How did your baseball-themed reading/watching go this month? There are certainly lots of books and movies to choose from and, as a nice touch – professional baseball was actually played! Hurrah!
(So, how do you feel about the cardboard cutouts and the piped in crowd noises? The Cubs got it right at Wrigley but the Mets need do some work….)
For this month I read Calico Joe by John Grisham. I haven’t read a lot of Grisham, just a couple of his early titles, and I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with this one – very disappointing.
The story moves between the present and 1973 when 11-year old Paul Tracey was, like many little boys, completely enamored with baseball. Paul avidly followed his favorite teams and players, keeping scrapbooks and memorizing statistics. What should have made it better, even magical, was that his father Warren was a Major League pitcher with the New York Mets. Unfortunately, Warren was an abusive and uncaring father. His career was fading fast and he takes out his frustration on his family and Paul in particular.
What makes that summer better for Paul is the arrival of Joe Castle in the big leagues. He joins the Cubs in July and immediately makes an impact – a humble kid from the heart of the country with a golden bat. Paul is one of his biggest fans and Warren doesn’t like that. On a fateful day in August, Warren Tracey pitches against Joe and the Cubs and, in a fit of misplaced anger, hits Joe with a pitch. Neither of their careers or lives will ever be the same.
Some 30 years later, Paul tries to make sense of what happened and to reconcile those involved before it’s too late.
While Grisham is a good writer, crisp and clear and no-nonsense, I found that in this case, it didn’t engage me. There is a lot of baseball “language” here and lots of baseball statistics – beloved by baseball fans but cumbersome for the uninitiated. I felt that the emotional impact of the story was muted and distant when it should have been immediate and heartfelt, and it was predictable – I had pretty much figured out what was going to happen from the start. Nevertheless, if you’re a Grisham fan and a baseball fan, you’ll enjoy this book.
Now it’s your turn – what did you read in July?