Eularee Smith
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Entries in little league (1)


Calico Joe

Calico Joe

John Grisham

Doubleday, New York

Hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audio


Dust off the bleacher seat, buy some peanuts and crackerjacks and prepare to enjoy the game of baseball through the eyes of a master storyteller. Since I am life long fan and played catcher in my younger years with better knees, I am perhaps more critical of baseball novels than most. If you don't know your stuff, can't walk the walk or talk the talk, I'll take my ball and glove and go home. Grisham captures not only the spirit of the game but has all the players he needs to color the pages with the history of the game. 

I repeatedly had to refer to the dust jacket to remind myself the story was indeed fiction. Inspired by the true story of Ray Chapman, the only professional player who was killed by a pitch, the backdrop for the story is baseball in the 70's, a very mean and lean time to play the game. The teams, the Cubs and the Mets. The players, Tony La Russa, famous for his pitching retailiation, Yogi Berra, Dutch Patton, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Willy Mays, Hank Aaron, Catfish Hunter, and Joe Castle. Castle, a young rookie gets beaned by Warren Tracey, a mean drunk but phenomenal fast ball pitcher, who played old school rules, the code. Pitchers used the bean ball to keep batters from crowding the plate, for retribution for taking one out of the park, or even to send a warning to the remaining line-up. In this case, Tracey, was looking to take the young and rising star Joe Castle, out of the game.

The story, although peppered with baseball anecdotes and a few loosely used statistics, was really about a young boy, Paul Tracey and his father, Warren. Tracey's relationship with his alcoholic father was filled with abuse. Paul despises his father for taking away the career of his favorite player, his hero, Joe Castle. As the boy becomes a man, he can't let go of the fact that his father, let go from the bigs, disgraced, has never admitted to the wrong doing. He becomes obsesessed with wanting to somehow right the wrong he saw that afternoon from the stands. He knew the intent of his father the moment the ball left his father's hand and wants the world to know it was not a runaway ball as his father claimed. 

The coming together of father and son buffets the story until the end when his father is dying and it is now or never to bring about the reunion of the two fated players. Grisham is a remarkable wordsmith and the anquish of both father and son, along with the redemptive angle of the story, bring a story filled with the human condition sliding into home plate.

A great story on its own, but if you are lover of the game, you get a double header. Read and enjoy. Remember a time when the bean ball was a tool of the mound and the players were legends without steroids.