Breathes there a true baseball addict who hasn't wondered why (no matter how early the dinner reservation is made) he can never get his wife to the ball park much before the postgame wrap-up? Or why, once there and all hell is breaking loose afield, he invariably finds her AWOL—10 seats over, asking a perfect stranger where she purchased those adorable maxipants. The fact is, many women find baseball repellent.
Yet Charline Gibson's A Wife's Guide to Baseball, written with Michael Rich ( Viking Press, $4.95), could change all that. The wife of St. Louis Pitcher Bob Gibson has come up with a breezy, informative book that aims to help the feminine reader overcome her resistance to the sport, to make attending a baseball game seem a pleasurable event, analogous to Cousins' Clubs if not quite up to Encounter.
No part of modern baseball is left unexplored, from the basic strategies of offense and defense to the complexities of managing the team. For instance: take a nebulous term like "fielder's choice." The female nonfan shrinks from it as she would from typhoid fever. Mrs. Gibson's comprehensive glossary at the end of the book removes all the sting and confusion. "Fielder's choice [it reads]—The decision of a fielder when making a play on a batted ball to retire a runner rather than the batter. If Gibson hits a ground ball to short with Maxvill on second, and Dal tries to go to third, the shortstop will throw to the third baseman, who will put the tag on Maxvill. Gibson is safe at first on a fielder's choice. (And, Dal, you should know better than to try and move from second to third on a ground ball hit ahead of you.)" See? No fear or embarrassment.
The main value to women is the author's "just-between-us girls" approach. Typical is the account of what happens every time Mrs. Gibson plans an intimate, after-game romantic dinner for two. If her husband gets knocked out of the box, he won't eat. If he wins, he can't eat because he's so charged up and anxious to review the contest pitch by pitch. She solves the whole problem by sticking to hot dogs in the stands and saving the wine and Mantovani for football season.
Not surprisingly, the best-written part of A Wife's Guide to Baseball is the chapter on pitching. Annotated by her husband, Mrs. Gibson's analysis gives a highly incisive view of the cat-and-mouse game between batter and pitcher. After absorbing the 178 pages of Mrs. Gibson's primer, every woman should be inspired to doff her baseball widow's weeds and become a full-fledged partner to her husband at World Series time.