Ridiculously mannered prose strikes out this ambitious tale of a 1949 minor-league baseball team with an autistic star hurler and a courageous black catcher.
“This was home. The ballpark. The one place in the world that mattered. The one place in the world that did not morph in the tumult of the universe.” Evidently styling himself the next Damon Runyon, Nappi follows up The Legend of Mickey Tussler (2008; made into the 2011 TV film A Mile in His Shoes) with more diamond action between the Brewers and archrival Rangers. This is highlighted by the return of Mickey, the “Baby Bazooka,” and the arrival of slugging catcher Lester Sledge from the Negro Leagues. Mining the thesaurus for alternatives to the N-word, the author subjects Sledge to a hail of “ulcerous screams” and “festering odium” from “yard ape” to “jigaboo.” Not even repeated attacks from local members of the KKK prevent him from emerging “like a powerful pupa” to shine on the field. Meanwhile, as Mickey mows opposing batters down, his mother and Brewers manager Arthur “Murph” Murphy consummate their relationship (“…her entire lifetime had been communicated to him through her soft, wet lips”). As in the opener, Rangers’ chicanery again leads to a climactic Brewers defeat, but a call to the Show for Murph, Mickey and Lester tacks on an upbeat ending.
Few young readers will get that far, or care much. (Historical fiction. 13-18)