If you’re a devoted Salinger fan, you probably know about his apparent appreciation for baseball. With the news of his death, I thought I’d mention that his “The Laughing Man” story in Nine Stories is primarily set on a baseball field in Central Park. The Chief (aka John Gedsudski) was “most cordially invited to try out for the New York Giants’ baseball team” before becoming, in 1928, the leader of the Comanche Club: in other words, the afternoon caretaker of 25 boys about 10 years old. The Chief, who’s 22 or 23, and attending NYU’s law school, has a girlfriend, Mary Hudson. One day in March Mary comes down to New York City and takes up a centerfield position in the Club’s ball game at the Park.
Salinger says that in her first at-bat (ninth in the order), Mary “swung mightily at the first ball pitched to her and hit it over the left fielder’s head. It was good for an ordinary double, but Mary Hudson got to third on it–standing up.”
He adds: “The rest of the game, she got on base every time she came to bat. For some reason, she seemed to hate first base; there was no holding her there. At least three times, she stole second.
“Her fielding couldn’t have been worse, but we were piling up too many runs to take serious notice of it. I think it would have improved if she’d gone after flies with almost anything except a catcher’s mitt. She wouldn’t take it off, though. She said it was cute.”