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Calico Joe by John Grisham *** (of 4)

calicoWarren Tracy, a journeyman pitcher for the 1973 New York Mets, beans Joe Castle of the Chicago Cubs during the August run at the National League pennant.  Tracy is a mean-spirited, over-the-hill, mediocre pitcher fighting to stay relevant to baseball and himself when up to the place comes the most sensational rookie ever to break into the big leagues.  Tracy sets him up with two outside pitches, low and away, and then lets him have it.  Paul Tracy, Warren’s son, was eleven years old at the time, simultaneously proud of his professional father, fearful of his drunken rages, and utterly enamored of the rookie phenom.  It is Paul’s story to tell.  Thirty years later the father, the son, and the hit batsman still bear the scars.  Grisham’s paean to baseball is like the game itself: warm as a summer afternoon, patient, yet punctuated with bursts of excitement.