An aging baseball player struggles with life off the field.
When he met young reporter Fannie, Sol Bable was a hopeful young catcher at a major-league tryout camp in Florida. Though Sol fails to understand Fannie’s reasons, she fixes her attention on him, among all of the other rookies, and not just in search of a story. When Sol is sent to Jamaica to play in a winter exhibition league, she loyally awaits his return. With his future on the line, Sol tries to remain focused on his job, but is overwhelmingly curious about the colorful landscape and native culture. He follows the hotel bellhop to a Mas Afrikani ceremony, where he finds a frenzied gathering of dancers. He is taken with the beautiful Celeste, the daughter of the preacher Pop Wise. She refuses Sol’s advances, though, and will be swayed only if he is willing to undertake a dangerous journey into the hills to seek out the mystical Mas. Hopelessly infatuated, Sol sets off, but finds nothing. Fairly chagrined, he descends from the mountain, finishes the baseball season and returns to America. Twenty years later, after a highly successful career as the starting catcher for the New York Heroes, Sol is facing retirement and an uncertain future. As a baseball strike begins, the team owners ask him to try to win over the players to end the impasse. He seems to enjoy his role in the spotlight as ambassador, but Fannie fears for him and resents his erratic presence at home. This story of a man who fails to find meaning and direction in his life, despite his outward success, has real pathos. Unfortunately, it’s hopelessly buried under gruff, overwrought prose so stuffed with tortured metaphors, frequently related to baseball, as to be often nearly incoherent: â€œIf Woolly’s hands could hang from a wet mop like a flag from its staff, it was due to his total disregard for physical labor. He could always post-up and do nothing as stiffly as a mannequin before the hotel’s lobby doors. The big man put both of his hands in motion, as they fairly danced about his head now like elves circling a bear in a fairy tale.”
A swing and a miss.