There’s a lot of anger and a lot of baseball in this ragged melodrama about an Irish kid growing up in the Bronx and Long Island.
Scooter Reilly doesn’t like his dumb name. It was his Yankee-venerating dad’s way of honoring shortstop Phil Rizutto, nicknamed Scooter. Our own Scooter is four years old in 1964, living with his family in the Bronx. His father is a cop, walking a beat in Harlem, practicing nonviolence. His mother would like to see him promoted by making more arrests so they can move out to the Island—white flight is under way. Nearby lives Grandpa, a fount of wisdom for little Scooter, who will later learn the far-fetched truth about this retired fireman’s terrible burns: that they were self-inflicted as punishment for his role in the death of his one true love, a victim of the city’s devastating fire at the Triangle Factory. Foley’s narrative leapfrogs the years, settling on key episodes. In 1969, Scooter’s dad inadvertently destroys his boy’s love of baseball, and later, enraged by the Mets’ World Series victory, he fires his gun, shattering Scooter’s leg. In 1973, enraged this time by the murder of his partner, he unintentionally hits Scooter’s sister Patty, causing brain damage; then Scooter intentionally breaks his father’s leg, and his mother, once a healing force, bolts. In 1977 (out on the Island now), the action centers on Scooter’s battles with a demonic fastball pitcher, Ferraggo, with underdog Scooter cast as Rocky. There’ll be violence on the field and off; Ferraggo will terrorize the retarded Patty, while his gorgeous sister, a latter-day Delilah, will tempt Scooter with sexual favors. A year later, Scooter will be about to exact his final revenge when his hand is stayed by the “mythic force” of the game itself.
Like his first novel (Tietam Brown, 2003), Foley’s second is all over the lot, replacing the thoughtful evolution of coming-of-age with improbable characterizations and wild spurts of violence.