Still wondering how we got sucked into this new feature on ESPN.com that involves make-believe and the ’27 Yankees, we go out the baseline a bit and check out some real, intended baseball fiction:
The book: “Double Switch”
The author: T.T. Monday
The vital statistics: Doubleday, 224 pages, $25.95. Released March 1.
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: Back in 2014, Monday (his real name is Nick Taylor) created Johnny Adcock, this bullpen gumshoe who finds there’s plenty of time between appearances to solve mysteries.
The first time it had to do with the death of a teammate. This time, it’s trying to find out what’s behind all the rumors of a new Cuban star who might be way over his head with some bad people. If you’ve followed at all the plight of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, or heard of some of the stories involving other players who’ve escaped the island, it’s not a far-fetched tale.
Just maybe you’re not sure Adcock is the right man for the job. But he does it anyway.
“As soon as I emerge from the tunnel, hear the crack of the bat, and feel the grass under my feet, I realize I was right. This is my life. I may not be Clayton Kershaw, but I am immortal.”
More to know: San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy recommends the read as a Bay Area baseball bucket list requirement …. a review on BloggerNews.net
The book: “The House of Daniel: A Novel of Miracles, Magic and Minor League Ball”
The author: Harry Turtledove
The vital statistics: Tor Publishing, 336 pages, $28.99, released April 19
Find it: At Amazon, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: Turtledove’s novels of the past have dealt with alternative universes as they relate to war themes from all time periods — including a “what if” piece about World War II that had the subtitle: “Suppose Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, Hitler and Hirohito had united to conquer an even greater foe?”
(Remember when the Valley and the Westside were at war? He does.)
So, of course, this time it’s about semipro baseball in the ’20s and ’30s that captures his attention — most particularly, the House of David teams that represented Jewish communities and were noted for the large beards.
Flipping the script, Turtledove decides to make this a House of Daniel team sponsored by a Christian sect in a town called Cornucopia, Wisconsin, playing games out West.
Plus, there are werewolves, zombies and vampires, as player Jack Spivey discovers.
Use your imagination to the fullest.
The book: “Bucky F*cking Dent”
The author: David Duchovny
The vital statistics: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 296 pages, $26. Released April 12.
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: The author, better known as the “X Files” actor (who worked with the partner named Scully), appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” recently to explain what he was trying to accomplish here:
DD: For this book, I think it’s a First Amendment issue, with the title. When (the publishers) talked about the title, they said how difficult it would be for people to search (for it). What am I going to search about ‘(Bleeping) Dent’? Because it’s never going to be out as ‘Bucky (Bleeping) Dent.’ (They asked if I had) any alternative titles? I said sure, how about ‘Eat, Pray, Love, Bucky (Bleeping) Dent’? They didn’t go for that.
SC: Did you think about pointing out to them: You know how many times people Google the word (bleeping), right?
DD: I did not. But we almost went with ‘Fifty Shades of Bucky (Bleeping) Dent.’ Because there was a precedent there. … But they didn’t go with any of them so now we’re stuck with this (bleeping) title. Which you can’t say or show, so good luck selling those books.
While they hash over the title, let’s get to the story: It’s a father-son relationship issue. The son works as a peanut vendor at Yankee Stadium. His estranged dad, a huge Red Sox fan, thinks his team is going to win the pennant in 1978. The son realizes that the dad, battling poor health, seems to get better whenever he sees the Red Sox win. Can he dupe him into thinking Boston will finally win a World Series after decades of losing?
Then Dent and the Yankees arrive for the one-game playoff at Fenway Park. And anyone who lives in New England knows why (bleeping) is his new given middle name.
The interview continued:
DD: It’s a very sentimental book. It’s not about baseball.
Colbert: Bucky (Bleeping) Dent reminds them that they’re losers.
DD: We’re all losers. We all lose a lot more than we win in this life.
Colbert: As much as we’d like, our live is not a series of victories.
DD: (laughs). We’re under the impression that everyone just wants to hear about winners.
Colbert: But you can get tired of winning.
DD: If you come with the philosophy that acknowledges losing, you get called some kind of defeatist. I think it’s being a humanist.
And yes, last year, Duchovny did a book called “Holy Cow: A Novel” that had nothing to do with Harry Caray or Phil Rizzuto.
More to know: A Boston Globe review under the headline: “David Duchovny’s new novel is proof you can’t be good at everything”
The book: “Twinbill: Further Immersions in Historical Baseball Fiction”
The author: Jeff Polman
The vital statistics: Grassy Gutter Press, 254 pages, $12.99. Released Jan. 11
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Bookwire.com
The pitch: The Culver City-base author/screenwriter got on our radar with “Mystery Ball ’58,” almost creating his own genre that involves taking baseball historical facts and recreating “what if?” stories about them. Are we a fan of this “fictionalization”? We admire the creativity and the dot-connections, but we’re not quite sure. Even after giving it another try.
There are two stories for the price of one if that helps in taking this on.
The first, “Dear Hank,” is a somewhat dark tale of how, in 1938, Detroit Tigers star (and Jewish hero) Hank Greenberg gets involved with a young Jewish pen-pal in Austria named Markie, trying to make sense of why his family is having a difficult time dealing with the rise of Hitler and Germany’s conquests. Meanwhile, Greenberg is distracted while chasing Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. Except here, Polman uses a friend named Paul Dylan to replay all 1,232 regular season games on his computer to provide a new set of data – and has Greenberg hitting 60 homers with 150 RBIs (instead of the career-high 58 he actually had that season with 147 RBIs).
The second story, “The Bragging Rights League,” flips the baseball integration tale and imagines what it would have been like if an all-white team (The Chicago White Dorseys) tried to break into an all-black league. It might remind you of the 1998 movie “Pleasantville.”
More to know: Polman also has written “Ball Nuts” in 2014 (replaying the 1977 season) and “1924 And You Are There!” in 2012.
One last consideration:
== You may see the book “Dodgers” by first-time author Bill Beverly (Crown, 304 pages, $26, released April 5) and assume there’s a baseball link.
Look at it this way: It’s set in L.A. about a coming-of-age gang member named East, sent by his uncle to kill a witness who’s living in Wisconsin. An Amazon.com review calls it “a thriller that seems to come out of the blue.”
The Dodgers in some way seem to be a noun, an adjective and a state of mind about this story.
A couple pages of dialogue:
The van. East slipped away from the rest to examine it. Dingy outside — a few dents and scrapes untouched, dirty hubs, no polish for years …
In his mind he was boiling it down: Drive the roads. Meet up for guns. The job. … Kill a man? More like keep them from killing each other, these three3 boys, for two thousand miles in this ugly van. That is what they’d brought him in for …
Relieved of their things, armed with their new names and wallets full of twenties, they followed Johnny around the strip to the sporting goods store.
Above the clothes high banks of sick white lights spilled down.
“Dodgers cap. Dodgers shirts. Get you one,” Sidney was repeating.
Walter squeezed between the triple-XL ends of the racks.
“Dodgers are faggots,” said Ty.
“I don’t disagree,” sighed Johnny. “What can I say? White people love baseball. White people love the Dodgers.”
“What I care what white people like?”
“Boy,” Johnny said, “the world is made of white people. So you just pick out a nice hat.”
All the clothes smelled of the chemicals that made them stiff and clean. The boys’ hands sorted through the new and bright. East drifted back, found a rack marked CLEARANCE where the close didn’t stink, grabbed two plain gray T-shirts with Dodgers script. Michael Wilson paid cash for it all at the register.
“Thank you for shopping with us today,” the girl in her braids gushed. “Go Dodgers!”|
“Thank you,” Michael Wilson said over his sunglasses. “Okay, let’s vamos, kids.”
Outside the damp, irrigated morning smell of Los Angeles flowers and fruit in the trees and small things rotting.
A New York Times review here.