A flamboyant visionary tries to make baseball history.
Veteran sports journalist and debut novelist Schilling offers a compassionate, enjoyable re-imagining of the early days of baseball. The year 1944 finds oddball baseball promoter Bill Veeck returning from World War II sans one leg but emboldened by a mission to create the first black Major League Baseball team. To surmount the obvious challenges, Veeck pulls the wool over Commissioner Kenesaw Landis’s eyes by packing the Philadelphia Athletics with the most prominent athletes from the Philadelphia Stars, a Negro League team. Veeck’s dream lineup includes rapid-fire pitcher Satchel Paige, who has a “zeppelin-sized ego” to match, Cuban secret weapon Martín Dihigo and a doomed giant of a hitter, Josh Gibson, whose colossal swing rivals Babe Ruth’s. Determined to gather only the best players, Veeck soon gets the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, who thinks the promoter’s great experiment is a communist plot. The players, meanwhile, are competing with each other; misbehaving in the harsh glare of the national press; and trying to play their best game in American communities where bigotry is threatening to turn ballparks into riot zones. Among the backdrop of patriotic elation, pre-civil rights racism and Cold War paranoia, Schilling’s novel offers a deeply inspirational story of faith.
A terrific tale.