I’ve always loved everything about baseball. Everything except playing it.
It was just never my game. My left eye wandered and I couldn’t hit to save my life. I could throw but tended to overthrow. Worse, I lacked baseball smarts. I remember stealing second once. As I dusted myself off, the shortstop casually informed me I was out. Shrugging, I headed for the dugout.
He tagged me. And then I really was Out!
As Berkeley-based author Michael Chabon once wrote, “The first and last duty of the lover of the game of baseball, whether in the stands or on the field, is the same as that of the lover of life itself: to pay attention to it.” That gets harder every day, what with our smartphones and Twitter feeds, our Snapchat and our Instagrams. With so many distractions, it’s a wonder anyone, let alone a Little Leaguer with a lazy eye, can keep their eye on the ball.
In this Summer issue of California, we take a fresh look at the national pastime, trying to see it through the steady gaze of Berkeley philosopher Alva Noë, whose new book is called Infinite Baseball. As Noë tells it, baseball isn’t a numbers game, “It’s a normative game, for its main concern is who deserves credit or blame for what. In this sense, it’s a philosophical game.”
Heady stuff, to be sure, but writer Coby McDonald keeps it light as he tries to put Noë’s philosophy to work, while keeping score of a Cal game at Evans Diamond. You can read McDonald’s piece, “Mindball,” here.
From the ballpark we go to People’s Park, which turned 50 in April amid renewed controversy. Last year in May, the Chancellor announced plans to finally develop the park. As you’d expect, folks are divided on the idea. Where some see it as hallowed ground and a refuge, others see a crying shame. We sent writer Emma Silvers to talk to many of those closest to the park and collect their voices. The result, “Contested Territory,” can be read here.
We go to ground again, so to speak, as reporter Lexi Pandell tells the story of valley fever, an incurable disease caused by wind-surfing fungal spores common in increasingly large parts of California and the West. Although University researchers have made great strides in understanding valley fever, a vaccine remains elusive. Read Pandell’s story, “Something in the Soil,” here.
Finally, in this issue we profile Cal Alumnus of the Year, Kevin Chou ’02 (“Game Changer”). Chou was the founder and former CEO of the gaming company Kabam, which sold for nearly $1 billion in 2017. That same year, Chou and his wife, Dr. Connie Chen, made a $25 million donation to the Berkeley Haas School of Business for the construction of Chou Hall, billed as a “learning laboratory” and the greenest building in academia. Now the wunderkind (Chou is only 39) has shifted his focus to cryptocurrency and esports, where the athletes mash keyboards, not fastballs.
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