Sam Sattler's Reviews > Calico Joe

Calico Joe by John Grisham
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's review
Apr 20, 12

bookshelves: baseball
Read from April 19 to 20, 2012

With Calico Joe, John Grisham finally takes a stab at the baseball novel he says that he has wanted to write for the last twenty years. It is the story of two very different baseball players, one an aging pitcher in the decline of a mediocre career, the other a rookie who seems destined for one of the most amazing careers in the history of the game. When the two face each other for the first time, their careers will be changed to a degree that neither could have imagined just one week earlier.

The rather slim novel (my edition, including the Author’s Note, numbers only 198 pages) is told from the perspective of the pitcher’s son, now a grown man who has been estranged from his father for years. The heart of Calico Joe, however, is told in flashbacks to the summer of 1973, when the Chicago Cubs – in desperate need to cover injuries to two position players – bring Joe Castle up all the way from Double-A ball and plug him in to their starting lineup.

Joe, a youngster from little Calico, Arkansas, turns out to be much more than the Cubs expected. After less than a dozen games, he is breaking rookie records that have stood for decades and displaying hitting skills that could turn him into the best hitter in the history of the sport. Joe, though, is still making his way around the league for the first time, and pitchers still expect to find the batting weakness that can be used to shut down his remarkable start.

Paul Tracey should be living a boy’s dream life; his father, after all, is a major league pitcher with the New York Mets. Warren Tracy, however, is just barely hanging on to his job as a Met starter and he takes his problems out on Paul and his mother. Seldom does Warren bring Paul to the ballpark or even talk baseball with his son. However, despite his father’s resentment of baseball, Paul is still an avid fan of the game, and his favorite player in the summer of 1973 is Joe Castle – a choice greatly resented by his jealous father. Thus, is the stage set for the initial meeting of Joe Castle and Warren Tracey.

Grisham’s plot is one that baseball fans, especially those who enjoy the intricate recordkeeping of the game, will find intriguing. However, although Calico Joe has all the makings of a great baseball myth, something along the lines of Malamud’s The Natural, most of its characters are not developed deeply enough to make them entirely believable or sympathetic. Surprisingly, this is the case with both of Paul Tracey’s parents and, when the book moves back to the present, with Joe Castle’s brothers – key characters, all of them. This left me both wishing for a book twice the length of the one Grisham produced, and having a difficult time buying the book’s ending. This one could have been so much more.

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04/19/2012 page 38
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Would you enjoy a novel that imagines what would happen to a MLB rookie pitcher who throws a fatal bean ball at the behest of his manager? If so, A PITCH FOR JUSTICE an e-book examines the national debate that rages about the inherent risks of baseball and the laws of society when a criminal investigation and prosecution for homicide ensues. Please also read the review by Tampa Tribune sports writer Robert D’Angelo.

message 2: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam Sattler Does sound like an intriguing twist on the Chapman incident, Harold. I know that criminal charges relating to game incidents have been filed in hockey but don't know that it has ever happened In baseball.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

That is correct.other than civl suits for damages, there never has been a criminal indictment.Harold

message 4: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam Sattler That's also why I find the whole New Orleans Saints bounty scheme for injuring key players on opposing teams to be so disgusting. They are getting off way too light, IMO. I' ll have to take a look at your book...

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