"Death ain't nothing but a fastball on the outside corner."
Early in the first scene of Act One, Troy weaves a tall-tale, or Uncle Remus story in the African American tradition, about his supposed encounter with different forms of death. With these words, Troy compares death to an easy pitch, perfect for hitting a homerun. Therefore, Troy portrays himself as invincible and immortal to Bono and Rose. With this language, August Wilson creates the impression that Troy is strong, passionate for life, and fearless. This hyperbolic depiction of Troy, so early in the play, helps to establish Troy's character.
The fastball/death metaphor serves two purposes in the dramatization of Troy's character. Troy no longer plays baseball, but he continues to approach life as if his identity never changed. Wilson's use of the fastball/death metaphor depicts Troy as a common man capable of thinking with the heroism of a mythical figure. More significantly, Troy's metaphor foreshadows an inevitable fall into the role of a tragic figure. When a man thinks he can beat death, the inevitable discovery of that feat's impossibility awaits him. If Troy maintains an indiscriminate outlook on death, eventually he'll reveal his weaknesses. In the first scene, we do not yet know how the humorous, stalwart, and jovial version of Troy topples, but we get a sense that Troy's ability to control his own fate diminishes during the play.