“Deadball” – By David B. Stinson: A Metaphysical Baseball Novel Review

Friday May 18th, 2012

“DEADBALL” –  A Metaphysical Baseball Novel BY DAVID B. STINSON

(Huntington Park Publications:  2011)

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  On the quest to uncover original and fascinating baseball books here on MLB reports, today we present yet another treasure that we have uncovered. “Deadball”, by author David B. Stinson. A “recovering lawyer” as he describes himself, Stinson’s Deadball is his first venture into the literally world. 

Here is the official Deadball release:

Set in 1999, Deadball is the story of Byron Bennett, a former minor-league player who has a deep and spiritual connection to the game of baseball and its history. He sees things in a way others cannot and believes in things others would not. He thinks the old men working the menial jobs in the diners, dives, and graveyards he frequents are not what they seem. They try to fit in, go unnoticed, but Byron suspects they are not your typical second-career working stiffs.

Spurred by the impending demise of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, Byron becomes obsessed with learning as much as he can about Baltimore’s other former professional ballpark sites – in particular, Union Park, home of the 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles.

Part pilgrimage and part road trip, Deadball visits vanished ballparks like Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, Cleveland’s League Park, Detroit’s Tiger Stadium, Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, and New York’s Polo Grounds.

Deadball evokes many of the well-known and not-so-well known Charm City institutions located in and around the Harwood section of Baltimore, including Union Park, old Oriole Park, Memorial Stadium, New Cathedral Cemetery, Greenmount Cemetery, the Stone Tavern, Ron’s Billiards, Byrdland Carryout, Royal Books, and the Babe Ruth Museum.

Deadball will appeal to baseball fans and history buffs, but it also will appeal to anyone who knows what it means to be driven by a passion that others can neither appreciate nor understand.

When I first found out about Deadball, my first question to myself was: what the heck is metaphysics? What is truly the rationale behind metaphysics and how will this relate to baseball? To start that journey, I trusted our good friends over at Wikipedia for a definition:

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:

  1. “What is there?”
  2. “What is it like?”

A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysicist or a metaphysician. The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility. A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other. Another central branch of metaphysics is cosmology, the study of the totality of all phenomena within the universe.

Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy. The term science itself meant “knowledge” of, originating from epistemology. The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy. By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called “science” to distinguish it from philosophy. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.

Do I still have you? Good. If you made it this far- clearly you have a strong curiosity nature to you…and possess an extreme love of baseball. I’m glad to hear. It was worth the trip. Don’t let the metaphysics talk fool you. Yes, the book has a deep inquisitive and philosophical side to it. But when reading the book, you don’t think along those lines. A good book is based on the strength of the author as a storyteller. To be able to take a reader and have them step into the shoes of the lead character. To see their world. To see their story…through “those” eyes. The lead in this tale is Byron Bennett. I have to say, I got completely lost in Bennett’s world. There were times that I felt like I wanted to fire up a Doors cd, turn on lava lamp and become zen with Deadball. The book captured my attention and got me thinking. Part of the strong points that I always look for in a baseball book. 

Reading through Deadball and then completing it, I almost don’t know where to begin and where to end. I have the feeling of so much information in my brain that I almost want to burst. Firstly, I have to admit that I learned a great deal from this book. Old parks, players, baseball moments…this book is filled with them to the max. But it is not your typical tired or stale historical piece. Rather, Stinson is able to introduce all of this baseball information through his mouthpiece- the aforementioned Byron Bennett. I felt reading Bennett’s thoughts and journeys that he has more baseball knowledge in his pinkie than I have in my brain. A credit to the strength that the Bennett character portrays in the book. So here I am, going from one baseball journey to another- yet I am learning baseball at a lightning fast pace. Double bonus. And yes, this book does travel fast. Bennett is part baseball historian, part baseball ghost chaser…who never stops thinking about baseball and searching for more information. Yes, there is a little Byron Bennett in all of us.

I really hate to put a label on Deadball, although it is very tempting. Is it Dr. Who? The Twilight Zone? Field of Dreams. Perhaps to some if you go looking for it. I don’t know and truthfully, I didn’t worry about the comparisons. Reading Deadball, I judged the book based on its own merits and uniqueness. Trust me, this book is one of a kind. The undertaking that David Stinson underwent to make Deadball a reality was a heavy one I’m sure. He had to be careful not to become too science-fiction/alternate universe in his style, but yet not fall too deep as a historical piece. It was a fine line that he had to walk- and in my estimation, he completed the path successfully. The idea of the supernatural generally does not appeal to me and I did not know how I would feel about the book going in. The fact that the book was crammed with so much juicy and interesting baseball history facts, stats and information gave me a different perspective on the book. I wasn’t reading something imaginary and unrealistic. Rather, I was enjoying my love of baseball and increasing my knowledge in a fun and interesting way. To be able to get that much baseball information into a book of that size (331 pages), it amazes me how well Stinson succeeded as a first time baseball author.

I can see how Stinson’s legal education and background benefited the creation of Deadball. The book is not written by a traditional baseball writer. Rather, the book flows from beginning to end in a very calculated manner. There is a purpose, reasoning and the development/justification of ideas. If I had any doubts on any of Bennett’s travels, Stinson was able to explain the scenarios well and keep the visualizations moving. Even if you are not a fan of the Orioles or baseball history, as long as you have an interest of any kind in the game of baseball, you will enjoy Deadball. If you love baseball, learning baseball and want to grow in your appreciation of the game, Deadball will be for you.

As my last thoughts, I am always curious when reading a novel as to how much of the author is within the main character of a book. The best books are written from the heart, with their authors being able to add their personal lives, experiences and thoughts into the storylines. My question to David Stinson if he was sitting before me: how much of you is within Byron Bennett? Probably a great deal, given how well Stinson was able to convey Bennett in the book. So then the bigger question, is how much of myself is within Byron Bennett? Since I never experienced what he did, Bennett doesn’t represent who I am- but more parts of what I am and who I want to become. I saw my baseball curiosity and interest in Bennett. I found myself drawn to his experiences, from meeting players in the past to experiencing the old-time parks. The truth is, if you are reading Deadball- you will see that there is some Byron Bennett. There is some Byron Bennett in all of us. Maybe Bennett is an extension or alter-ego of David Stinson. Or simply a fictional character with an interesting story to tell. The fact that I even thought about Byron Bennett in those terms meant David Stinson accomplished his mission. I read. I learned. I experienced. I thought. I questioned the baseball past and starting looking to my baseball future. I am. Therefore baseball is the answer. The Metaphysics of Baseball. Welcome to Deadball.

About the Author:  David B. Stinson, a former litigator for the U.S. Department of Justice, is a recovering lawyer. A long-time youth baseball coach, he did not learn to hit a curve ball until he was in his 40′s. David is General Manager of the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts which plays in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (a summer wooden bat league). Deadball is his first novel. He resides with his wife and three children in Silver Spring, Maryland. Be sure to check out his sites: deadballbaseball.comdavidbstinsonauthor.com. To pick up your copy of Deadball, head over to Amazon!


Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

Posted on May 19, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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