Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Calico Joe - by John Grisham

In Calico Joe, John Grisham weaves a fictional baseball tale inspired by the 1920 beaning of Ray Chapman, the only baseball player ever killed by a pitch.

In 1973, Paul Tracey is an 11-year-old boy who loves baseball.  His father, who pitches for the New York Mets, drinks, chases women, and abuses his wife and kids.  Paul is a pretty good Little League pitcher, himself.

Paul is enamored with Joe Castle, a young phenom brought up mid-season by the Chicago Cubs, who is re-writing the rookie record book.  As the reader easily surmises from the very beginning, the young and talented Calico Joe and the aging journeyman pitcher Warren Tracy are on a tragic collision course.

The story is narrated by a grown-up Paul Tracey who has since abandoned the game of baseball and is estranged from his father.  When he receives the news that his father is dying of cancer, however, he decides that there is something he must do.

At just over 200 pages, this is a pretty quick read.  For me, the baseball stories took me back to my childhood.  I grew up watching many of the players mentioned in this book.  This book is about more than baseball, though.  It is about excitement, disappointment, tragedy, conflicted feelings, regrets and ultimately the power of forgiveness.  I highly recommend it.

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