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Robert Kopecky
The Season of Living Dangerously: A Fan's Notes on Baseball's Strangest Season

The Season of Living Dangerously recounts the views of a lifelong baseball fan as he watched the unique 2020 season unfold—games played in empty ballparks, new rules implemented to speed up play, Covid-19 cancellations, players and management openly expressing their views on racial inequity in America, the postseason expanded to allow over half the teams to participate, and the World Series held for the first time at a neutral site. This diary of the 2020 season addresses not only the conflicting feelings many fans had about whether the truncated 60-game schedule could be considered a legitimate season and whether the games should be played at all while the pandemic persisted around the country, but also reflects a fan’s appreciation for the many things that make baseball rewarding to watch.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 Major League Baseball season to 60 games, it meant significant changes to a sport typically characterized by endurance. Like many baseball aficionados, Kopecky found the abbreviated season both fascinating and frustrating. His conversational book chronicles day-to-day observations of the year’s standout plays, memorable moments, and brushes with the coronavirus, as originally published on his blog. He also focuses on new, unique rule changes intended to shorten games, such as starting each extra inning with a runner on second base, as well as the strangeness of fake crowd noise coming from empty stands during game broadcasts, and how the sport could change going forward.

Kopecky offers plenty of wonky baseball stats and lamentations over missed opportunities for the game’s greats, such as Nelson Cruz and Mike Trout. He also places the sport in its larger context in an evolving and volatile world, acknowledging that the 2020 season was exceptional because players began to show unity on issues of racial inequality and injustice, and noting that several Giants players knelt during a “rousing gospel version of the [national] anthem.” At times, he questions whether the season should have been played at all during a public health crisis. Baseball, he philosophizes, could be considered “just a form of entertainment,” though it also provides “a needed psychological boost at a time when many are coping with the stresses occasioned by the pandemic and its consequences.”

Kopecky writes with a passion for the sport cultivated over many decades, as well as deep knowledge of the game’s complex statistics, sabermetrics, and unwritten rules. His book provides a thorough account of perhaps the strangest season in baseball’s 150-year history, one that fans will find both meaningful and enduring, particularly after the pandemic has ended and life has returned to something resembling normal.

Takeaway: Conversational, philosophical observations of the pandemic-shortened baseball season of 2020.

Great for fans of: Roger Angell; Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King’s Faithful.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Mark Stryker, Jacket Blurb

Robert Kopecky’s The Season of Living Dangerously is an engaging diary of Major League Baseball’s pandemic-shortened season in 2020. Kopecky’s amiable and thoughtful prose reminds you that, more than any other sport, baseball is a game of conversation. He has a natural feel for its ambling rhythms, a sharp ear for its poetry and wit, a keen eye for the revealing statistic, and contagious affection for all manner of characters in the game — all-stars, working stiffs, eccentrics, and scribes. Most rewarding is Kopecky’s running dialogue between baseball’s past and present as he documents what was the strangest, most unsettling season in baseball history, yet one that also offered reassurance that whatever else is wrong with America, we still have baseball. Thank God.

— Mark Stryker, author of Jazz from Detroit (University of Michigan Press).