An ingratiating first novel--in which an on-the-skids reporter steps off his Amtrak train and onto another carrying the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. Sam Fowler--alcoholic, on the edge of divorce, returning from burying his father--has little reason to miss the 20th century; but beyond his enthusiasm for playing backup for the fledgling Reds, just beginning their first national tour, and his beguilement by a tougher, simpler, more innocent world, he feels he's been called back for a special reason--one involving Andy Leonard, his best friend on the Reds; Andy's mother Ann and sister Caitlin; and Cait's lover Colm, killed at Antietam. When Ann extracts Sam's promise to help Andy send her back to Ireland to be buried, Sam robs a grave (in connivance with his namesake Sam Clemens) to get the money and adds the Fenian Army, whose gold he's stolen, to the gamblers already out to kill him for his interference. Colm's ghost improbably keeps popping up to save Sam's life, but the fantasy, though overplotted, is well-sustained--until a helter-skelter shootout in San Francisco reveals Sam's role as Colm's avenger (a role most readers will have seen coming long since) only to dump him in a Monday-morning epilogue back in his own time, psychoanalyzed by public-health official as he sorrowfully awaits his chance to return to Cait and 1869. Best when it sticks to baseball, this is strong work from a promising starter who doesn't lose his stuff until around the seventh inning.