Guide to Baseball Novels: M
- McAllister, Troon. The Kid Who Batted 1.000. New York: Doubleday, 2002. A team of misfits battles its way to the pennant with the help of the title character, a player with extraordinary eyesight who can walk every time up.
An exceedingly old-fashioned novel; the central idea is in fact taken from a 1951 juvenile by Allison & Hill. It's a wisecracking tale akin to '70s romps like All G.O.D.'s Children and Screwballs, or earlier comic novels like A Pennant for the Kremlin. To its credit, it's self-consciously old-fashioned, and if you can endure lots of wry comedy and snappy dialogue, you might like it.
- McAlpine, Gordon. Joy in Mudville. New York: Dutton, 1989. Three unlikely Chicagoans--an orphan teenager, a mad scientist, and a taxi-dancer fleeing from Al Capone--head west to follow the flight of Babe Ruth's "called shot" home run ball in the 1932 World Series.
An appealing magical-realist novel, Joy in Mudville shows the influence of Kinsella, but is lighter and more lyrical than any of Kinsella's fantasies. The first reviewers also compared the book to the work of E.L. Doctorow; McAlpine blends celebrities and invented characters in a similar nostalgic mix, but his approach is more magical than Doctorow's. Unfortunately out of print, this book deserves a new edition.
- MacDonald, Shari. Diamonds. Sisters, OR: Palisades, 1996. New owner of a AA club falls in love with one of her players in this Christian series romance.
- McManus, James. Chin Music. New York: Crown, 1985. An amnesiac pitcher for the White Sox, beaned and mortally wounded during a World Series game, struggles to get home as the city of Chicago is destroyed around him in a nuclear holocaust.
Dense and verbally tricky, this novel connects violence, sex, mutual assured destruction, and retaliation for injuries in a postmodern moral fable. Too pathologically and graphically violent to succeed as entertainment, it is nevertheless a skillful mix of literary techniques.
- Malamud, Bernard. The Natural. New York: Farrar, 1952. A young prospect goes to Chicago to try out for the Cubs, is shot by a madwoman, recovers, joins the New York Knights years later and almost leads them to a pennant, resists throwing the decisive game, and loses it anyway.
Heavy and thick symbolic novel that just avoids congealing altogether. It is, as one should remember, a first novel by an author who went on to greatness. The Natural has had a tremendous impact on later baseball fiction, and remains a true archetype of the genre. Sometimes critiqued as unrealistic, which is beside the point: the baseball in the novel is not drawn from real life, but almost entirely from the stock situations in juvenile and pulp baseball stories that flourished in the first half of the 20th century. This (seriously) parodic relation to lowbrow fiction gives The Natural its postmodern texture. Filmed, with various sentimental embellishments, in 1984.
- Maloney, Andrew. End of a Dynasty. Victoria, BC: Trafford, 2004. After three straight World Championships, the arrival of a selfish superstar portends the collapse of the Buffalo Pioneers.
Defies the usual formula by having its central team become truly awful.
- Manderino, John. The Man Who Once Played Catch With Nellie Fox. Chicago: Academy Chicago, 1998. A fortyish Chicago ex-minor-leaguer watches his life disintegrate, then picks up the pieces.
Moderately funny life's-losers novel; similar in setting and theme to Lorenz's Guys Like Us, but lacks that novel's edge and abandon.
- Mandino, Og. The Twelfth Angel. New York: Fawcett, 1993. Devastated by the deaths of his wife and son, a man takes up youth-league coaching and meets a half-pint bundle of inspiration among his charges.
Major entry in the small sub-genre of baseball glurge.
- Mayer, Robert. The Grace of Shortstops. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984. An eight-year-old rabbi's son in the Bronx follows the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers while unearthing secrets about his dying grandmother, his adulterous mother, his kidnapped cousin, his gunrunning father, and a tragic neighborhood bag lady.
The kidnapped-cousin subplot keeps one's attention, but the novel drags on after it is sewn up, and ends with spasms of melodrama and a truly bad pastiche of Molly Bloom's soliloquy from Ulysses.
- Merriken, E Dee. Dream Season. New York: iUniverse, 2005. In 1890, young Californian Walter Settle explores his ambition to play professional baseball.
Historical novel based on the life and career of the author's grandfather.
- Miller, John A. Coyote Moon. New York: Tom Doherty, 2003. Various oddball characters converge in the Mojave Desert and wait for the advent of something wonderful, which may be heralded by a brilliant rookie catcher for the Oakland A's.
Readable magical-realist fare.
- Miller, Matt. Milltown Yank. Scottdale, PA: Pinetree, 2002. In 1930, a hot prospect in the St. Louis organization plays his rookie minor-league season for the Cardinals' affiliate in Scottdale, Pennsylvania.
"I've written about what it was like to live in Western Pennsylvania during the 1930s. . . . Scottdale was a town that had a love affair with their minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. In actuality, the town fathers thought so much of their team that they actually paid Branch Rickey a yearly fee to keep the team in town."
- Mills, Dorothy Seymour. Drawing Card: A Baseball Novel. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012. Balked of a chance to play men's pro ball, a star pitcher plots her revenge.
Read Scott D. Peterson's review for the Sport Literature Association.
- Minor, Roy. Brush the Summer By. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2008. Max Murphy continues to fight sadistic teammates, the Mob, and the Klan.
- Minor, Roy. In the Fall. Pittsburgh: SterlingHouse, 1999. Max Murphy, young Cardinals prospect in the late 1950s, is disturbed by the racist culture of organized baseball.
- Miró Fernando, Román. Roberto Clemente: The Untold Story / en el Cielo lo que se juega es Béisbol. Orig. publ. 1992. Second Edition. Bayamón, PR: Liga Boricua Béisbol Adulto, 1993. Guided by the angelic spirit of departed Pittsburgh shortstop Arky Vaughan, the great Clemente learns that he must lay down his life for that of his son, in a Christ-like gesture.
This edition is bilingual, with an English version of the novel followed by a Spanish version.
- Mitchell, Bob. Once upon a Fastball. New York: Kensington, 2008. Baseball-obsessed history professor investigates a mysterious baseball left him by his mysteriously disappeared grandfather.
Energetically written, but sinks from the weight of relentless, minutely-detailed exposition.
- Moffie, Sam. Swap. n.p.: UEL Enterprises, 2007. "Inspired by the real-life wife-swapping incident involving two former New York Yankees, this hilarious tale shows readers how to cope with life's most unconventional choices."
- Molloy, Paul. A Pennant for the Kremlin. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964. Rich crank bequeaths the Chicago White Sox to the Soviet Union, and the Soviets send a cerebral commissar who manages the club to the World Series.
Dreadfully unfunny Cold War comedy, possibly a trial balloon for a movie treatment that Hollywood was too smart in the long run to buy.
- Moon, Scot. Open Season. Pittsburgh: Dorrance, 1993. A star ballplayer has assorted troubles in the weird world of baseball in the 2000s.
- Morgenstein, Gary. The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. New York: Atheneum, 1983. Thirtysomething magazine writer dusts off his spikes in a stab at the title ambition.
A mix of wacky character business and overly fraught marital trouble somewhat detracts from the central theme, which is American male midlife wish-fulfillment in its purest form.
- Mosher, Howard Frank. Waiting for Teddy Williams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Lad grows up in rural Vermont with dreams of pitching for the Red Sox in a World Series.
And does so. Sporadically interesting local-color farce that hits about .150 in its attempts at humor and pathos. See my review at lection.