“Consider the Foul” on the Paris Review

foul ball

Photo by Kate Joyce.

Adam Sobsey has a new piece up today on the Paris Review:


About one of every six pitches is hit out of play—inert, a do-over, a mentally discarded blip as the ball shanked foul is discarded into the stands. No other sport includes this regular pileup of outcomes empty of conclusive results.

Another unique element: when a foul ball reaches the seats, the game breaks the fourth wall. Only in baseball does the action penetrate the crowd so routinely. And it is no easy action: catching a foul pop-up barehanded stings, and a screaming line drive into the seats can kill you. Most people at Durham Bulls Athletic Park don’t pay much attention to the game, at their own risk.

I recently started taking more notice of foul balls, tracking them on my score sheet along with all the other subparticulars I habitually tally: balls and strikes; first-pitch strikes; total pitches thrown per inning and per pitcher, broken down by balls and strikes; total swings; and swings-and-misses. There are plenty of reasons for this extensive annotation, but mainly it keeps me tuned into the action, pitch by pitch.

Read the full piece here.

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