Tag Archives: baseball novel

Sea of Madness

Baseball Dads

Baseball Dads: Sex. Drugs. Murder. Children’s Baseball. by Matthew S. Hiley (Greenleaf Book Group Press, $15.99, 320 pages)

“Holy Travel Ball, Batman”

What do you do when you live in an affluent suburb, your kid is a talented baseball player but ends up playing on a team with a “daddy ball” coach, and your wife is sleeping with half the males in the state of Texas? Why, the answer is obvious. You spend 90% of your waking hours high as a kite, orchestrating a killing spree, have sex constantly, assume you can get away with it because you are a superhero, win over the cops, and – at the same time – get the reader to root for you because every other character in the novel is even more reprehensible than you.

At least that is Dwayne Devero’s solution in Matthew S. Hiley’s masterpiece Baseball Dads.

Every page gets more absurd than the last until just when you think it can’t get any more ridiculous, it does. If you have to wear glasses to read, as I do, good luck. It is hard to imagine when you are crying your eyes out with laughter. Baseball Dads is Family Guy on steroids.

It is a farce, certainly. But it is extremely well-written. And, it is so far out there that one is forced to reflect on the moral negativity of egocentric lives without realizing that Hiley is holding the mirror up to us all – until it’s not as funny anymore when the realization comes that that is exactly what he is doing.

Baseball Dads back cover

The Real Housewives of Fort Worth, or the reality of your own suburban backyard, your attitude about your kid’s participation in organized sport, and the absolute certainty that he or she is surely on the cusp of a college Division I scholarship – before they’ve even reached puberty? Well, you will have to decide for yourself.

Priceless.

Highly recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is an education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel about love, baseball, and Bob Dylan.

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Baseball Dreams

Life and Life Only

Life and Life Only: A Novel by Dave Moyer (iUniverse, $14.95, 200 pages)

Because I like baseball (having written a baseball novel), have endured martial strife, and am a father (all major themes in Dave Moyer’s novel), I enjoyed reading Life and Life Only. It details Dan Mason’s life from his birth in 1974 to his early-forties in the future year of 2018. Incidentally, the book was published by iUniverse, Inc., in 2009, nine years before the story ends.

An abundance of facts are presented as the novel primarily follows the baseball career of talented pitcher, Dan. We accompany him through youth, high school, summer, college and semi-pro baseball as he seeks his dream of playing professional and eventually major league baseball. Unfortunately an arm injury undermines that dream. Baseball also is an important part of his marriage to the lovely Southern belle, Anna Jean, and even permeates, in a positive way, his excellent relationship with his only child, Melinda Sue.

The novel does have its shortcomings, however. The interspersing of historical details and the music of Bob Dylan aside, it has, as I mentioned, an abundance of facts. And Moyer often presents these facts randomly, and sometimes in a helter skelter manner, frequently changing point of view in the process. Such a voluminous number of facts ultimately sacrifices the drama inherent in Life and Life Only. Moyer regularly violates the important writers’ adage of “Tell, don’t show.” Thus he keeps the reader at a distance instead of inviting him into each scene.

Even with the novel ending some nine years after publication, it seems very autobiographical. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I simply mention it because a little poetic license might well heighten drama.

Life and life only (1)

Again, I enjoyed the book. I am sure I would have found it more compelling with fewer facts and more drama.

Recommended (3 stars out of 5).

Alan Mindell

Alan Mindell is the author of The Closer: A Baseball Love Story, and The B Team: A Horse Racing Saga.

The Closer Mindell

Dave Moyer is an education administrator in the greater Chicago area, author, and a reviewer for this site.

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There Used to Be a Ballpark

The Closer Amazon

The Closer: A Baseball Love Story by Alan Mindell (Sunberry Press, $14.95, 188 pages)

Alan Mindell’s debut novel mostly satisfies.

Knuckleballer Terry Landers makes his improbable major league debut in his 30’s after toiling in the minors for 15 seasons when Oakland manager Rick Gonzalez arranges for a trade. Landers was on the verge of being released by the Phillies organization, but with the proper tender loving care from Gonzalez, he takes over the closer role and becomes an integral part of an unlikely playoff run.

Muscular superstar left fielder Elston Murdoch, in his contract year leading to free agency, perseveres through the personal turmoil of a drug-addled daughter to miraculously fall one game short of tying Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak.

Terry and Murdoch, as they are called throughout the novel, form a bond and support each other through Murdoch’s improbable search for his daughter and Terry’s burgeoning romance with single mom, Lauren.

Though told in third person, the book reads as if it is told through Terry. In a line near the end of the story Terry thinks, “Five months. Is that all the time that has passed? It seems more like five years.” That line came shortly after I was thinking to myself, “Man, a lot has happened in three months.”

Five months span 184 pages, and there are some spots where things feel a little rushed. Though there are times that more character or plot development is warranted, Mindell is best when he gets inside the head of Terry, who – like all players at one point or another – is at the crossroads of the end of his career and the rest of his life.

A few unusual events test the reader’s patience. For example, baseball managers don’t really run through the streets of impoverished urban areas to monitor the movements of their star players.

the closer back side

The Closer is one of those hokey baseball books with a happy ending, and as we baseball fans are desperately holding on to the end of one more long but all-too-short season, there are a lot worse ways to pass the time.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the author.

Dave Moyer is an education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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The End of the Innocence

Swing (nook book)

Swing: A Novel by Philip Beard (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, $14.95, 324 pages)

John Kosta befriends Henry Graham, even though it is more the other way around. Then, Henry’s sister, Ruthie, takes a liking to John as well. Next, Henry shows up at an awkward moment on New Year’s Eve, following the death of the Pittsburg Pirate’s great right fielder Roberto Clemente and, before you know it, you have the foundation for a novel. But, like all great novels that use baseball as a backdrop, Philip Beard’s third novel Swing is actually not about baseball.

John has no legs, and Henry is a 10-year-old boy trying to deal with his father’s need to move from one woman to the next through his love of baseball and the Pirates. Not coincidentally, both Henry’s father and John share in Henry’s passion. John serves to fill a void for Henry, establishing a relationship that takes the reader all the way to the final pages of the story.

Father-son, male-female, brother-sister, husband-wife, friend-friend, co-worker to co-worker – no relationship is without complication. This novel is as much about lost innocence and regret as it is about anything. And it is about continuing to find a way to move forward and live one’s life amid the inevitable disappointments and challenges that pop up.

Swing is reminiscent of a John Irving novel, with the obligatory oddball character(s), themes of missing fathers, and the characters’ obsessions with sex. In fact, while some Irving novels run too long, and while this reviewer prefers the condensed version in most cases, Beard could have provided us with more.

The novel shifts back and forth in time between Henry’s adult and childhood years. If somehow the author could have avoided this technique, it probably would have been an even stronger and more impactful story. That being said, it is well worth one’s time to read Swing. It is one of the better stories this reader-reviewer has encountered in a while.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Dave Moyer is an educator, and the author of a book about baseball, love and Bob Dylan, Life and Life Only.

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Old Friends

“How terribly strange to be 70… Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.” Paul Simon (“Old Friends”)

The Last Perfect Summer: A Novel by Ed Prence (Windy City Publishers, $12.99, 166 pages)

Then I paused for a minute. “Harry,” I said finally, “do you remember who you were?” “I was a baseball player?”

That passage right there from page 36 of Ed Prence’s sparse 166-page novel The Last Perfect Summer is the essence of the story.

This book is for anybody who still remembers what the term “ghost runner” means. It for those who remember “fastpitch” against the wall, overhand lob with a chain-link home run fence, and whiffle ball batting your favorite team’s line up from both sides of the plate. It is for those who’ve played it as well as those who love it.

In the story, Ted Tresh visits former Little League teammate Harry Kirkland in a care facility in which Harry is essentially condemned to die. Having lived for over a decade with other patients in similar but varying states of need and/or dementia, he’s had fewer than a handful of visitors. Harry lives in his own world of despair and confusion. When childhood friend Ted shows up for an extended visit, memories of the grand old game rekindle a semblance of life in the former cocksure Little League superstar.

Last Perfect Summer

As Ted reminisces with Harry about the good times from their banner Little League season, he detects sparks of humanity within Harry’s tortured being. Ted enjoys the afternoon, and, believing he is doing some good, stays for an extended period of time. In the end, Ted leaves the once-hopeful encounter disillusioned, and, when Harry’s fate is sealed years later, Ted legitimately cannot attend the funeral. Based on how this passage is written, while distressed on the one hand, it is likely that, deep down, Ted would not, or could have not have attended even if he were able.

The structure of the book alternates episodes from the story of their childhood and championship run and Ted and Harry’s visit. The relationship between the two characters is not only central to the story but the strength of the book. While the specific tales that bind them together are necessary, there might be a better way to get at them than alternating which disrupts the flow of the most powerful aspects of the tale. There are highlights in which certain points are made to great effect, but this is not consistently true.

When I was a kid, I visited family friend and former major leaguer and minor league home run king Joe Hauser periodically to keep him company and pass some time. Several times a year I heard the stories about Walter Johnson’s fastball and how much of a “sunuvabitch” Ty Cobb was. “Unser Choe” (Our Joe) was a local hero. He told endless stories, squinting at us through his pale blue eyes while chomping on his cigar. He came over on Christmas Day, always dapper with suit and tie and his remaining hair combed perfectly. Nobody parked near him in the retirement home after his 80th birthday passed or on our entire street in front of our house on Christmas Day. It wasn’t so easy for him to navigate the old Buick anymore, you know. And the tears over his departed wife came easily. Gradually, Joe drifted off into his own world and, then, he left us.

The Last Perfect Summer may not be a great “book,” but it’s a darn good story. Give me a good story any day. Rekindle a memory any time. Where would we be without either? Remember while you can.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was received from the author. Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

The Last Perfect Summer is available as a Kindle Edition or Nook Book download.

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Tangled Up in Blue

It is often said that music serves as the soundtrack of our lives.   So how about setting a sports-related story to the words and music of Bob Dylan?   This is the interesting premise for the story Life and Life Only by first-time novelist Dave Moyer.   Life is the story of Dan Mason, a 92 miles-per-hour fastball pitcher in high school who turns down a major league contract in order to attend college at the University of Georgia.   Mason gambles that the MLB will be there waiting for him after he completes a successful pitching career with the Bulldogs.   What he doesn’t expect – although secretly has wished for – is to meet a perfect Southern belle.   Mason, in fact, meets and marries Anne Jean Simpson whose beauty is obvious to all.

Of course, there’s a danger in getting exactly what you want out of life, and the reader will wonder what’s less likely, that Mason will make the big leagues or remain married to Anne Jean?   Let’s just say that life throws a few curveballs Mason’s way, which is why he must come to terms with disappointment and loss.   What makes the telling of the story fun is to see the events in Mason’s life set in space and time by Dylan’s music.   And, to some extent, Dylan serves as a source of strength for Mason, because Dan attends Dylan concerts as a means of rejuvenating and recharging his life and his faith.

Yes, there’s a touch of the spiritual in this tale, although Moyer handles it so tactfully that it is not going to bother the non-church going reader.   Near the end, something happens that can be viewed as either a near miracle or as something simply meant to happen.   Perhaps, in Bob Dylan’s words, it’s a simple twist of fate.

I hesitate to divulge any more of the plot lines.   (Sometimes less is more; sometimes it is better to say of a review that “nothing was revealed.”)   I’ll just add that it’s not too late to order this book for Christmas from Amazon for anyone on your list who is a Boomer, a rabid Dylan fan, a Byrds or Joni Mitchell fan, a sports fan, a baseball player, teacher or human being.

Good work by Moyer with this semi-autobiographical tale (“I like to say that all of it is true and none of it is true…”), which is why we’re looking forward to the sequel, Younger Than That Now.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the author. Published by iUniverse.

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