Apparently, MonkeyBicycle, being the "good people" they are, also has a thing for baseball. The fourth issue is split into approximate thirds, one being prose, one poetry, and one a section of stories about ball games between robot and human teams. The section comes with a nice intro by John Leary, who had the idea for the project, gathered the writers, and collected and edited the pieces. The baseball stories showcase the authors’ literary styles and creative approaches to the assignment of writing about a strange, surreal, and possibly Orwellian vision of the American Dream -- in which robots threaten to take over the national pastime.
To highlight the current issue of MonkeyBicycle, we’ve excerpted two of its robot baseball stories. Both stories turned the robot-baseball idea on its head a little bit, by making the machines more fallible than their human counterparts, and both end on the high note of a home run. Play ball! With... um... robots!!
I'm sitting on this next pitch like being next in line in Honolulu for Mamie Stover. Toe to rubber, the windup, the stretch, the kick, the pitch -- and yes, dear reader, the swing! I mean I got ahold large-time of that there cantaloupe. And I'm doin' the best impression of Robert Redford taking THE TROT you ever saw and that sucker is sailing so far over the center-field stands they'll have to tape-measure it for Guinness. And then repair the street. I’m givin' it the Grand Wave, and the ol' Gibson Crank, and the Drum Major Pump, and the Leap with Twirling Finger, even a little Spinning Jump like I seen some limp-wrist ballet guy do. Then as I come down the third-base line I look up to Toledo Bill's seat and it's empty. While all the Buzzer fans are standing and cheering: "P-E-O -- P-L-E, People, People, Go, Go, Go! -- Bill is heading up the stairs with his arm around one of the Bee cheerleaders, the one Tubby's always makin' eyes at. Story of my life. She told the girls later that after promising to take her with him to L.A. he left her in the Budget Rent-a-Bed, sound asleep, with the bill unpaid. Furthermore, the Buzzers wouldn't even let her expense-account it, the bums. I struck out the next two times up against relievers and then had to sacrifice in the ninth. There were so many homers that night everybody had forgotten mine by the seventh-inning stretch. Hell, I got a good job now. And that Bot pitcher I took downtown always treats me with respect when I pass him along the assembly line or we stand shoulder to shoulder in the men's room. I never did figure what those characters do in there.
He steps in again. It's the Z4289, he's certain now. And that means the acceleration of the ball at release would be 30 feet per second squared -- they only built this model with one fastball, morons -- divided by the standard mass of a regulation ball, which every player knows, and he's got it. The time to the plate, down to the hundredth of a second, and the swing that should put the ball deep into left-center.
When he takes his cut the crack of the bat sounds like God slamming his flashlight on the table, but the stadium lights don't disappear, they just get brighter as the ball sails into them. The crowd roars even louder and, as he rounds third, Lance has forgotten the kid, Rhonda, the store, the Alabama sun, the bus and cheap hotel he'll go back to at night’s end. For a moment he's in heaven. That's what this must be, this trip around the bases, back to your teammates, already streaming from the dugout, running ahead of themselves to meet you on the third base line.
J. C. Frampton, a former sportswriter based in San Diego, maintains a lifelong passion for baseball. He played through high school, but could not make his college team. It was then he began throwing javelins, in preparation for his life as a spear carrier. His lack of courage and skill on the diamond, however, did not prevent him from becoming a seriously dogmatic Little League coach.