The town that baseball built has some mean secrets that throw a wrench into a handful of lives in Us Weekly editor Pilek’s atmospheric and character-filled debut.
Cooperstown is a place so redolent of America that it has taken on the stature of myth. But there are skeletons in its closets, and Pilek pries them out into the light of day to atone for their sins. The ghosts threaten the town’s very foundation: without baseball, the quaint, kempt town would be just another hardscrabble upstate municipality. Without the glory of the baseball’s immaculate conception on its soil, no one would visit. Pilek never gets ponderous with all this, but, instead, she plays it like background music to the residents who live the myth. Forget about the economics; it’s those who identify with the story of the sport’s origins who will pay the price for having stumbled upon closets with ghosts. One will die of a heart attack, another will hang himself, a third will go mute and mad, another turn to booze, a fifth lose everything and go live in the woods. Still, Pilek is not here to play the wasp with a sting. These episodes have already been played out before the story takes root, and Pilek’s tale is in their being put to right, offering a touch of redemption—of the people, not the sport—and taking a peek at why some things endure and others fall by the wayside. Certainly, the good doesn’t always endure. Promising marriages fail, decent lives are quashed, the myth continues to devour even as it sustains. Perhaps it’s time for the myth to move on.
One scene comes needlessly close to Bull Durham (the town beauty becomes a serial dater of transient ballplayers), and another to Shoeless Joe (a dead father appears from on high), but, otherwise, Pilek offers a choice piece of baseballiana.