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Is this book with the preposterous title a red herring? Has Senzel, a seeker of mythohistorical truths and baseball statistics, allowed a weakness for metaphor and ""analytical fabrications"" to run amok? Stay tuned. In the Fifties Senzel was a child baseball fan; in the Sixties he was ""an earnest field hand of the revolution."" In the Seventies he tries to meld these two defining identities via an emigre's return to Rochester, N.Y.--his home and the home of the International League's Red Wings. The Red Wings used to play the Havana Sugar Kings until 1960 when Fidel fell from favor, the Cuban sugar quota was withdrawn, and the Sugar Kings' franchise revoked--a casualty of the cold war. In searching for clues and fantasizing a baseball detente Senzel wanders into childhood memory as if minor league baseball would yield up some primordial truth about America's Imperial Age, the culture of the Fifties, and the dissolution of the postwar consciousness. The last he dates from the day he queued up for rationed gasoline. It is a fastidious, obsessive internal journey. Visions of Louis Tiant in the Sierra Maestra vie with the changing topography of Rochester--""gone were the restaurants shaped like chickens and ships."" Senzel finds that the microfilm reading room of the Public Library will vouchsafe no secrets. The plot--CIA machinations in his beloved baseball--isn't there. But something else is: a deeply intuited sense that culture has shifted and public identity--the sort that comes from family and community allegiances and landmarks--is no longer with us. But there is still baseball; played on artificial turf for maximized profits but mysterious and unpredictable as ever. For this plunge into autobiography as historical surrealism, it is the prism that focuses all reality. ""I was born on the fault tine of the postwar era,"" says Senzel, gingerly tracing that dangerous ground. A zinger.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich