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Publisher's Summary

On April 18, 1981, a ball game sprang eternal. What began as a modestly attended minor-league game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings became not only the longest ever played in baseball history, but something else entirely. The first pitch was thrown after dusk on Holy Saturday, and for the next eight hours, the night seemed to suspend its participants between their collective pasts and futures, between their collective sorrows and joys - the ballplayers; the umpires; Pawtucket's ejected manager, peering through a hole in the backstop; the sportswriters and broadcasters; a few stalwart fans shivering in the cold.

With Bottom of the 33rd, celebrated New York Times journalist Dan Barry has written a lyrical meditation on small-town lives, minor-league dreams, and the elements of time and community that conspired one fateful night to produce a baseball game seemingly without end. Bottom of the 33rd captures the sport's essence: the purity of purpose, the crazy adherence to rules, the commitment of both players and fans.

This genre-bending book, a reportorial triumph, portrays the myriad lives held in the night's unrelenting grip. Consider, for instance, the team owner determined to revivify a decrepit stadium, built atop a swampy bog, or the batboy approaching manhood, nervous and earnest, or the umpire with a new family and a new home, or the wives watching or waiting up, listening to a radio broadcast slip into giddy exhaustion. Consider the small city of Pawtucket itself, its ghosts and relics, and the players, two destined for the Hall of Fame (Cal Ripken and Wade Boggs), a few to play only briefly or forgettably in the big leagues, and the many stuck in minor-league purgatory, duty bound and loyal to the game.

An unforgettable portrait of ambition and endurance, Bottom of the 33rd is the rare sports book that changes the way we perceive America's pastime, and America's past.

©2011 Dan Barry (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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If This Were Fiction . . .

. . . you wouldn't believe it. A baseball game that lasts for 33 innings? Of course, there is much more to this book than 32 innings of a tie baseball game. It was interesting getting to know the players in a more personal way. Coming from a family of baseball fanatics- my dad and two older brothers, I knew the names of every player on every MLB team in the 1960s, so my feelings for baseball run deep. OK, maybe not EVERY player, but I knew a lot about a lot of them. In a lot of ways this book made me thing, "Those were the days." Everything is so formulaic and predictable these days, or so it seems. Well, I am a true blue, dyed in the wool Cubbies fan (I think they need at least one fan who doesn't HAVE to be), and when they finally make the playoffs for the World Series, I'm making a trip to Chicago to see them play. I hope it doesn't last 33 innings, though. But on the outside chance that it does, I'll be there until the bitter end.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 07-11-13

good look at a game and minor league baseball

This book is the story of that epic 33 inning baseball game in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Even more, it is a profile of a city and its minor league baseball team. It profiles so many (players, coaches, announcers, batboys, owners, etc.) who participated in that game. And it captures the highs and lows of trying to make it in minor league baseball. I enjoyed this book, but must confess that I am the perfect reader for it. I love baseball, I am a big Red Sox fan, I have lived in Rhode Island, and I have a family member working his way up through minor league professional sports. I found every aspect of this interesting - both the sports stuff and the human interest part. It is well written. The epic game itself takes up less of this book than the backgrounds (past and future) of the people.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 11-20-16

A writer's writer telling an epic story

Would you listen to Bottom of the 33rd again? Why?

I'd rather read it. Dan Barry's narration is really good. But his prose is so rich that there is more to get than I at least can from just listening, which I guess might be one of the reasons people started writing stories down.
I know this might be seen as overwrought, but the stories I love most are the ones meant for singing around campfires, like the Iliad. The thing about those stories is sometimes the singer says something so good that you're left saying, "What? What? That was really good. Tell me again." And so the singers started writing things down for people like me.
There is a lot here, in the people, in the narrative drive, in the reporting, in the deft turning of a phrase and in the longer arc of the story, in how they are woven together. This is a really, really good story.
I wonder whether Barry thinks about the parallels between being a writer and a ballplayer. He is far too disciplined ever to speak of that in so many words, but the loneliness and wonder, the moments when it really does all come down to one person, are there. So is the silence, the sense of what it means to stand there alone, while people wait. But without any elitism.
Reading Barry is to know what it's like to step out onto the wrestling mat while the gym thunders around you, and then, all the sudden, how the gym goes silent -- not because people have stopped yelling but because you can't hear them any more, because all you know and hear and see is that other wrestler and what you have to do.
Years ago, my newspaper had the incongruous idea of sponsoring a series of writing seminars. It was incongruous because this was a paper that had very little understanding of, or regard for, the written word. But I did get one of the one-on-one meetings with the writer leading the seminars. He asked me who I read and I said Homer. Even though I'm a lifelong journalist, it didn't occur to me to cite journalists.
Gently, he said, "Ok, but what about newspaper writers?" I couldn't name anyone besides Edna Buchanan. I've been looking ever since.
Today, I'd certainly name Barry. This is what I went into this business to do. He's done it. Homer? No. But he's really, really, really good.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Dave Koza. Anne Koza. Ben Mondor. Wade Boggs, Michael Kinch, Thomas P. McCoy. The book is full of them.

What does Dan Barry bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I heard a writer reading a book he'd poured his heart into, and that meant a lot to me. He's disciplined, which means as much.
But the book is much bigger than Barry. Read it on paper. Get mustard on it. Fall asleep with it. That's what Barry would want you to do.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Obviously, I did have a strong reaction. I think it was the way that Barry talked about the ideals we all strive for.
He did it modestly, matter-of-factually. He did it with the clarity of a line drive disappearing into a shortstop's glove, that straight white line, that certainty.
I work hard as a writer. Barry made me want to work harder. He has strengthened my love for the English language and my commitment to my trade.

Any additional comments?

Read this book. Help Barry pay his bills so he can keep writing. Read this book.

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A great baseball book

Well narrated by the author. It almost invites you into the meditative state of that forever game, drifting sleepily between innings and biographies, histories and statistics. It's the kind of book that makes you fall in love with baseball all over again.

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A Baseball Classic - entire family loved it!!!

Would you consider the audio edition of Bottom of the 33rd to be better than the print version?

Yes - hearing Dan Barry tell it, makes the story come alive… right down to his New England accent.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Baseball Americana - heart-warming, authentic and magical - the amazing story of how the right group of people and circumstances came together in one moment in time to create baseball's longest game.

Any additional comments?

Fantastic book about a bunch of guys, their love of baseball, the reality of playing in the minors… and how their lives all intersected one evening in McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island which made them famous… sort of. Heart-warming, authentic and magical. My entire family loved listening to this book.

You can hear the crack of the bat, the crowd's ups and downs throughout, and most of all, get into the minds of some great players and locals and their everyday lives.

Baseball Americana.

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The people who were there.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Only to baseball fans. This book is not too kind to the uninitiated. But to those who love the game, this is a great get. You will hear about the longest game and how it relates to other games, feats, and players.You will hear about the hard work and the heartbreak of trying to make it to the majors.And You will hear about the spirit and attitude of Pawtucket.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Bottom of the 33rd?

The book does a great job of making you feel the players fatigue and frustration. At one point, it seems like the game is finally going to end, but it comes to nothing and the game has to keep going.

What aspect of Dan Barry’s performance would you have changed?

Overall nothing. A little too Just-The-Facts for my taste; but then again this is Baseball, so meh.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Is anybody still with us?

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Dan Barry does Dan Barry

and, what could be better? The author narrates this story with all the irony, wit, and compassion of the person who created the tale, as he did.But,from history, and boy, does Barry do his homework. Barry's tone is somewhat deadpan, but he knows how to render the longest game in history, with the right amount of inflection. Sometimes I literally laughed out loud. If you like baseball, which i do, you just might get caught up in the flow of the story of unlikely characters; ball players, managers, bat boys, announcers, writers, their families.. At times even suspenseful, the narration moves you along with human interest stories that catch you by surprise. You ache for these (mostly) young men as the rawness outside, the wee hours of the morning in this interminable game, all make you feel for their plights. Some have a happy ending. Most do not. I ended up buying book versions of "The Bottom of the 33rd" for at least 3 people this holiday season. Only because they don't do audible.

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  • GarryW
  • Richmond, California USA
  • 10-24-12

Juuuust toooo slooooowwww

What would have made Bottom of the 33rd better?

Different reader, different author. More specifically, don't try to milk the subject quite so hard.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Great lack of animation.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

He did a very good job researching the whole world described in the book.

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  • Jeffrey
  • Washington, DC, United States
  • 10-15-12

Beautiful Stories

The author is a NYT reporter and nails a million different perspectives on a game in a dead New England town on a frigid night. The players- career minor leaguers, Cal Ripken Jr, bench warmers, Boggs, umpires, ballboys, owners, fans, wives, the town.. everything is covered

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A great book, baseball fan or not!

This book was a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. The format was outstanding as he would give a short narrative of the pertinent action and then go on to give short biographies of a player who figured prominently in the action of that inning. These ranged from the owner, the general manager, that manager, the publicist, the radio broadcaster all the way to some of the fans at the game, and of course Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs.

My only problem with the book was that the author sometimes tried to hearken back to the 1920's-1930's style of baseball writing that was overly flowery. For example, he drifted into obsessively calling the baseball a "white orb" for stretches of the book. But this was not enough to overcome the otherwise outstanding writing.

You do not need to be a baseball fan to enjoy this book. He explains EVERYTHING (it has been a long time since I have heard an intentional walk not only described, but the strategy explained), but he was going into his writing assuming that the listener/reader does not know about baseball and I would rather have that than someone who assumes that terminology is understood if I don't know about it.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for insights into a game that can too easily be thought of as a million "Trivial Pursuit" questions. It showed the diversity of the individuals involved and how their lives became intertwined by this one event that they all experienced.