A first book of fiction from the talented Klinkowitz: twenty-two brief, pithy, refreshing, and sweetly memorable vignettes of one ""short"" season in the life and times of a Kansas City Royals' Class A farm team playing out of a bumpy ballpark in Mason City, Ia., and grumbling, finessing, and brazening its way closer to the big time. Klinkowitz's evenhanded sympathy with his characters--not just the charming, raw-boned rookie players, but the long-suffering manager, statistics-spouting bat boys and ""shaggers,"" hangers-on, fans and even an elderly drunken bus driver--is infectious, and makes for moments of pathos and high comedy. In ""Release,"" two boys fresh from high-school baseball stardom join the Mason City Royals and find themselves overlooked, unacclaimed, redundant, not even on the farm-team roster; but when they join forces to improve their skills and standing, they insure that one of them will be sent home--by a general manager who feels the pain of the situation so acutely that he doesn't even acknowledge the losing boy's release, thus never calling his name. In ""Five Bad Hands and the Wild Mouse Folds,"" the players, stuck in a tacky away-game motel in Dubuque, are so fed up with bad food and traveling that five of them gang up on a mouse and drop a TV on its head. In the uproarious ""Sweet Home Chicago,"" the team's naive starting pitcher Freddie returns from a brief trip home to Chicago and asks a fan for help: his prized possessions, a custom Cadillac, was stolen, so he stole a Mercedes Benz in retaliation, but now he needs the numbers sanded off; when the fan can't help, Freddie adds, in exasperation, that he also lost his signed farm-team baseball--hit it through the window of a neighbor's house, and the neighbor, a writer, sent it off to ""some moron in France""--Samuel Beckett, whose name doesn't mean a thing to Freddie. In fact, not much means a thing to any of these guys but bashful camaraderie, good cheer, pretty girls, the small pleasures of the road, a well-played game, and winning--which, against all odds, they, and Klinkowitz, continue to do, much as Ring Lardner did before them.