Saturday, January 17, 2015

Short Story Saturday: W.P. Kinsella's "The Night Manny Mota Tied the Record"

I will be forever grateful to W.P. Kinsella even if he never publishes another single word because he is responsible for one of my favorite books of all-time, Shoeless Joe.  That novel, of course, subsequently morphed into what is one of my favorite movies of all-time: Field of Dreams.  And now I find out that the novel itself was preceded by a short story titled "Shoeless Joe Comes to Iowa."  I only recently learned about the short story because it is included in a brand new collection of twenty-seven Kinsella short stories (The Essential W.P. Kinsella) that I've been reading.

W.P. Kinsella
W.P. Kinsella may be Canadian but his love for, and deep understanding of, the game of baseball are second to none.  Kinsella is the ultimate fan, a man who appreciates the game within the game of baseball even more than what the box score reveals to the game's more casual fans.  Although not all of his stories are about baseball, it is baseball stories for which Kinsella is best known in this country, and I've selected one of my favorites of those for "Short Story Saturday."

"The Night Manny Mota Tied the Record" takes place in Dodger Stadium on August 7, 1979 during a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros.  During that game, one fan, without once leaving his seat, is going to have an experience that will change him forever.  An old man takes the seat next to our fan and begins talking about the funeral of Yankee catcher Thurman Munson who had died just five days earlier when the great catcher crashed the small airplane in which he was flying home for a short break from the pressures of Yankee baseball.

Things begin to go off the track a bit when the old man remarks just before the playing of the national anthem that, "Death need not be as final as many of us are used to believing."  But it is when the two men have retaken their seats after the anthem, that the old man removes any remaining doubt about his weirdness by saying,"What would you say if I told you that it might just be possible to move time back, like a newsreel being played in reverse, and undo what has been done?"

Ah, but our narrating fan is no fool.  He knows that there has to be a catch to anything with the potential to do that level of good...or evil.  But, because the narrator senses that the old man is as big a baseball fan as he is, he decides to listen anyway - and will be given a chance to impact positively the greatest game of them all in a way he would never have dared dream possible even an hour earlier.


  1. I'll have to check out that collection. I'm a big fan of Shoeless Joe but haven't read any Kinsella for years. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy was good too - hilariously surreal.

  2. Pete, I'm reading an ARC of the book. I think it's due to be published on February 5, if I recall correctly. Yeah, "The Iowa Baseball Confederacy"...the game that lasted forever. I loved that book, too. There are some really great stories in this collection for sure.

    1. According to the Tachyon page, it's due March 17.

  3. It's been a long time since I read W.P. Kinsella, but I loved everything I read by him. While I have no interest in read sports at all, I do love a good baseball story.

  4. I am always surprised by how funny some of Kinsella's stories are, James.

    As for baseball, it is just the perfect story for memorable stories, myths, and legends. Those of us who love the game beyond all others, it is very special and people like Kinsella, who really get it, become very special to baseball fans.

  5. That publication date (March 17) is exactly right, Rick. I had it mixed up with the publication date of another ARC I just finished. Thanks for the correction.