Guide to Baseball Plays
Les matches du dimanche, dans un stade plein à craquer, et le théâtre, que j'ai aimé avec une passion sans égale, sont les seuls endroits du monde où je me sente innocent. --Albert Camus, La chute
Baseball plays are a minor genre, far outnumbered by prose fiction and even by films. But there are a few notable plays and I will try to list them here. For the moment no alphabetical index, or even separate page, is necessary.
- Abbott, George, and Douglas Wallop (book); Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (music and lyrics). Damn Yankees. (1955). Fan sells soul to bring Senators the flag.
Adapted from Wallop's 1954 novel. Energetic and adult musical that has remained in the American repertoire. Filmed in 1958 with original stars Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon; revived in 1994 with Bebe Neuwirth.
- Boocock, Paul. Boocock's House of Baseball. (2005). One-man show that "examines contemporary American politics through the vehicle of baseball."
"Mr. Boocock serves up a stream-of-consciousness mishmash full of baseball moments that are too well known to be illuminating and Republican-bashing that is too simplistic to be funny" -- Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times, 4 July 2005.
- Boretz, Allen, and Ruby Sully. The Hot Corner. (1956). Typescript, New York Public Library. Minor-league skipper can make his way back to the major leagues on the coattails of a phenom pitcher -- if he can get the phenom to cross a peanut-vendors' picket line.
Never published, this play ran for five performances in January of 1956. It was directed by, and starred, Broadway veteran Sam Levene as the manager; Don Murray played the young pitcher.
- Dresser, Richard. Rounding Third. (2002). Woodstock, IL: Dramatic Publishing, 2004. Youth-league coaches butt heads over values and personalities.
A two-character play that opened in Chicago in 2002 and later had a brief Off-Broadway run. Spare, imaginative, and funny without turning farcical.
- Gilman, Rebecca. The Sweetest Swing In Baseball. (2006). About to be discharged from a psychiatric ward before it suits her, a patient attempts to convince her doctors that she is Darryl Strawberry.
- Greenberg, Richard. Take Me Out. (2002). New York: Stage and Screen, 2002. Godlike New York centerfielder announces that he is gay.
Funny, unnerving drama that arranges clichés (the fresh busher, the inscrutable foreigners, the wise skipper, the lethal beanball) in new designs.
- Koertge, Ron. Riding the Pine. In Mercado. Two boys comment on a youth-league game while performing the title activity: an unathletic statistician and an injured player.
Quiet piece, reminiscent of Rounding Third in being basically a two-character short play with imagined game action.
- Meyer, Allen, and Michael Nowak. The Signal Season of Dummy Hoy. Chicago: Chicago Plays, 1986. Star deaf-mute centerfielder Dummy Hoy breaks in to pro ball.
Sprawling but inventive play mixes speaking and signing. Ultimately subordinates dramatic interest to themes and ideas.
- Miller, Jason. Lou Gehrig Did Not Die of Cancer. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1972. Marriage of an embittered youth-league baseball coach and his aspiring actress wife disintegrates.
Notable for the central character, Victor Spinilli; the actor playing Spinilli is challenged to play about 2/3 of this one-act as quite drunk, but coping well enough to speak complex and quirky dialogue.
- Phillips, Louis. Pop-up. Aethlon 24.2 (Spring/Summer 2007): 137-141. During the six seconds that a pop foul hangs in the air, a catcher and his manager meditate on life.
Very short one-act play with considerable disarming humor.
- Schmidt, Ed. Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting. (1990). Branch Rickey assembles a brain trust of famous black men on the eve of Jackie Robinson's debut in the majors.
Talky but intelligent drama that keeps its attention strongly on social and political issues.
- Siegel, Joel, and Martin Charnin (book); Bob Brush (music); Martin Charnin (lyrics). The First. (1981). New York: Samuel French, 1983. Jackie Robinson breaks into the major leagues.
Straightforward narrative musical treatment of very familiar material. Redeemed by some snappy dialogue and lyrics. (At one point, addressing Heaven, Robinson sings: "It's a beginning / God bless you, Larry Doby / Help him hit lefties / Or they'll trade him to Nairobi.")
- Wilson, August. Fences. (1983-86). New York: Plume, 1986. A former Negro League star ages ungracefully in the company of friends and family.
Pulitzer Prize winner that generally goes light on the baseball-as-metaphor-for-life motif (except for one scene where it's clear that Troy Maxson lays it on a bit thick in an attempt to justify his behavior). Set in 1957; Troy is one of the generation of black stars born too soon to play in the integrated majors.
For more information on some individual plays, see the Internet Broadway Database.