Fairly thin first novel about a young man’s devotion to his grandfather and their mutual love of baseball.
Boys nowadays may not gravitate to baseball as automatically as they once did, but young Stephen Slack has the bug bad—and he probably caught it from his grandpa Lazo, who was a true fanatic of the game in a time when that meant something. The son of Polish immigrants, Lazo grew up in a hardworking Toronto family that had little time for idle distractions, but in 1914 young Lazo went with his father to see the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Providence Grays: a Red Sox farm team with a rookie pitcher named Babe Ruth on its roster. The boy was hooked for life, especially after Ruth hit a home run (his first as a professional) that soared out of the field and sank into the waters of the bay beyond. It was a moment that would stay in Lazo’s mind forever, even more after he himself hit a home run in a school championship game that cleared the fence and fell into a swimming pool. To his grandson Stephen, Lazo is a hero, a survivor of another age who flatters the boy by paying him more attention than his own (highly successful) parents do; to Lazo, Stephen is a comforting friend who doesn’t (like his own son) look down on him as a hapless ne’er-do-well. When Lazo falls ill with a brain tumor, he recalls Babe Ruth’s first home run and asks Stephen in his delirium to retrieve the ball from the bottom of the bay. As a quest, this doesn’t rank with the search for the Holy Grail, but it follows the same basic pattern, and it becomes the organizing point of the tale, which offers a moving elegy given by youth to age.
A nice portrait, but little more: a sensitive and well-thought-out story that, in the end, tends toward the slight and flimsy.