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 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.
A review copy was provided by the author.
Dave Moyer is an education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.