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The Universal Baseball...
Robert Coover
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The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,456 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
Metafictional Baseball

Robert Coover has long been included in the canonical list of "postmodern" novelists, by which the makers of these lists intend to point to a certain similarity of concern with the dissolution of post-World War II American culture, with the contemporary fragmentation of the self, and with a predilection for revealing the gears and guywires of fictiona

Paperback, 0 pages
Published May 1st 1971 by Plume (first published June 1st 1968)
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Jul 07, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought at first this was five stars all the way. Loved the hokey old-timey baseball lingo, the imagined play by play, wisecrackery, the names, all the TWIBby "how 'bout that?" boyhood baseball wonder and a box of Cracker Jacks, the joys and sorrows of the personalities and stats, the history and the present, especially in that all of it -- the games and the chatter in the dugouts and off-field scandals -- very explicitly took place in an obsessive gamer's imagination. Laughed out loud when I le ...more
Jul 12, 2013 Rayroy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Now with Afterword

This is not a book about baseball. It's a book about a man who enjoys his solitude and crates a whole world of stats and player biographies in a fake a basball league that's (real?), the players live and die,break records as it's creator losses his fucking mind. He invets a whole league, he explains that he takes words he sees in real life and turns them into ball player names, I come up with few myself. Here is my starting line up and team name.
note the words used are words I
Aug 12, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball, u-s-lit, coover
As someone who, as a child, invented whole basketball teams: bouncing a ball on the narrow sidewalk between two houses, becoming each carefully imagined player, each with an age, height, weight, scoring average, assists, rebounds, shooting style, tendencies; imagining a basket and a backboard where none existed against the siding, shooting each unique way, and seeing if I could make them score and make them win; well, the idea of The Universal Baseball Association doesn't sound so crazy. I can u ...more
What shocked me, after hearing about Coover, was that the plot of the book isn't the star here, nor the characters. Rather, the charm of the book is almost entirely in the structure, which is remarkably playful, complex, and nuanced. I was expecting some sprawling Pynchonesque thing, but instead I got a fun, almost breezy, frequently comic novel touched with metafictional elements.
James Murphy
Dec 20, 2009 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine a man sitting quietly at a kitchen table. He sits before a jumble of papers illuminated by an overhead light. He's playing a game by throwing dice. His name is J. Henry Waugh. Suggests Jehovah, doesn't it? It's supposed to. Henry is the inventor of an incredibly complete and complex baseball game in which practically every possible event is determined by the roll of 3 dice. His Universal Baseball Association is a league of 8 teams populated by imaginary players. Henry plays seasons with ...more
Oliver Bateman
Sep 05, 2011 Oliver Bateman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Infinite Jest aside--that novel is in a league of its own starring Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donell, and Tom Hanks as the foul-mouthed ex-ballplayer with a heart of gold--this is best thing I've read all year. Here's why:

a) First, it's beautifully written. Robert Coover is often grouped with D Barthelme and J Barth, but he's a clearer writer than the former and a better stylist than the latter. On the strength of this work, I picked up a cheap copy of Pricksongs and Descants, a collection of Coover's
Aug 23, 2012 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Will by: Chad Post
Man, I love baseball. It's hard to write about the literary merits of this mind-bending book, of which there are DEFINITELY many (in short, without talking about baseball, the created world becomes the real world), without talking about baseball. And the fact that Coover created a complex board game equivalent of modern fantasy/tabletop baseball that used statistics in ways that were never discussed until Billy Beane's SABRmetric-focused appearance in "Moneyball." But the world that Coover creat ...more
I feel like this could easily be a five-star book...for someone else. Probably someone who likes baseball a lot more than I do. I'm definitely impressed with what it accomplishes; you could basically say it's an account of a man's life falling apart at the seams due to an obsession with a proto-World-of-Warcraft. And in that way, it's eerily prescient.

Well executed, too. Henry Waugh's fantasy baseball league is imagined from the ground up, complete with its own history and a huge group of fully
Aug 17, 2009 Virginia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm eager to discuss this book primarily because of how much I disliked it.

Moments ago, I summarized it for my husband, and he said, "That sounds interesting. I'd never read it, but if you were stoned and had that idea for a book, it'd be pretty exciting."

That's the gist: If I were intoxicated or otherwise impaired and had the idea for this book, it would be exciting. Now, running that idea out for 242 pages is simply mad, and let's face it, cruel.

I understand why this book is considered great b
Nov 01, 2009 Zach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Well, first things first, I don't give a damn about baseball. This book probably would have meant more to me if I did, but I enjoyed it a lot nonetheless. It's too bad my baseball-loving father doesn't give a damn about experimental novels-maybe between the two of us we would have been able to make a bit more sense of this thing.

But anyway, this is only tangentially a novel about baseball. It's more about imagination, and creativity, and statistics, and rules, and (ugh, sorry-but I can't think o
Jan 25, 2016 R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Most of this novel reads like a Charlie Kaufman script - sad sack at dead-end job creates and immerses himself into a creative world that fractures then floods what little arks of order and sailboats of sanity buoyed and bounced the boy through the seas of anonymous adulthood. And, to make it more painful, attempting to explain the rules and regulations, the priveleges and privations of the population of this interior planet just pushes real ("real" i.e. adult, happy in day-to-day anonymity) peo ...more
Megan Baxter
May 23, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one weird book. But I liked it a lot.

Two personal personality quirks might account for this:

1) The main character has created an entire fantasy baseball league, and is in the process of playing out year 56. Not with real players. Entirely created and maintained and imagined by J. Henry Waugh, Prop. Years are played out, deaths are mourned, injuries happen, he creates complete lives for each player, all centered around the game of baseball.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn
Feb 23, 2016 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this one by Coover. It's probably as aided by the fact that I also love baseball. I listen to podcasts and the radio broadcasts of my favorite team. The way Coover captures the game is pitch perfect. In fact the only quibble I have is that Coover is a Reds fan.
David Manning
Bizarre, tragic with flashes of humor, very well-written. Coover draws us quite close to a man on the brink of madness. In reality, being stuck in close proximity to actual madness, one's own or someone else's, quickly becomes a dull, hopeless, often excruciating experience, in the end not at all interesting or exciting as so many romanticized depictions of craziness would have us believe. In this novel, Coover's Henry Waugh teeters back and forth across the line, momentarily regaining insight a ...more
Richard Thomas
Can't quite say 4 stars. Liked it, didn't REALLY like it. It has its moments for sure, this strange story of Fantasy Baseball, pre-dating the way we play fantasy sports in the year 2011. It's rolling dice (like Strat-o-matic, I think) and entering another world, another time, where these ballplayers become his reality. There are some dirty moments in here, the sex right out there, talk of his B-Girl and it was funny in several scenes as well, this strange life. But overall, it was hard to follow ...more
Feb 26, 2010 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about a guy who creates his own baseball dice game. It would actually be better described as a baseball league I guess, since he creates teams and they compete over the course of seasons. Depending on the roll of the dice, batters get hits or make outs. The batters who make a lot of hits earn star points that give them a slight advantage in future dice rolls in the following season. The same thing goes for the pitchers who record a lot of outs. Stars can lose their advantage after g ...more
Nov 09, 2011 Spiros rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who think Einstein may have been all wet about God not playing dice
Recommended to Spiros by: kpr
Shelves: new, beisbol
My starting line-up for the last couple of weeks of the 2011 regular season, off-days and injuries allowing:

1. Michael Bourne, cf
2. Ben Zobrist, 2b
3. Albert Pujols, 1b
4. Josh Hamilton, rf
5. Michael Morse, lf
6. Mike Napoli, dh
7. Miguel Montero, c
8. Martin Prado, 3b
9. Yunel Escobar, ss

Yes, I know that one doesn't have to set an actual line-up in Fantasy Baseball, nor pick specific outfield slots in our league; nevertheless, I did find myself at odd moments of the day, setting my line-ups,
Aug 25, 2009 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically, this is a pre-D&D roleplaying geekout disguised as a quite elegant baseball novel. The sports writing is stellar but the plot seems to plod pretty predictably along, and frankly I didn't get the ending at all...! I thought there'd be nine chapters because of all the stuff about numerology, but there were only 8... and the author decided to create this kind of meta-russian roulette round out of the last chapter: that seemed a little sloppy: I was just starting to like some of the o ...more
Mar 28, 2016 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1968, Coover's book knocks the cover off the ball of baseball-themed stories with a mind-expanding premise for this recovering Catholic.

The story started out as a 5 but like some baseball games got long in the tooth. The concept of an aging man with an obsessive habit of playing - by himself - chanced based fantasy games whose worlds shift between reality and the games is brilliant and fresh. Unfortunately the book becomes unreadable as the author slips into and gets bogged down in the imaginary world of the UBA. I wanted more of Henry and the consequences of his actions and less chapters long forays about UBA and the players.
Bobby Thym
Aug 30, 2014 Bobby Thym rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you play fantasy baseball, you need to read this novel. Go buy it on now. Don't wait. Written a few decades ago, this text has successfully predicted the future. The basic plot revolves around Henry Waugh, an accountant who is not obtaining a sense of fulfillment in pursing the American dream amidst a labyrinth of cubicles. His "real life" occurs when arrives home to play a game he has created involving dice and baseball statistics. In other words, he is playing "fantasy baseball." ...more
Aug 20, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If, as a kid (or as an adult), you were a fan of the tabletop "pencil and paper" sports like Statis Pro or APBA baseball, you'll find yourself engrossed by The Universal Baseball Association. It's the story of J. Henry Waugh, a man who has taken his hobby to the extreme. He's not only designed his own game and created his own rules, but the league and its players have become real to them. He even tracks their lives after baseball, all the way up to their deaths, and spends his days thinking abou ...more
Mar 29, 2013 Geoff marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Baseball season starts this weekend. I'm sitting here at my desk listening to Deep Wound on headphones and staring straight ahead. I tried to engage my coworkers about how the O's are my team and I'm getting more and more into the Nats however my nosebleed, it seems, was too much for them. I sent out a mass email trying to start a fantasy baseball league but no one had heard of Belphegor or He Who Swallows Darkness.
Sean Keogh
Aug 17, 2015 Sean Keogh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Totally blew my mind. The main character has created a baseball game out of dice that has totally consumed his life. The people he meets become characters in the narrative of his game. He started by going to baseball games and then realized that the "box score was enough". I kind of get that. My guess is that you would have to understand baseball a little to like this book and also be a bit of a dreamy nerd (not dreamy hunky but one who doesn't always have his feet on the grou ...more
Feb 07, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've ever read.

It's usually called the best baseball book ever written, but it's less about baseball than it is about creation, responsibility, and the weight of a world. Baseball serves (very well) as the mythic base of Waugh's world and lends it its weight. As the most mythologized of sports, it works beautifully.

But the book is more about Waugh's struggles as creator, the desire to inject meaning and change the results of random dice throws. It chronicles his difficulty
Jan 09, 2009 Yofish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yofish by: Sports Guy
Sort of a Walter Mitty-type book. It's an old-ish book (1971), so some of it feels slightly dated, but not in its themes.

The basic story is that this guy (an accountant) invents his own little dice-baseball game, and becomes a little too obsessed about it. Creates teams and personalities, and even politics that revolve around how his dice rolls come out. Sort of loses himself from reality in it. (In fact, the worst portions, in my opinion, are when he's so totally immersed in it that the writer
Apr 03, 2009 Matt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
AGH! Coover could've done so much with this. There's riper psychodrama to be had on the message boards in any ESPN fantasy league, where you regularly get unravelings -- psychological, cultural, grammatical -- that'd have even Frederick Exley putting down the bottle and backing slowly out of the abyss. (Heck, just bring a stenographer to any fantasy league draft - taking place as we speak at IHOP's and Shakey's Pizzas all over this great land - and you'll be treated to hours of seething paranoid ...more
Feb 01, 2012 Gary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henry, an accountant in his late 50's, has created a dice baseball game and is now in the 57th season of play. He's so immersed and so attached to tthe teams, players, etc... that a real problem arises when tragedy strikes a player in the league.

I was super geeked to read a book about a weird guy who invents fake baseball leagues because, well, I'm kinda one of 'em (Jon too). Henry has taken things to great lengths: becoming attached to the players, writing game logs, scorekeeping each game of e
Jul 24, 2012 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn’t expecting a lot from this book. I read Coover’s The Origin of the Brunists this past winter and thought it was weird and interesting, but ultimately disappointing and tiring. It was too long and graphic for a satirical novel, and too irreverent for a serious novel. As a short story, it might have worked—The Origin of the Brunists had a strange, clever premise (a cult forming around a messianic Italian-American coalminer in a poor, Rust Belt town), but not much beyond that.

The Universal
Aug 02, 2013 Borbality rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good but too much post-modern nonsense. Should have stuck more to the narrative. Just a little too much typical early '70s Po-Mo stream of consciousness gibberish. It all kind of deteriorates as Henry succumbs to his role-playing madness (I think).

The actual dice game stuff was good. Henry has a real ball of a time and has made quite the game. Anyone who likes role-playing games, fantasy sports leagues or anything otherwise kind of deep into the nerd spectrum can appreciate his dedication. Howev
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Born Robert Lowell Coover in Charles City, Iowa, Coover moved with his family early in his life to Herrin, Illinois, where his father was the managing editor for the Herrin Daily Journal. Emulating his father, Coover edited and wrote for various school newspapers under the nom-de-plume “Scoop.” He was also his high-school class president, a school band member, and an enthusiastic supporter of the ...more
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“Bottom half of the seventh, Brock's boy had made it through another inning unscratched, one! two! three! Twenty-one down and just six outs to go! and Henry's heart was racing, he was sweating with relief and tension all at once, unable to sit, unable to think, in there, with them! Oh yes, boys, it was on! ” 2 likes
“It was down in Jake’s old barroom Behind the Patsies’ park; Jake was settin’ ’em up as usual And the night was agittin’ dark. At the bar stood ole Verne Mackenzie, And his eyes was bloodshot red” 0 likes
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