Guide to Baseball Short Stories: M

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By turns pleasantly absurd and elegaic for a world that couldn't have existed. Castro's Lucy-obsessed lover is a nice touch.

A throwaway farce that knows its own limits, and funny enough. I wonder, though, if there are possible unsettling racial undertones of the story, coming as it does in the year that Jackie Robinson joined organized baseball. It seems to deflect anxieties over integration into the perceived harmlessness of animal fable. See also a contemporary story by Schramm, and Smith's Rhubarb.

Weak baseball details and portentous language make for a pulpy sort of baseball yarn.

These cluster around magical and metafictional themes (baseball turns out to be the key to "Why Jane Austen Never Married," for instance).

A socio-economic allegory of Mexican workers in the US fits nicely over a realistic situation; as so often, baseball is a route to becoming "American."

Inspiration for a legendary pastiche thread on Baseball Think Factory.

Themes of fair play and steadfastness in sport, conveyed in an unsentimental and unhokey way.

Meissner's pieces are dead plain ordinary. They're about things like fathers and sons playing catch, youth league nostalgia, washed-up ballplayers. Once in a while one of the pieces will offer an interesting angle, like two on the equipment of the game, "The Man Who Rescued Baseballs" and "The Glove Lacers."

A mixture of the magical and the mundane, deliberately overwritten in different directions, showing a range of themes related to the game. This collection is at its best when it takes a very far-fetched idea and runs with it, as in the title story. "Goodbye Mr. Spalding" features Albert Spalding's 1888 world baseball tour running into trouble in Samoa, where the American stars encounter a home-grown ball club coached by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The eternal theme of a rookie with a lot to learn, here making sense in the context of 1950s bonus rules that forced big-bonus prospects to stay on major-league rosters.

The title piece is a wry little sketch about the lives of doomed men pent in a tiny cell – until the phone rings …

Profoundly odd story that is enmeshed in this stellar collection of six short stories, all linked by the 1995 Kobe earthquake.