With the hot stove league getting stoked with trade rumors, free agent talk, and hopes for the future, you can pull up a comfy chair near that pot-bellied stove and read some great fiction centered on baseball.
Darryl Brock will take you back to 1911 when John McGraw’s New York Giants go on a barnstorming tour in Cuba. “Havana Heat” centers around pitcher Dummy Taylor. His real name is Luther, but as was the custom of the day, anyone who was a deaf-mute was nicknamed ‘dummy.’ Taylor won 116 games in his nine-year career. He had not pitched since 1908 and was working on getting his dead arm back to life.
Taylor wants one last shot with the Giants, but the tour is also threatening his already strained marriage. The story is not about that one last chance, but of the young deaf-mute Taylor meets in Cuba, one with great pitching talent, and the game between deaf mutes and the Giants.
The tour reveals some factions on the Giants that becomes contentious. There is also humor and one exciting game. Taylor’s journey of self discovery is compelling.
A book which is about baseball, yet not about baseball is Robert Coover‘s “The Universal Baseball Association, J. Henry Waugh, Prop.” J. Henry has a dull job, but what keeps him going is his tabletop game of baseball, one he invented with fictional players on fictional teams. A roll of the dice and charts determines each at bat of the player during the game.
As the novel progresses one thing becomes apparent. The fictional players and what is happening in this world slowly begins to dominate, to the point that J. Henry disappears from the story. The novel is a brilliant account of art taking over the artist in a comic tour de force.
A book for middle school readers and above, yet also great for adults is “The Brooklyn Nine” which contains nine short stories all concerning the history of a family and its relation to baseball from the time of Alexander Cartwright to the present. Not all the characters have a love affair with the game, but baseball somehow figures dramatically in their lives.
All these books are great reads and if they are not in your library or bookstore I recommend either Amazon or Abe Books, a clearing house of used books from booksellers across the country.