I have been a baseball fan for more than 60 years, and for the last 40 years I have also been a lawyer – a litigator. That job has required me to write a lot, and it has been one of the most enjoyable parts of the job for me.
Over the past decade, I have taken to writing about baseball. I had designs of writing a baseball book, which never quite made it to fruition. But I kept writing because the act of writing about the game, its characters and the connections between its past and present was itself a source of pleasure. I have shared some of the pieces with a small group of baseball friends, who were generous enough to read and occasionally comment on my essays, and sometimes suggest new topics, such as a piece tracing the parallel careers in Chicago of shortstops Shawon Dunston and Ozzie Guillen.
Before 2020 I had always taken for granted that the baseball season was equivalent to one of the laws of nature — it just arrived each spring as reliably as longer days. But not last year. As I navigated my way through the pandemic, one of the petty deprivations I felt most acutely was the loss of baseball — the absence of games being played every day, all summer. It was the first year in many decades I would not attend a single baseball game in person. To someone who had been a Cubs season ticket holder for 35 years, and frequent attendee for years before that, this was a big deal.
When MLB finally announced it was going to play a 60-game schedule, I knew I wanted to write about what was certain to be a very strange season: games played in empty stadiums with piped in sound, players socially distanced in the dugouts, managers and umpires wearing masks, and TV announcers calling the action from remote locations around the country. I decided to do this in the form of a blog that, like my other occasional baseball writings, I shared with a few baseball friends.
The idea of sharing my reactions to the season with even a small group of fellow fans was important to me. One of the things that was lost in this truncated pandemic season was the shared experience of watching the games and talking about baseball with other fans. These discussions — whether at the park with friends, acquaintances or total strangers, or gathered around a TV watching a game together — are, to me at least, an important part of our collective enjoyment of the game. Writing about the season became a way for me to fill that gap.
I had no lofty goals for what I was writing, and certainly no intention to publish it as a book. But after I completed my entries on the final three games of the World Series, I looked back and realized, over the course of three months, I had written about whether 60 games was a “real” season, the conflicts many fans felt about playing the games while the pandemic raged, the effects of the pandemic on the game, the merits of rules changes implemented by MLB, individual games and occurrences within those games that stood out, the performances of particular players and the relationship between these players and the ones who went before them, and of course the fate of the Chicago Cubs. Over the late fall, I turned what had been essentially a wide-ranging diary of my experience with the 2020 season into a book, The Season of Living Dangerously – A Fan’s Notes on Baseball’s Strangest Season.
I hesitated about going forward with publishing this book. There is so much excellent baseball writing being done by professional scribes who have honed their craft and deserve to be read that it takes a fair amount of chutzpah for a mere fan to offer his baseball observations to an audience that has such a wealth of fine writing available.
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But one thing that helped me overcome my reticence was re-reading Roger Angell’s foreword to his book Late Innings, in which he wrote, “More and more I have come to appreciate anyone who appreciates this game — the fans most of all.” In his homage to the fans, he noted, “it is the attention and mass memory and grave, judgmental expertise of this attendant crowd that give each game its resonance and seriousness.”
Bolstered by these words from the greatest of all living baseball writers, I decided to go ahead and publish. I hope this book provides a different and interesting take on a unique chapter in the history of baseball.
Robert Kopecky has practiced law at Kirkland & Ellis since 1980 and has lived in Oak Park for 32 years. His book, “The Season of Living Dangerously,” is available in hardcover and paperback in Oak Park at The Book Table, 1045 Lake St., booktable.net. All proceeds are being donated to Beyond Hunger to assist their work in providing food and social services to those in need in and around Oak Park.