It’s been a while since I last read a baseball novel. I’ve previously read The Firm and A Time to Kill, so when I discovered that John Grisham had written a book with a baseball theme, I knew it would be worth checking out.
Calico Joe takes place in two time periods: the present day (the novel was published in 2013) with flashbacks to the 1973 season. The book’s narrative mixes fact and fiction. Grisham introduces fictional players who interact with and participate on actual teams, namely the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs. The fictional characters interact with actual people, such as Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, and Tom Seaver, and fictional games take place in real life stadiums. At the end of the novel, Grisham makes a point to include a note explaining just this, imploring, “[P]lease, all you die-hard fans, don’t read this with any expectation of accuracy. I have completely re-arranged schedules, rosters, rotations, records, batting orders, and I’ve thrown in some fictional players to mix it up with the real ones. This is a novel, so any mistake should be promptly classified as part of the fiction.”
The narrator of the tale is Paul Tracey, who, in 1973, was the eleven-year-old son of New York Mets pitcher, Warren Tracey. Paul is a massive baseball fan, and a solid Little League pitcher in his own right. However, his father is a man who parties as hard as he throws, frequently returning home drunk and turning on his own family. Thanks to Warren’s treatment, Paul’s interest in baseball eventually wans.
During the 1973 season, a rookie first baseman arrives in the majors for the Chicago Cubs — a man named Joe Castle, from Calico Rock, Arkansas. Castle’s major league career gets off to a rocket start, as he astonishes baseball fans across the country with home run after home run, shattering a number of rookie records. Calico Joe quickly becomes the idol of virtually every baseball fan in America, including the young Paul Tracey.
On August 24, 1973, the Chicago Cubs face off against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Warren Tracey is on the mound, and young Paul is in the stands, torn between rooting for his dad and for his hero, Calico Joe. In his first at-bat against Tracey, Joe Castle hits a home run. Feeling that Castle has shown him up, in his next plate appearance, Tracey throws a pitch that beans Castle right in the head.
In all the scenes taking place in the present day, the results of this one pitch continue to reverberate through the lives of both ballplayers and of the now-grown Paul Tracey. Paul has limited contact with his father, but when Warren is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Paul has an idea on how to bring some closure regarding Calico Joe.
I really enjoyed this book. The combination of baseball and John Grisham made it a page turner, though it’s certainly not your typical Grisham novel. It’s not a thriller, there’s no real mystery in the tale. It’s a simple, straightforward story, full of nostalgia, but not without its tensions. If you’re looking for a fun, casual way to while away a lazy afternoon, this is definitely worth picking up.
On August 28, 1884, New York Gothams pitcher Mickey Welch struck out the first nine Cleveland Blues hitters to come to the plate, establishing a major league record for consecutive strikeouts. Welch’s mark lasted until 1970, when New York Mets right-hander Tom Seaver would strike out the last ten San Diego batters he faced in a game at Shea Stadium.
This piece, published in 1999, is short and leaves a lot open to interpretation. It does leave me wondering if the baseball division was a contributing factor to the division in the relationship.
Relaxing with his son
watching the Mets,
sharing the good times
The court gave him
the best home dates
to root for their team
Relaxing with her son
watching the Yankees,
sharing the good times
The court gave her
the best home dates
to root for their team
as a family.
On October 27, 1986, the New York Mets became World Series champions for the second time in team history as they defeated the Red Sox, 8-5, to win Game 7 of the Fall Classic. Third baseman Ray Knight, who is named the Fall Classic’s MVP, hit a home run in the seventh inning, which put the Mets ahead for good.
In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted; if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.
With a nickname like “Tom Terrific,” you know he was good at his job. Born November 17, 1944, Tom Seaver pitched for twenty seasons in Major League Baseball. Over the course of his career, he played for the New York Mets, the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox.
Seaver won the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1967, and during his career, he won three NL Cy Young Awards. He was also a 12-time All-Star, compiling 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts, and a 2.86 ERA. Just to pad the résumé a little, Seaver even threw a no-hitter in 1978.
Tom Seaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. He passed away a few days ago, on August 31, 2020 from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19.
Rest in peace.
Here’s a good Baseball Project tune to start your Tuesday. This song is all about the rise and fall of Lenny Dykstra, who was considered to be one of the heroes of the 1986 World Series, but has since fallen into so much legal and financial trouble that earlier this year, a court in New York ruled that he is “libel-proof,” meaning his behavior and character are so awful even false statements cannot harm his reputation.
I was a big fan of The Strokes through my time in college and grad school, but I haven’t paid much attention to them in recent years. So my thanks goes out to Jackie, a.k.a. The Baseball Bloggess, for sharing this gem with me!
The lyrics of this song look back at the band’s career and their history in New York City, where they grew up together. The title of the song, of course, references the New York Mets, whom lead singer Julian Casablancas calls the team of his youth. Casablancas wrote the song after the Mets lost Game 7 of the 2016 NL Wild Card to the San Francisco Giants — a loss that exacerbated the frustrations of fans of a team that has not won a World Series since 1986. The band views the name as symbolic, with the Mets representing something that you set your heart on, but that continues to disappoint.
On June 5, 1981, Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan surpassed Early Wynn as the all-time walk leader with 1,777 when he walked two in his 3-0 victory over the Mets. Of course, Ryan also struck out ten and only gave up five hits in that game.
Ryan would end his 27-year career with 2,795 bases on balls, nearly a thousand more than Steve Carlton, who is currently second on the career list for issuing free passes.
On March 14, 1961, former Yankees president George Weiss agreed to become the first president of the expansion New York Mets. It is believed that the Mets offered Weiss a five-year deal at $100,000 annually, more than he ever earned during his 14 seasons with the Yankees.