Tag Archives: Glory Days

The Pitcher

The Pitcher: A Novel by William Hazelgrove (Koehlerbooks, $15.95, 241 pages)

The Pitcher (nook book)

“I had a friend who was a big baseball player back in high school/ He could through that speedball by you/ Make you look like a fool, boy…/ Glory days, they’ll pass you by….” Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days”

The Pitcher is Jack Langford, a 25-year major league baseball veteran, whose existence consists of watching games on television in his garage and drinking Good Times beer. Ricky, who lives across the street from Jack, is an aspiring pitcher on the cusp of high school with much more arm than control. Ricky’s mother is a noble soul, trying to raise her son and advance his future in the midst of racism, poverty, and violence.

The writing flows smoothly, the characters are interesting, and the story itself is intriguing. The Pitcher is clearly an enjoyable read, particularly well suited for young adult males. Its only detractors are those baseball purists who like everything in their baseball literature to 100% accurately reflect the game down to the smallest minutiae. From strictly a baseball standpoint, there are some technical inaccuracies (e.g., when Jack finally agrees to give lessons to Ricky and help him make the team, they are nothing like what pitching lessons would actually consist of). There are some others as well, such as description of the interactions between umpires and coaches, coaches and players, etc. However, this is fiction, and in all fiction one must be willing to suspend disbelief. If the baseball fanatic can get past some of that, there is much for them to enjoy here. The story will bring back feelings like hope or joy or disappointment for those who once played the game.

The premise of The Pitcher is strong. This reviewer cannot help but speculate how the major issues dealt with in the book (racism, immigration reform, how to live when one’s dreams seem to be over, domestic violence, access to health care, etc.) would have translated to a larger audience if not confined to a first-person telling by Ricky, whose 8th grade maturity level and vocabulary do not always do them justice.

All of that being said, The Pitcher is a worthy rendering of the age old theme of a boy, a ball, and a dream.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the author. Dave Moyer is an education administrator and a former college baseball player. He is also the author of Life and Life Only, a novel about baseball and Bob Dylan.

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The Underwater Window

The Underwater Window: A Novel by Dan Stephenson (Watermark, $13.99, 362 pages)

“Glory days, well they’ll pass you by/ Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye.”   Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days” from Born in the USA (1984)

The Underwater Window is the tale of a swimmer’s quest for Olympic glory.   Doyle is an elite athlete by most standards but marginal by Olympic performance standards.   As a team leader, he must harness the U.S. swimming team’s energy and babysit the American star, Archie, throughout the Olympic trials and, eventually, in France during the Olympics.

The dichotomy between the two males makes for interesting reading.   Archie is the naturally gifted, occasionally undisciplined star.   Doyle is the always-dependable rock, a guy who must milk every single ounce of talent out of his body in order to compete with the elite athletes.

Like all athletes, Doyle faces the inevitable.   He must come to grips with the eventual end of a career.   As a medical school candidate, he deliberates between enrolling in medical school or continuing to pursue his Olympic dream.   Author Dan Stephenson handles this dilemma satisfactorily, but as this is the seminal moment for any athlete, he might have done well to dig a little deeper.

Throughout the story, Doyle also contemplates his relationship with his longtime quasi girlfriend Molly, a cerebral sort with selective attractiveness, versus the temptation offered by his bombshell swimming team partner, Camille Cognac.   The passages involving Molly flow naturally, but the scenes involving Camille come across as a bit forced.

The introduction to each chapter is a snippet on reflections about the main character’s thoughts regarding his relationship to the sport of swimming.   Usually, these vignettes bear some connection to the forthcoming events.   Some work better than others.   They don’t detract from the story, but some add more value than others.

In the end, Doyle does qualify for the Olympics.   For him to win a gold medal would unrealistically taint and discredit the integrity of the novel.   However, the ending satisfies.   Overall, this book is a good one for general audiences, not just for swimming fanatics.   There’s a little something here for everybody, and the story clearly has more positives than negatives.

Recommended. 

Dave Moyer

A review copy was received from a publicist.   The Underwater Window is also available as a Kindle Edition or Nook Book download.  

Dave Moyer is a public school educator, and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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Glory Days

If there’s one thing you learn as an undergraduate, it’s that trouble can always be found on a college campus.   More than a few of us will recognize facets of our own schools in Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost by Richard Rushfield.   Rushfield here writes of his years at Hampshire College “in the twilight of the 80’s.”

Hampshire, in Massachusetts, comes off as the east coast version of U.C. Santa Cruz.   At this college in the woods there  were no grades, students could design their own learning program and attending classes was – well – optional.Don't Follow MeRushfield majored in drugs, alcohol and trouble.   He found his way into the major trouble-making group on campus, the Supreme D—s.   The Supremes sound a bit like the Yellow Turban Alliance from my own first college – a legendary group whose exploits may have been real or fictional.   (Very real or highly fictional.)

The first few dozen pages of Don’t Follow can irritate the reader due to the fact that the young Rushfield is not easy to relate to.   But whether you wish to or not, you’ll soon be laughing at the exploits of Richard and his friends.   At one point in the memoir, they’re already in trouble (with administrators and their fellow students) when they decide to form a 3-member fraternity.   Oh, they decide to do this since it will make them eligible for the social activity funds (party money) distributed by the student council.   Never mind that they don’t seek recognition from the national fraternity’s headquarters.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?   And you can probably see why it took Rushfield two years to learn that he could no longer “try anything” on the Hampshire College campus, and a full five years to graduate.

Once you get a good start on this truly hilarious read, you’ll find it hard to put down!   Recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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