Guide to Baseball Novels: R

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Of course that's Jackie Robinson on the dust jacket, but interestingly, Robinson is a tangential character in the plot, though an important touchstone; Robinson interacts with narrator Vince Stigiano, but does not befriend him away from Ebbets Field. Al Gionfriddo, eventual World Series hero, is the more plausible pal for Stidge, and is a well-drawn character. The main plot, involving Stidge's complicated love for his friend Sam LaVista, Sam's sister Alma, and the game of baseball, manages to steer just clear of schmaltz, but not by much.

Odd book, with many narrative devices one associates with novels, but catalogued as nonfiction. It's a pure chronicle for the most part: this happened, then that happened, then that happened, everything but Her McGraw cyning gefeaht uuiþ Conniemack.

Good-hearted exercise in Dodger nostalgia, which also manages to work in some of the more persistent motifs in baseball fiction: the career-blighting accident, the first woman big-leaguer, and Fidel Castro.

At 400 pages, man is this book long. On both front and back covers, though, former Expos reliever Jeff Reardon is quoted as saying "You won't read a better novel about baseball. Ever." Nunc et in saecula saeculorum, no doubt …

Agreeably soft-boiled caper.

If it does not live up to its title boast, this novel still has a claim to be the great satiric novel of baseball literature. Influential on Carkeet, Charyn, Donohue, Hays, Kinsella, Quarrington, Winegardner and many others, Roth's novel is funny and overdone by turns. Its language can be racist and misogynist, usually in the service of parody and often of self-parody.

Criticism: Ahearn, Ardolino, Crepeau, Klinkowitz

Starts blandly enough but then lives up to its embarrassing title. Has a certain priority in the subgenre of first-woman-big-leaguer novels, anticipating Bowen and Gregorich.

Very faithful imitation of Troy Soos's Mickey Rawlings series.

Sharply-written mystery that develops severe plot congestion about two-thirds of the way through.

At times this novel seems like a dissertation on Chicago history of the 1910s, but it develops considerable plot momentum and mixes a generous handful of real and fictional people together pleasingly.

Read William Boyle's review for the Sport Literature Association.