Bridging by Max Apple, 1984
The magic trick:
Using real and contemporary sports references
I understand if you are guffawing loudly right now as you read this post. The magic trick in this story is that Apple mentions Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount? Yeah, yeah, I know. That barely has anything to do with the story Apple is telling. But it means a lot to me, and it’s my blog, so kindly file your complaints at the home page and let’s move on.
I was a kid in 1984. I liked baseball very much. I remember Nolan Ryan on the Houston Astros. I remember Robin Yount and Joaquin Andujar. Those names instantly conjure up a time period for me – a certain feeling – very much tied to the 1980s and the comforts and insecurities of youth. As such, I was able to place this story in a very specific context. Obviously, that doesn’t work for every reader. But for those who do attach meaning to those baseball players and that time period, the names do more to create atmosphere than any author could’ve done with 10 pages of description. And that’s quite a trick on Apple’s part.
At the Astrodome, Nolan Ryan is shaving the corners. He’s going through the Giants in order. The radio announcer is not even mentioning that by the sixth the Giants haven’t had a hit. The K’s mount on the scoreboard. Tonight Nolan passes the Big Train and is now the all-time strikeout king. He’s almost as old as I am and he still throws nothing but smoke. His fastball is an aspirin; batters tear their tendons lunging for his curve.