Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - — Rob DeWalt

Play ball! The year 1963 was, to quote au­thor and vet­eran Sports Illustrated writer Jim Ka­plan, “365 days of mir­a­cles and won­der, of brave heroes and cowardly vil­lains that un­doubt­edly ob­scured many sport­ing achieve­ments.”

There were dark mo­ments in our his­tory you couldn’t pos­si­bly miss no mat­ter how long or hard you blinked: the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, the vi­o­lence of the civil rights move­ment, the mount­ing ca­su­al­ties of the Viet­nam War. De­spite — or per­haps in light of — tragedies like these, Amer­i­cans have al­ways looked to their com­pet­i­tive spirit for com­fort and a re­ju­ve­na­tion of na­tional and civic pride.

1963 was a great year for sports fans: the Dodgers’ World Se­ries sweep of the Yan­kees and Sonny Lis­ton’s first-round knock­out of Floyd Pat­ter­son to re­tain the World Heavy­weight Cham­pi­onship ti­tle — for the sec­ond year in a row.

But al­most for­got­ten, at least to those not tuned into the minu­tiae of reg­u­lar-sea­son base­ball lore, is the July 2, 1963 game be­tween the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants and the Mil­wau­kee Braves at Can­dle­stick Park. It was dur­ing this four-hour-plus game that pitch­ers Juan Marichal, a Do­mini­can wun­derkind in his mid-20s, and War­ren Spahn, an south­paw le­gend who had passed the 40-year-old mark, went toe-to-toe for 16 in­nings in front of al­most 16,000 spec­ta­tors. In Ka­plan’s new book, The Great­est Game Ever Pitched: Juan Marichal, War­ren Spahn, and the Pitch­ing Duel of the Cen­tury (Tri­umph Books), the au­thor presents cap­ti­vat­ing ca­reer bi­ogra­phies of Spahn and Marichal, folds them into the cul­tural his­tory of the day, and ramps up the thrill and sus­pense lead­ing to the big matchup at Can­dle­stick. Just in time for the 2011 Ma­jor League Base­ball reg­u­lar sea­son, which be­gins on March 31, Ka­plan re­leases a solid homage to the sport of base­ball and two of its true heroes. At 6 p.m. Mon­day, March 21, Ka­plan signs copies of The Great­est Game Ever Pitched at Col­lected Works Book­store, 202 Gal­is­teo St., 988-4226.

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