Sunday, October 16, 2022

Review of "Long Gone," by Paul Hemphill

 Review of

Long Gone, by Paul Hemphill ISBN 0670437883

Four out of five stars

Not your usual sports fiction

The timeframe is 1956 and the location is the area around the Florida panhandle. Stud Cantrell is 39 years old and was a rising star in the Yankees organization until he ended up in Korea with shrapnel in his leg. His potential as a star in the major leagues gone, he has spent his adult life playing minor league baseball. He is now 39 years old and player-manager for the lower Class D Graceville Oilers. While still a good hitter and pitcher at that level, he is a hard-drinking womanizer with no real prospects for advancement. He also knows that his clock is rapidly ticking towards the time when even the Graceville team will be beyond his skills.

 Into this mix walks teenager Jamie Weeks with little more than a bat, glove and baseball spikes. Jamie has hitchhiked from Alabama in the hope that he can make the team. When Jamie meets Stud, he tells him that he can help, so Stud gives him a tryout. While Jamie is great with a glove, his hitting prowess is modest.

 Furthermore, a black catcher named Joe Louis Brown arrives and wants to play for the Oilers. Even though the major leagues have been integrated for almost a decade, this is the deep south and blacks are not allowed. Therefore, Joe becomes Jose and Venezuelan, lacking any knowledge of English.

 The addition of the two players and a tremendous resurgence by Stud leads to the Oilers challenging for the league pennant. It all comes down to the final day of the season where it is win or go home. While this is largely a routine, big game at the end, plot of sports fiction, this ending is quite different. Stud survives to play another season with his hot, young bride, but he sacrifices a great deal.

 This is a very adult instance of sports fiction, there is swearing, sex, religious fervor and fierce racism. The best part of the book is when a group of the KKK stop the team’s bus and try to extract Jose. While Stud may have his faults, there is a significant good streak within him. Generally speaking, this book is probably more realistic than most books of sports fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment