The Second-Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played
by Drew Bridges
Bridges (Family Lost and Found, 2006) pens a quiet elegy to his father, recounting a childhood baseball game that “may seem small and inconsequential, but I think…changed me.” This memoir tells the story, pitch by pitch, of a Saturday afternoon baseball game in Hildebran, North Carolina, in 1957.
There isn’t anything in particular that makes the game so great: It’s low-scoring—the players only drive in three runs—and aside from catching a line drive, Bridges didn’t have much of a role in its outcome.
What makes it great, though, is the sensation that the author felt during it: “I sat on the bench feeling a kind of energy, a glow, watching it unfold, teammates sitting on my right and left side. Amazingly, I was a part of it all.”
This is the lesson—the moment that the young author learned the value of teamwork and cooperation. Bridges is a clear, entertaining writer, and his memoir is full of intriguing, if not always entirely distinguishable, characters—most of them neighborhood boys who went on to play in college sports.
Aside from the author’s father, the most memorable person is Melvin Ruggles, the no-nonsense umpire who keeps the game under control by force of will. Yet for readers, the most engaging moments will come not from the game, but from the author’s interpretations of his father’s wartime letters to his mother, which lead off each chapter.
How does Bridges reconcile the reticent, “imperfect” man who raised him with the sentimental, sometimes anxious, and sometimes very silly, person in these letters?
In one disclosure that Bridges cannot rectify, his father writes, “I’ve learned to hate people, especially groups of people….I just like to get as far away as possible.” This is the opposite of his father, the baseball coach, who showed a group of poor boys what it meant to be a team—and it allows Bridges to see his father as a fuller, deeper person in this book.
A thoughtful, if emotionally tempered, memoir.
The Second-Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played
by Drew Bridges
Reviewed by Michael Radon
“Clayton put a fastball right down the center of the plate, and like a good soldier Louie watched it go by.”
For the youth of the 20th century, baseball stories are as close to legends come true as anything else could be. In this particular tale, a retelling of a simple showdown between teams of neighborhood boys enters that same pantheon of legend, though few who were not there ever knew it was played.
Autobiographical in nature, there are three stories being told in tandem from the author and narrator: the play-by-play of a neighborhood baseball game, a story of emotional distance in small-town family life, and a transcription of letters written by the author’s father to his wife as he serves in World War II.
While these three things seemingly have little in common, they weave together to paint a picture of a father and son that struggle to connect at times, but find a bridge toward love and respect through a classic American game.
While an unsanctioned neighborhood little league baseball game seemingly has little to no historical significance to the outside world, the author makes it abundantly clear that any memory can be truly formative or life-changing.
The additional storylines outlining life at home and the cautious optimism of a soldier yearning to come home and start a family with his wife were unexpected surprises, but ones that really bring clarity and life to the author’s father in particular.
While there is some embellishment particularly as it relates to the game whose statistics were lost to time, the letters are transcribed word for word, offering a fascinating insight into the author’s father as a person and his changing attitudes as his life continued.
Baseball and Americana are forever intertwined, and with an interest in either, this story comes to life and feels like any other great American summer legend.
Title: The Second-Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played
Reviewed by: C.C.Thomas
Rating: 5 Star Review
Pacific Book Review
I know the first question you have and here’s the answer: The greatest game ever
played was Game 7 of the 1955 World Series. While many might argue or agree, every
baseball fan has heard of that game. Readers will not have heard of the second greatest baseball game,
as it never appeared in newspapers or any annals of baseball
history. However, anyone who has ever played the game will be familiar with it.
Because this “second-best” game? A simple community game of dads and sons,
played in small towns and large cities everywhere, ever since baseball became a
favorite pastime. What makes these games so memorable? The author, Drew Bridges
stated it best, “Life is hard. Baseball is a game. But it is a game that has guided and
It is the true love of baseball, which is the basis for his title, The Second-Greatest
Baseball Game Ever Played. Not the million-dollar endorsements or the warm beer and
cool hot dogs. It’s the sense that baseball is a game that is an escapist in the purest
sense. People become someone else on the field, heroes in their own eyes, and can
leave the drudgery and failures of life behind.
Every baseball book is a book of heroes and this one is no different. No, the author
didn’t shatter any records on the field. Instead, in recollections of the game, he
rediscovered his first hero, his dad. Each chapter begins a letter from Charlie, the
author’s father, who was serving in World War II. Recently married, Charlie had been
shipped off and his letters are heartbreaking in their naiveté. He’s an innocent young
man with a heart full of love for his family and scared of what the war will mean for their
future. Charlie longs for his wife and seems confused about the arrival of a new baby,
one he will not be there to welcome into the world. His excitement, his fear, and longing
are so evident and the pages are a glimpse into long-forgotten love letters. Some are
silly; some are so sweet, yet all show just a man who loves and misses his life back at
After the letter introduction, the author discusses memories of a father best learned over
a baseball field—a hard-working man who didn’t get everything right, but who tried very
hard to make the moves that mattered for a growing son. In these glimpses into the
past, both on and off the field, Drew Bridges sees a side of his father that he had
forgotten from his youth, as he was so focused on the concerns of growing up. In
reflection, he sees a man who was softer in the letters, a man more carefree before the
responsibility of a wife, a home, and kids. In this one momentous game, he gets to peel
back the curtain of time and see how much his father loved him, in moments that didn’t
seem important then, but one that stood the test of time of becoming etched in his
Who would want to read such a story? Perhaps this next quote is enough to answer.
“People who think baseball is boring have little sense of the value, of the excitement, of
anticipation.” Baseball stories, the really good ones, are not defined by the game, which
is discussed. Rather, those stories take any game and show universal human
connections that focus on the jewels of a small-lived life: one night, one bat and ball,
and one moment between a father and son. Beautifully written and full of heart, this
story is a home run in every sense.