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

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  1,602 Ratings  ·  166 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, 242 pages
Published May 1st 1971 by Plume (first published June 1st 1968)
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STEPHEN MACPHERSON One reason is that it predates, and predicts, America's obsession with fantasy sports and the over analyzing of stats. Also, the main conflict is,…moreOne reason is that it predates, and predicts, America's obsession with fantasy sports and the over analyzing of stats. Also, the main conflict is, though he has the power to "fix" the incident, should he? This game and its universe are his creation, he can rig it anyway he wants- should he?(less)
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Community Reviews

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Megan Baxter
Jul 06, 2012 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Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn
May 06, 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
Jan 23, 2013 Rayroy rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Sep 13, 2010 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
Nov 11, 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
Aug 30, 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 13, 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
Oct 21, 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
Aug 16, 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
Feb 02, 2014 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.
May 30, 2017 Campbell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sports
Disappointed with this one. I wanted to learn more about Henry but instead the focus was instead on the players he created. Ultimately frustrating.
Dec 24, 2007 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
Nov 03, 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,
David Manning
Jan 31, 2013 David Manning rated it liked it
Shelves: weird-books-2013
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
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
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
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
Apr 24, 2008 Frank rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
Lonely middle-aged guy creates an all-consuming fantasy baseball 1968. Sure, table top simulation games were around back then, but Henry Waugh takes it to an Internet level of obsessiveness. This has been on my reading list for some time and it is tough to find--had to go the interlibrary loan route. Coover is an aggressively creative writer, but far too often I found myself struggling to stay afloat in the overflowing stream of consciousness. Granted, it's to be expected in a book a ...more

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.
Adam Dalva
Aug 19, 2013 Adam Dalva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Underrated gem - it's a difficult book, especially in the second half, but it has both beauty and daring going for it. Less about baseball than about theology, and most of all it seems to me to be a parable about writing. It has some elements that I disliked - way too much nastiness for nastiness's sake - but the high points make up for it. Extremely creative. It also bears saying given the rise of fantasy sports: prescient.

It's like a 4.51 for me. I'll remember it.
Daniel R.
Jul 21, 2013 Daniel R. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: port-authority
Reading this book felt like being trapped in an elevator with a downward spiraling hallucinating individual. You keep hoping that the visions will pass and some sensible narrative will form but instead the sporadic glimmers of sanity quickly fade back into nonsense. Viewed as a case study in obsession and imagination the book does I wonderful job, I just found the execution on that theme excruciating.
Mar 29, 2013 Geoff marked it as to-read
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.
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.
Brian Redd Reddoch
No matter how good I think the writing was or how creative the theme invokes deeper meaning, it is all a moot point if I want to put the book down and walk away. At least three times, I was okay simply not finishing the book.
Simone Subliminalpop
Molto interessanti le particolarità e la sperimentazione del romanzo.
Un po' meno, a lungo andare, la godibilità pura e semplice.
The popularity of fantasy sports has given rise to a new sports fan: those whose interest is based more on stats than on learning the nuisances of the game. There are people out there who would never sit through an entire game, but check their phones every morning to see updated fantasy stats. There are people out there who have never seen Mike Trout play one game, but based on fantasy stats would declare him the best player in baseball. Are these people true fans, or simply posers whose obsessi ...more
Brian Koser
I love baseball, mythology, games, fictional worlds inside fictional worlds, the blurring of fiction with reality, weird stories, ambiguous stories, tragic stories. But I didn’t love this book.

It’s a lost opportunity. There could have been a lot of humor mined from Henry’s confusion of his fictional baseball world with reality. There could have been more ambiguity of when we were in the “real world” and when in the “fake”. There could have been more about Henry. We could have got an actual endin
May 25, 2017 Jesse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Likely the most piercing presentation of that dreadful grade-school feeling of inviting a friend over to your home, only to watch in horror as they run roughshod over all your carefully thought-out systems of conduct and play. That feeling may only be one familiar to splenetic, OCD-adjacent personalities like myself, but whatever the case, Coover’s metaphoric parallels between control-freak fastidiousness and authorial control are sharp and consistently weird, made further alluring by his depict ...more
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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
More about Robert Coover...

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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! ” 3 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” 1 likes
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