James Klagge's Reviews > Calico Joe

Calico Joe by John Grisham
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's review
Jun 21, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: novels, sports-baseball
Read from June 17 to 19, 2012

I liked this baseball novel about a pitcher who purposely beans a rookie phenom and permanently disables him. The story was reminiscent of Ray Chapman's death in 1920 from a ball thrown by Carl Mays. Mays had a reputation for pitching high and inside to batters who crowded the plate. And it was prescient of the case of Cole Hamels and Bryce Harper in May of 2012. Harper is a rookie phenom for the Washington Nationals, Cole Hamels is a veteran pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. The first time Hamels faced Harper in the first inning of a game between the Phillies and the Nats Hamels hit him in the small of the back with a fastball. "I was trying to hit him," the Philadelphia lefty said. "I'm not going to deny it....That's something I grew up watching, that's kind of what happened. So I'm just trying to continue the old baseball because I think some people are kind of getting away from it....But I think unfortunately the league's protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball," he said. That's about the stupidest thing I've heard. Curt Schilling, a much classier pitcher, added his 2 cents on ESPN: "I never threw at a guy for being a rookie. It's just so stupid. It's like throwing at a guy who hit a home run off of you because you made a crappy pitch," he said. "I can see where the kid would rub you the wrong way. Because he's so damn...good. But what is he accomplishing with the dumb quote?" Harper quickly evened the score with Hamels. After taking third on a single, Harper broke for the plate when Hamels made a pickoff throw to first. Harper stole home, sliding in safely for the first swipe of his eight-game big league career.
I had never read a Grisham novel before. This was focused and concise--more a novella. But it was very well-written, with only one false step. The whole story is told from the point of view of the narrator, who is the son of the pitcher. He brings about a meeting and reconciliation of sorts between the pitcher and the batter, but the scene is narrated despite the fact that the son/narrator is intentionally too far away to hear the conversation.
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