“Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things.” ~Robert Frost
John Grisham’s “Calico Joe” offers a look inside those intervals through the lives of Joe Castle, a young phenom hitter for the Chicago Cubs and Warren Tracey, an arrogant thirty-four year old pitcher for the Mets.
Paul Tracey, the son of the Mets pitcher and a talented eleven year old Little Leaguer when the story begins, has that love of baseball that makes the players into gods. Calico Joe becomes Paul’s hero, but Paul knows his volatile, abusive father too well to award him the same status. The confrontation between the two baseball players is inevitable and you will know what’s coming long before it happens. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying all the baseball stories along the way.
Is the story true? In his author’s note, Grisham claims the prerogative to fictionalize, but he does base the story on the Cubs and Mets in the 1973 season. Famous names sprinkle the narrative. He also refers to the reality of baseball’s “code” – the story’s scary premise – the “ins and outs of protecting one’s teammates, and retaliation, and the complications of ‘throwing inside.’” Baseball can be a dangerous game.
Whether or not you are a fan of the game, “Calico Joe” is an easy read, with a little schmaltz and a lot of heart.