[H&F] "Baseball and History: Narratives, Part One"
At Histor and Futility, the Oberamtmann likens history writing to baseball: the details are so important.
While generally covering a much shorter time span than a history book, a baseball narrative – the history of one game – only takes up a newspaper column’s worth of space. Like in history, most of it is not written down. You will not read about every pitch. Even if you consider Gameday or PitchF/X to contain its own narrative, it does not tell you the exact positioning of every player on the field. Most pitches in baseball history were not recorded with that much accuracy anyway. Oh, sure, you might know the infield was in for a batter, or the outfield was in no-doubles defense. But you do not really know where every defensive player was, because every defensive player has a different positioning that he is comfortable with. Torii Hunter and BJ Upton have different definitions for “straightaway.” It is also different based on the number of outs, the count, the pitcher, the batter, and a host of other factors. You might know the temperature, humidity, and so forth but you do not know every gust of wind in every little piece of the ballpark. And you never know when it will matter.
Both types of narratives narratives generally include what the author considers important. “Extraneous” details are left out. If Derek Jeter hits an opposite-field single for a hit, that is his normal style of play. If Ortiz gets a game-winning single because it beat the shift by going the other way, then that will be included in the column. If a peasant girl decides she has an urgent message for the king and is desperate to tell him, the historian likely leaves that out or only includes it as a heartwarming story. Unless that girl is Joan of Arc.