Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Let's Play Two"! Review of "The Might Have Been" by Joseph M. Schuster

I loved this book! It is the debut novel by Joseph M. Schuster. The writing reminded me of some of the best baseball stories already in the pantheon - Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe" and Malamud's "The Natural." The author leads us through the plagued career of Edward Everett Yates. Yates got to have his "cup of coffee" in the Big Leagues with the Cardinals. In a gut-wrenching episode, he hits for the pure cycle(single, double, triple and home run in that order) in Montreal before tearing up his knee trying to make a heroic catch in the outfield. The icing on the cake of disappointment is that the game was rained out before it had gone 5 full innings, so statistically, his rare achievement at the plate never happened. With the injury in Canada, Everett's playing career is over, despite attempts to come back. But he cannot walk away from the game, and spends thirty years languishing as a coach and manager in the lowest levels of the minor leagues and independent leagues.

This is a gritty tale of broken bats, broken bodies, broken relationships and broken dreams. The owners, players, coaches, wives, girl friends, family members who make up the roster of Everett's world offer their own share of Pyrrhic victories and disasters. The author does a nice job of highlighting the tension that exists between those whose approach to evaluating the game and its players is purely driven by statistics and SABERMETICS and those who trust their eyes and their gut.

Schuster has found just the right voice for allowing the reader to feel and taste and smell each of the major episodes and settings in the innings of Everett's life. As the end of the book approached, I found myself wishing that I had more of the author's works to devour. I felt like Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, renowned for his passion and joy about the game of baseball when he blurted out: "Let's play two!"


Play ball!


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