A Black Cat Book Review
Calico Joe by John Grisham
Eleven year old Paul Tracey loves baseball, playing it and watching it. Warren Tracey, a pitcher for the New York Mets, is his father. Joe Castle, a rookie first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, is his hero.
In 1973 Warren Tracey is fighting to stay in the game. He is a bitter hard-drinking womanizer who likes to party and thinks more of himself than he should. Joe Castle is a young player from Calico Rock, Arkansas who is a wonder on the ball field hitting home runs in every game. He is adored by Cubs fans and admired by all fans and players. He is an easy-going nice young man.
Warren thinks little of Joe and when the Mets and Cubs face off at Shea Stadium he wants nothing more than to show his son and the world that he is a better pitcher than Calico Joe is at bat. Paul knows his father is mean and vengeful. When Joe hits a home run off Warren’s pitch Paul knows that the next time Joe is at bat there will be trouble.
The next time Joe is up Warren throws a beanball, deliberately hitting Joe. What follows is the end of Calico Joe’s career and the beginning of the end of Warren’s career. That day in 1973 Paul’s world is shaken and changed and he never watches or plays baseball again. It is also the end of any love and respect he has for his father.
Thirty years later Warren is dying and Paul wants him to go to Calico Rock to see Joe and apologize for what he did. Paul wants his father to die a better man than he lived.
I am not a baseball fan and there is a lot of baseball talk and facts in this book but I was not put off by it. It was interesting and did add to my understanding of the what and why of the events in the story. The story is touching and written with a sensitivity that makes you ache for the disappointment of a boy who wants to love the man who is his father; and for the man who has accepted who his father is and still wants to love him.
Does the story have a happy ending? Yes and no. The people are who they are and their character traits, good and bad, remain. Joe is a good man and Warren is not so good. Joe seems not to have regrets and a family who love and support him. Warren still thinks he deserves better than what he got and has no one who cares much about him. Paul still wants his hero and his father; but he can only have one of them.