Sportswriter and NPR commentator Deford (The Old Ball Game, 2005, etc.) tells a sweet tale about a baseball-team manager, his moody superstar and their moral dilemma.
After decades of good, hard, largely unrecognized work in the trenches, Howie Traveler has finally gotten what he deserves: He’s managing the Cleveland Indians. And he’s doing the pretty good job he always knew he could do. But his golden opportunity is about to evaporate after two years of laying the foundation for a league championship. Jay Alcazar, the Indians’ superstar, the muscle in the team’s lineup, has gone off the tracks. The gorgeous, gifted Cuban is about to get hit with a rape charge, and straight-shooting Howie, who genuinely likes the slugger and has worked hard to earn his trust, holds Jay’s fate in his hands. Howie saw Jay’s accuser trying to leave the ballplayer’s room and saw Jay pull her back and slam the door, but rape doesn’t make much sense to Howie or to anyone. Jay is such a star and so handsome that he never wants for voluntary companionship or sexual satisfaction. He has only to lift an eyebrow, even in a year like this one, when he’s off his stride. The manager, a very canny and very honest guy, is stumped. He knows he was hired to keep Alcazar happy and motivated, he knows that he’s about to be replaced by someone who can motivate the outfielder to resume his winning ways, and he knows that he’s never going to get a chance to manage a team if he gets fired. But rape? How can you wink at that? What he needs to know is why Jay spent a year distracted from his championship form. It all has to do with the circumstances surrounding the player’s birth and subsequent removal from the Socialist Paradise, but Jay seems unwilling to save his own skin. Or Howie’s.
A decent book enhanced by Deford’s great, conversational writing style.