In the age-old tradition of romancers who refuse to let facts stand in the way of a great story, first-novelist Winegardner...



In the age-old tradition of romancers who refuse to let facts stand in the way of a great story, first-novelist Winegardner (Prophet of the Sandlots, 1990) hits the outside corner with an evocative reprise of Mexican baseball's single season in the sun. It's 1946, and sportswriter Frank Hollinger is reporting on the five Pasquel brothers' attempt to create a major-league rival south of the border. And, with access to apparently unlimited amounts of dinero, los hermanos (under the direction of free-spending Jorge, the consort of Maria Felix) give El Norte a run for its money. The brothers, in this pre-Jackie Robinson era, use generous bonuses and megabuck contracts to lure stateside professionals (Danny Gardella, Max Lanier, Sal Maglie, Mickey Owen), who have few difficulties teaming up with stars from the Negro leagues and Latin America. The problems are with the gun-toting Pasquels, who load the roster of the club representing Veracruz (their hometown) with the best talent and otherwise put paid to any notion that Mexican baseball is to be organized. Despite the best efforts of sinister jefes to fix the season's outcome, the imported players give loyal fans in several hinterland cities an unexpectedly close pennant race and a consistently high caliber of competition, while the visiting mercenaries also get to witness such mythic moments as the home run hit by Babe Ruth in his last turn at bat. Off the field, the hired hands pine for absent sweethearts, engage in torrid love affairs with local lasses, and party with the hard-living likes of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. The idyll ends abruptly as a change in the capital's political climate leaves the Pasquels out in the cold. Years later, those who were involved have mostly fond memories of their sojourns, which they share in interviews with Hollinger, the older, wiser (somewhat), and forthrightly nostalgic narrator. An absorbing, episodic account of a brief fiesta that still lights up the summer game's storied past.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996


Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995