no spring training in Florida. Professional baseball was put on hold, if not completely lost. I could only cringe with the thought that something ominous was about to happen. Overcome, Mr. Van Roth. Godspeed."

 “What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die ... what good would it do me if truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I recognized her or not and producing in me a shudder of fear rather than a trusting devotion?”

"He didnʼt need any of this tomfoolery for he had a different crutch, baseball, and loved playing the game. For the time being, he would have none of this foolish fandango and left all those false delusions in San Francisco. On opening-day of the 1967 baseball season, at age 17, he struck out 19 batters and shut out the three-time defending Sierra Foothill League champion Oroville Tigers 1-0. The 19 Kʼs set a new school record that still stands today. The virus lay dormant."

"What an unusual odd duck he must have been -- a James Dean-like ballplayer with home run power and a ninety mile-per-hour fastball by day; a philosophical bookworm by night."

THE EXISTENTIAL

    BALLPLAYER

"I had never heard of Marysville, California; had no idea that this little town played such a major role in the founding and history of America’s thirty-first state, nor a clue that this little burg was once in line to become California’s state capital. Sutter’s Mill is in the history books as the place where gold was discovered in 1848 that led to the great gold rush, but it was Marysville that became the gateway to the goldfields which lay just a few miles to the east, and most importantly, as far as baseball is concerned, I had nary a clue that Marysville played such an important role in the shaping of California baseball history."

"The second son was a pea from the same pod. Take a look at me Pops, Iʼm a lot like you were. “Pops” was the classic rebel with his quiet demeanor ... his running away from home at age thirteen ... the Colt 45 under his pillow ... the lone trucker atop the Sierras in his Cummins-powered Peterbilt ... the 1936 roadster ... the Indian motorcycle... He may have once been a miner, but never in search for a heart of gold. “Pops” was no family man. He was a trucker, on the road from sunup till sundown. “Pops” Van Roth was a loner. These inherited traits of rebellion were embedded and the young ball-playing son would have to live with them for the rest of his life. The day he finds peace will be the day he dies."

 CHAPTERS

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"Anything is possible when chasing after a dream; living in a mystery. Bobby Van Roth climbed high above the clouds where his curiosities became obsessive. His blue-sky way of thinking manufactured images of home runs and no-hitters. He picked the brains of the masters -- Ruth, Cobb, DiMaggio, Williams, Feller, Spahn, and Koufax. Bobbyʼs imagination was filled with wonder and bordered on fantasy which held his key to meaning. While living in a pipe dream, his world became filled with illusion -- ignis fatuus -- a foolʼs paradise."

"Both communicated in silence through their churlish eyes of malice. Van Roth was partially “on strike” rebelling against the drill-sergeant tactics and dictatorship of coach McCrackin as every dictator demands obedience and surrender. McCrackinʼs tyranny vitiated the young pitcherʼs individuality, not to mention his will to win. The two were in a state of loggerheads with each other."

"Whoa! What a gut-wrenching turn of events. He closed his eyes for a brief moment only to awaken and realize that all his dreams had vanished like dust in the wind. The moment was gone. Although blindsided, the dismissed pitcher never said a word ... merely turned and walked away; headed straight to the locker room and handed in his uni. The present was shattered, resulting in a blockage of the future and leaving the disavowed ballplayer standing face-to-face with a hostile world. The game that he loved just died in his arms that day"

"In the two games between Nolan and Van Roth, after twenty innings, there was one run scored and seventy batters had struck out; thirty-seven in game two; California records that have withstood the test of time and still stand today; statistically, the two greatest pitching duels in the history of baseball. Never, has 37 strikeouts been recorded in a baseball game of eleven innings or less."

"His dad was a trucker and diesel mechanic. He put a big-block Caddy engine in a 1930 model A five-window coupe, competition orange. It had big meats in the rear with a Lincoln differential, Corvette tranny with a Hurst shifter, and a black 8-ball for a shift-knob. That rat rod had torque up the ying-yang. We use to go cruisinʼ and drag racinʼ -- stoplight to stoplight. Damn, I miss those days."

THE OUTSIDER

"The sheer power of his Cadillac-powered '32 Model A combined with the sounds of the times provided an adrenalin-fed rush that motivated his performance on the ball field. A British logician kept it all under control and in perspective. Put on some upbeat songs. May all your troubles be gone."

28

"Damn that umpire. The game was over and nothing could be done. The players lined up along the foul lines to get their pins and trophies. Some were crying. A few of their mums were crying. I was crying and looked out at Davie but didnʼt see any tears. He just stood there with this unemotional, stone-cold, kinda eerie blank stare on his face."

"I became his courtesy runner and he expected me to run those bases like that peach from Georgia--Tyrus Cobb. At college, I was given a nickname--“The Animal” ... because I ran the bases like Ty Cobb. I was just a kid but I vividly remember my brother out on the ball field. Several other kids in the neighborhood had contracted the virus, however, you wouldnʼt see them on the diamond ... but there was Bobby toeing the rubber, taking a mighty cut at the plate, or scooping the ball out of the dirt at first base. He wasnʼt just a fill-in. He was the coach, captain of the team, and best player on the field. He stood out. Bobby was the ultimate, existential ballplayer.....”

2

"My first thought was: ʻOk, Tony, bring it on after he started for the mound; but instead, he veered off and began to trot toward first base. About halfway, he slowed to a walk and called a timeout after reaching the bag, then moved towards his first base coach, bent over, and began to spit up blood before being helped off the field and taken to the hospital. I broke two of his ribs. No regrets.” 

"He had been sinking, drowning in a sea of mental primordial soup -- religiophilosophicopsychophysio -- a goulash of theology, philosophy, science, and existentialism; but that was before Mr. Russell showed up and began draining the swamp with his logic and analytics; giving rise to perception and intention. Could a change in cognitive process lead to salvation -- a lifeline of deliverance from the spoils of existentialism? Like magic, Van Roth emerged from his cocoon, but no butterfly would appear. There would be no outward signs of vindictiveness, but certainly a change of attitude towards the game itself. Subconscious spite was now part of his repertoire."

 EXISTENTIAL BALLPLAYER

13

1

"These stigmatic thoughts would be planted in his brain, leaving an embedded scar that would subconsciously affect the rest of his life. In his restless dreams, this castaway walked alone. Hello darkness, heʼs come to visit you again. The hell with baseball, he thought ... then became mired in a deep depression."

"I’ve seen it all before, mostly while interviewing the parents of some famous athlete -- trophy cases chock full of awards, keepsakes, and memorabilia ... even a few books, but mostly college textbooks, a few classics and dime store novels, along with an occasional bible -- but nothing like this trophy room. This was a whole room full of hardware, like the wall of fame at Joe Marty’s Bar and Grill in Sacramento, only to a lesser degree. It was the books that captured my attention. Hundreds of them. My God! The Library!"

15

"On page 65 of his journals, he links the connection of Platoʼs logos (Apollonian thinking logic) with controlling his Dionysian thymos (spirited anger) and guiding his drive and desire (eros) to form the ultra-competitive being. Pauche! I could sense his will to survive, that Bergsonian Élan Vital or vital force; his Nietzschean will to power or aim to become master of his own destiny; his ambition and motivation, his individual confident self, for the noble soul has reverence for itself or the sense of immense importance to what oneʼs doing and that great things lie ahead. Be all you can be and make your life a masterpiece! I began to apprehend his inner workings, witnessing his purposive striving course of action; his exercise of volition; his self-realization; his psuche! I could sense his vigilant arete of keen eagle-eyed awareness and self-control. If only I could muster his insights. I was, however, without actually being the man, about as close as I could possibly get to witnessing his animus -- the mind and SOUL of Davie Van Roth."

“I witnessed some dark entity unbeknown to me, some obscure thing in a dense fog, and out of this dimness an apparition appeared, then quickly sped away while looking over a shoulder as if retreating from a stranger. It was fleeting, darting in and out of awareness as if wanting to escape; as if not wanting to be acknowledged. It seemed detached, somewhat alien. The fog lifted and I could see clearly before coming out of the trance and awakening to eyes wide open. I was frightened but had my answer.”

“Thatʼs impossible. Nobodyʼs pitching arm would hold up under those conditions. He would have pitched most of the season with less than two days rest and several games with no rest. He would have pitched twelve innings in a day on several occasions while throwing 150 to 200 pitches. Nowadays, a coach and the college would get sued if there was an injury.”

"Baseball had been his moral compass by which he navigated the world -- his source of meaning -- his salvation. The diamond was his sanctuary and the dugout his refuge while the raised earthen platform and batterʼs box were the pulpits upon which he preached. Baseball was his gift of existence; his cloistered Ivory Tower; his Shangri-la; his world of passionate isolation providing remote seclusion from the battered streets of Olivehurst-Linda."

"It wasnʼt a question whether the ball would leave the park or not. The question was: would he tip his cap? As Ted rounded second, the fans were practically begging for some kind of reconciliation. As he rounded third, the coaches were pleading: For Godʼs sake Ted, tip your damn cap. The fans, players, and management were asking for one last curtain call as he crossed home plate and headed for the dugout. He paused, but just for a brief moment, then continued on to the dressing room, thinking: 'Screw it. Iʼm going fishing."'

"Chickens, goats, pit bulls, and rough-looking young men roamed the neighborhoods. There were no street lights, curbs, gutters, nor sidewalks. Usually, slums and ghettos are separated by a set of railroad tracks, but in this case, by the Yuba River. Styx and Davie Van Roth didnʼt grow up on the other side of the tracks; they grew up on the other side of the river, a waterway that separated two distinct lifestyles -- namely, the haves and the have-nots."

"At times, the game of baseball brought extreme joy, even bliss. Other times, I've wished that I'd never picked up the damn ball in the first place. One morning, I woke up and suddenly realized that I was two thousand miles away from home, flat broke with a torn muscle in my forearm and in need of shoulder surgery."

"For the year 1970, at four levels of competition, he had struck out 343 batters, the most by any pitcher in California baseball history during a calendar year. His 160 K’s at college led all collegiate pitchers in the nation while his 15 Ks/9innings pitched for the Twin Cities Giants is a Yuba-Sutter record that still stands today. His 127 K’s while pitching for the Dauphin Redbirds in the Canadian Leagues is also a team record that still stands. For his efforts, the free agent was invited to spring training with the Minnesota twins in Melbourne, Florida but he was a no-show. What the hell?"