While I am a lawyer by trade and a baseball writer by force of passion, if I could choose one job out of any in the world to have, it would be private investigator. No, not a real one like the guy who found out that your uncle was cheating on your aunt or the one who took video of you snowboarding while you pretended to be out of work on a disability claim. That’s boring. I’m thinking more along the lines of Lew Archer or Darryl Zero or the Continental Op. A loner of a guy whose quick, sarcastic, and cynical jibes mask a romantic soul that has been battered by the harsh realization that corruption exists in all levels of society.
Oh, and scotch and dames too. Gotta have scotch and dames.
Unfortunately, I have yet to come across the right opportunity in that particular field, so I will have to make do with small, pro bono cases until some wealthy heiress goes missing or some shady businessman asks me to help him find the person who is blackmailing him. Thankfully, such opportunities are not that hard to find. Got one just last night, in fact, from reader Levi Stahl. Levi works in publishing (and has a most excellent book blog, by the way), and as such, reads an awful lot of stuff. He’s also a big baseball fan, so when books and baseball get together, he is a happy guy. Unfortunately, books and baseball have combined to stump him — in a detective novel, no less — and he needs our help:
I’ve been stumped by a question that marries my two biggest interests: baseball and literature. I’m reading Rex Stout’s Fer-de-Lance, which was the first mystery he wrote about Nero Wolfe (who would go on to star in 43 novels, a radio show — wherein he was played by the incomparable Sydney Greenstreet — and a couple of television shows), and at one point Archie Goodwin, Wolfe’s primary operative, writes, appropos of being astonished anew by the beauty of Wolfe’s orchid collection, “It was like other things I’ve noticed, for instance no matter how often you may have seen Snyder leap in the air and one-handed spear a hot liner like one streak of lightning stopping another one, when you see it again your heart stops.”
I love that metaphor–“like one streak of lightning stopping another one”–and at first I thought, “Oh, he’s talking about Duke Snider.” Only, the spelling is wrong . . . and the novel was published in 1934. So off to Baseball-Reference I went . . . and I don’t find any Snyders who would seem to be right. Any ideas at all whom Stout might have had in mind? I’m willing to believe that misspelling was involved, if necessary, but I’ve not come up with an answer so far.
So I ask you, ShysterBall readers: let’s put on our dashing black fedoras, light up a Chesterfield, take a slug of courage from our office bottles, and help Levi solve his case. Let’s bring in this Snyder fella. If you have to jam a roscoe in his button to do it, hey, that’s jake.