Hitting the Books with Gary Thorne: “The Taking of K-129”

Truth is often stranger than fiction which is why history novels are so fun to read. That is the case with “The Taking of K-129.”

K-129 was a Russian sub lost at sea and found by the U.S. The CIA decided it was worth trying to bring the sub up to find its secrets - but how?

K-129.jpgThat is the subject matter of this book. As is said, “You couldn’t make this up.”

Josh Dean is a writer who has previously published and written articles for many leading magazines. He was deputy editor of “Men’s Journal” and was editor for the now-defunct New York Times sports magazine “Play.”

Dean happens to be a big sports fan, particularly baseball.

The story of the subterfuge concocted to keep the Russians from knowing the U.S. had located the sub and was working to recover it is a worthy foundation for this 2017 publication.

Howard Hughes figures big in this story. His firm’s construction effort to build the monster to lift a sub out of the water is a tale of “we can do it if we try.”

One is constantly tugged by the question of is the cost of this effort worth the potential results or the actual results. As so often happens, this question seems to get lost in the spy game and the us vs. them mentality that takes over. Once that happens, the cost is never too much.

Dean keeps the reader on the edge, awaiting that one defining moment. Can they raise the sub - and then what?

Now we pause to recite
a few words of baseball might.

A Ballad of Baseball Burdens

The burden of hard hitting. Slug away
Like Honus Wagner or like Tyrus Cobb.
Else fandom shouteth: “Who said you could play?
Back to the jasper league, you minor slob!”
Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom’s ire
Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob--
This is the end of every fan’s desire.

The burden of good pitching. Curved or straight.
Or in or out, or haply up or down,
To puzzle him that standeth by the plate,
To lessen, so to speak, his bat-renoun:
Like Christy Mathewson or Miner Brown,
So pitch that every man can but admire
And offer you the freedom of the town--
This is the end of every fan’s desire.

The burden of loud cheering. O the sounds!
The tumult and the shouting from the throats
Of forty thousand at the Polo Grounds
Sitting, ay, standing sans their hats and coats.
A mighty cheer that possibly denotes
That Cub or Pirate fat is in the fire;
Or, as H. James would say, We’ve got their goats--
This is the end of every fan’s desire.

The burden of a pennant. O the hope,
The tenuous hope, the hope that’s half a fear,
The lengthy season and the boundless dope,
And the bromidic; “Wait until next year.”
O dread disgrace of trailing in the rear,
O Piece of Bunting, flying high and higher
That next October it shall flutter here:
This is the end of every fan’s desire.

ENVOY

Ah, Fans, let not the Quarry but the Chase
Be that to which most fondly we aspire!
For us not Stake, but Game; not Goal, but Race--
THIS is the end of every fan’s desire.

- Franklin Pierce Adams

* Gary Thorne is the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN, and the 2018 season is his 12th with the club and 33nd covering Major League Baseball. His blog will appear regularly throughout the season. The Orioles and Sarasota County, for the 7th consecutive year, have partnered on the Big League Reader Program, which rewarded kids who read three books in February with tickets to a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in March. 180 children participated last year.

Hitting the Books with Gary Thorne. © Copyright 2018 Gary F. Thorne. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gary F. Thorne and MASNsports.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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