There’s many things that I love about baseball, but if you strip everything else away, the game inspires us tremendously. Until and unless another sport captures our collective imaginations and flights of fancy the way baseball does, there can never be any discussion about which sport is the best. Simply put, art imitates life, and art reveals that baseball is who we are. Sorry, NFL.
Against this backdrop, Lee Edelstein has written a book that adds something fresh to our baseball lexicon. The story that Edelstein tells starts with Babe Ruth and his encounter in the 1920s with a female barber named Zel. Ruth becomes her regular customer while the Yankees are in town for Spring Training, and the boost in business is exactly what she needs in order to make it in a male-dominated world.
Edelstein paints Ruth as a bigger than life character who makes his own rules. It’s his devotion to a female barber, despite the societal expectation that a man should be cutting the Bambino’s hair instead, that propels the story forward, at least in the initial stages. Ruth is loyal to Zel, and Zel proves to be up to the challenge of having the most famous American of all as her customer.It works out well for both of them.
But Ruth was also a man of legendary appetities, and that comes into play in the story, too. Ruth is leaving town to start the season, so he buys Zel a dress and invites her to party with him in his hotel. One thing led to another–as I’m sure that it did every night for Babe Ruth–and the next part of the book is, should we say, created as a result.
The modern part of the story revolves around the Buck family, and a terrible car accident that sets much of this story into motion. Suffice it to say that there are elements of pain and loss, determination and triumph, and–ultimately–redemption for the characters involved.
Zel’s diary, which she kept and then passed along to the following generations, serves as the backbone of the story. It’s a legacy that any of us should be lucky to leave behind for our own progeny, so that they can read it and learn something from it one day in the future.
Chin Music is a bit like Zel’s diary in this regard. Edelstein has created something of a baseball legacy, in the form of this very intriguing storyline. He plays to our fascination with Babe Ruth, but he also strikes at the heart of baseball’s timeless appeal across the generations. We get the game as a gift from our ancestors, who in turn received it from their ancestors as well. This is how it works with baseball. Always has, and always will.
To know the game is to love the game, and this love is what informs Edelstein’s work on every page. I’m happy to call Chin Music a shining example of how the game continues to inspire us all, above and beyond anything else in our society. It’s an engrossing story, and I’m happy to have read it.
Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of the book, in exchange for this review. I am thankful for the story, and I admire how Lee Edelstein, like many before him and many still to come, found inspiration in the game that I love.