During the revision process for Six Innings, I cut more than 10,000 words. It was a very difficult time for me, filled with doubt and uncertainty. But I trusted my wise & experienced editors, Liz Szabla and Jean Feiwel, and understood their concerns. We all wanted the same thing — for this book to be as good as it could be. So I semi-sadly started hacking away.
My original concept for the book was to use a single game as the structural skeleton, on which I’d hang riffs and character studies, the stories that would add flesh to the book. Well in the first draft, that technique got a little confusing at times, and the through-line of the game itself got muddled, so in revision we cut out a bunch of off-the-field moments to achieve, we hoped, better balance. Some sections I simply lopped away like Van Gogh’s ear, some made it through unscathed, while still others survived in severely truncated form. That was the case with the selection below, which was reduced to a couple of brief paragraphs on pp. 53-54. I always liked it; hey, we all did. This was a classic case of removing something that was, in isolation, good (or so I thought), but that in our view did not do enough to serve the narrative arc. This happens with movies all the time. To preserve the narrative flow, the forward march of things, some decent material winds up on the cutting room floor. (And, I guess, eventually winds up on a blog somewhere.)
Here’s a 38-second example of a deleted scene that never made it into the final cut of a popular movie:
Back to Six Innings. This is how one section appeared in an early unedited draft, before I stopped by with a machete:
* * * * *
Naked except for a drooping diaper, two-and-a-half year-old Tyler Weinberg swaggered around in his backyard. As usual, he held a large stick in his hand. Tyler spied a squirrel and moved toward it, mischief blazing in his eyes.
“Ty-Ty smash,” he announced to the birds in the bush.
Whap! He smacked the stick on the lawn. Hee-hee. The sound made him laugh. Whap, whap!
“Ty-Ty smash,” he repeated happily.
Whoosh, thwack. He whipped the stick against the hammock, still damp from last night’s rain. The squirrel watched transfixed, alarmed, yet curious. Its tail flicked nervously. The creature sized up the approaching pink-bellied menace and decided: Trouble. A final twitch of the tail and the gray creature scurried a few feet up the trunk of an oak tree, just beyond, it thought, harm’s reach.
Tyler Weinberg pushed against the tree with both hands. He tried knocking it down. Again he swung the stick, leaping to reach the squirrel. Thud, thwap, crack; thud, thwap, crack. Again and again.
The squirrel complained bitterly: Tcccccckkkkkssss.
Thud, thwap, oomphff.
A glorious peel of laughter erupted in the backyard. A whoop of triumph.
Whap, whap, whappp!
The back door flew open, banged closed. “WHAT’S GOING ON OUT HERE?” Tyler’s mother, Amy Weinberg, screamed. “TYLER! TYLER, GET AWAY FROM THAT SQUIRREL! PUT DOWN THAT STICK THIS INSTANT!” Her voice was rising, shrilly climbing toward hysteria. She barreled forward incautiously and twisted an ankle on a battered toy truck.
Tyler turned to his mother and grinned, triumphant.
“Ty-Ty smash,” he explained proudly.
He was holding a dead squirrel by the tail.
And so a slugger was born.
Tyler — or “Red Bull,” as he came to be called by his coaches — was simply one of those boys suffused with an excess of energy. Super-charged. He could not sit still. In truth, he could barely sit at all. Knees popping up and down, toes tapping, fingers fidgeting, brain a blur, arms akimbo. Bouncing was better. Jumping, running, leaping, pouncing, flouncing, crawling, cavorting, gamboling — all good. But best of all, the single act that calmed Tyler, that focused his scattered energies and made his heart soar?
The world was his piñata. And there he stood, dizzy and daffy and blindfolded, a big stick in his grip, eager to swing and swing again. To batter, bash, smash, and shatter. The boy liked to clobber things. He became a one-boy wrecking crew. And the bigger he grew, the harder they fell: Crash, bash, boom. Broken lamps, cracked windows, whatever was in his path. Especially, and most happily, baseballs.