Top of the Order, edited by Sean Manning, is an anthology full of 25 brief paeans — each written by a notable author — to said authors’ favorite baseball players.
As is almost the rule for an anthology, the quality of the work is uneven. That said, Steve Almond — author of Candyfreak and Not That You Asked — delivers this pretty excellent definition of stardom while discussing Rickey Henderson.
Blockquotation (bold mine):
[Henderson] went two for four in his debut, with a stolen base. I listened to that game on my trusty Panasonic radio. I saw him for the first time a few days later, during one of Oakland’s rare televised contests. I was instantly and violently transfixed. It wasn’t just the crazy stance or the preening manner or the freakish marriage of bulk and speed, but the powerful sense that you had to watch Rickey, because if you didn’t you were going to miss something unprecedented.
This is the first and final signifier of stardom: that your presence on the field suggests possibility. Because possibility — some new miracle carved from air, some abrupt confrontation between grace and peril — is the reason we watch sports. Michael Jordan had it. Wayne Gretzky. Barry Sanders. The British football Paul Gascoigne. And Rickey — the stuff came off him like sparks.
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