Once a baseball player in the Red Sox organization, just missing the majors on account of a bad car accident (hence ""almost famous""), Ward Sullivan now lives in Harrisburg, Pa. . with his dying father and psychotic mother. He works in a peanut butter factory, has a hard time with intimate relationships, is closed-off. And all this is laid out right at the start of Small's earnest but jellyishly sentimental first novel--which leaves little room for drama or development. There are flashbacks to Ward's days in Louisville and the minors; to his relationship with beauty queen/stewardess Bluette (who says things like ""Hold me, traveler. . . I'm a serious lady""). And Ward's preoccupation with baseball memories and baseball lore is made abundantly clear. But, apart from a car trip that dying Dad asks Ward to make with him (from Harrisburg to Maine), there's virtually no narrative drive here, no fresh conflicts to energize the weary, wise meditations: ""And so Ward Sullivan dreamed. Not, of course, original dreams like other people had, but selected short subjects from the memories of his former life. . . . A man's a damn fool just to let go and do the first thing that comes into his head and that goes for his dreams too."" So: an oozy, sluggish book of sensitive impulses that don't quite fire--with marginal interest, perhaps, for baseball-fiction aficionados.