Thursday, March 22, 2012

Early Review of Calico Joe by John Grisham

  • Title: Calico Joe
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (April 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0385536070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385536073
  • Author's Website:

In the summer of 1973 a rising star entered the world of major league baseball playing for the Chicago Cubs and breaking records left and right. Joe Castle, aka Calico Joe, came from the small town in Arkansas named Calico Rock. Everyone knew they were watching a baseball legend in the making. The crowds loved him and the media couldn't get enough of him. His career was being watched by one and all and sending the fans into a frenzy. But everything ended abruptly when Warren Tracey, the pitcher for the Mets, threw a beanball at Joe breaking bone and ending one of the most promising careers that would never be played out in its entirety in the history of the game.

Warren said the hit wasn't intentional. It was a mistake. Joe couldn't say exactly what happened because the event was permanently wiped from his memory due to his injury. The two never spoke to each other after the incident. Other than Warren, there is only one other individual who knew what truly happened that day--Warren's son, Paul Tracey. Paul called the play before it happened and thirty some years later he's hoping to bring closure to the event that cost two men their careers and one boy his love of the game.

Okay, so I have to admit I may be a little partial to this book. I grew up in the Chicago area in the 70s, had grandparents who lived in Mountain Home, Arkansas, and I presently live in Tampa. I could associate with practically every spot this book took a person, and I got a little nostalgic about each of them as I read. I could practically smell and taste the hot dogs and beer being served in the stands as the story jumped to scenes in the ballpark. *sigh*  I remember years playing outside while parents sitting on stoops listened to the games being played over their transistor radios. Oh the memories... :)

I truly loved the book. We got a little view into the life of the main characters through the eyes of an 11 year old boy with a unique view. A boy who knew his father and the truth of what happened that ominous day. We find out what he and his family had to face due to his father's actions and how it affected them. We also get a taste of what was going on in the head of Warren that led him to do what he did.

Grisham managed to catch the action, suspense, excitement, and emotion of the game in his story as viewed by 11 year old boy. I felt like I was sitting beside young Paul experiencing everything with him. The love Paul had for the game and the horror he felt as the events took place was heartbreaking. His wish to really bond with his dad and the turmoil he felt when trying to figure who to root for when his father's team faced his idol's team felt real and tangible. When the incident happened, Warren Tracey lost more than just his career--that day he lost the respect and love of his son as well.

Overall, I rated this one 5 out of 5 roses. It can be enjoyed by both those who are and are not fans of baseball.I loved how Grisham wove his fictional tale into the fabric of the 1973 season arranging and moving things around to fit the needs of his story. It's an emotionally touching novel about betrayal, forgiveness, and the whisper of what could have been. 

Notes to keep you in the know:
According to wikipedia, "Beanball" is a colloquialism used in baseball, for a ball thrown at an opposing player with the intention of striking him such as to cause harm, often connoting a throw at the player's head (or "bean" in old-fashioned slang). A pitcher who throws beanballs often is known as a "headhunter." The term may be applied to any sport in which a player on one team regularly attempts to throw a ball toward the general vicinity of a player of the opposite team, but is typically expected not to hit that player with the ball.[1] (You can read more about what a Beanball is at )

1 comment:

  1. John Grisham is a very good writer whose work is often formulaic. However this book is a welcome departure. He takes on a different arena, and focuses on the good and bad of sports. He also provides a poignant narrative of small town life and aspirations. The focus is on the sports hero and the anti-hero. Within it is the story of anger, remorse and redemption. It is a universal theme, well-written and captivating. For those who value sports, and sports as metaphor, it is a must read.



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