Guide to Baseball Novels: W

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Well-written if somewhat arch novel that has become very familiar thanks to stage and film adaptation as the musical Damn Yankees. (The 1994 Norton reprinting of the novel is in fact retitled Damn Yankees.) Fans of the play will recognize all its elements in Wallop's novel, except that Lola is less of a temptress, more of a girl-next-door caught in a Faustian bargain like that of the protagonist. The novel has certainly dated, but of the light baseball comedies of mid-century (including Smith's Rhubarb or Molloy's Pennant for the Kremlin), it remains the most readable.

Criticism: Bishop, Hye

This is one of those strange early baseball novels (cf. Edmunds) on the cusp between adult and juvenile fiction: its material is too gritty for kids, too facile for adults, and too boring for either. One of a loose series of "Barnes Sports Novels" that included the work of Frank O'Rourke.

In other words, your basic gringo fantasy about how Third World women will fall all over you, and a Third World revolutionary will become your best buddy, if you just stand around in their country looking manly enough . . . Except for premises like these, the novel is harmless enough; it's a fast-paced, action-filled read. Castro also toes the rubber in Apple, Shepard.

Bo Crutcher may be the first fictional baseball player to utter the words "no faking orgasms. I can't stand that" (317). He may speak for us all.

Strong "Florida Noir" novel with enough baseball to satisfy fans of sport litertaure, too. Read about Rum Point on lection.

That's the bones of a plot that Willard fleshes out with lovingly detailed descriptions of Ann Arbor life in the 1940s--and of happy families, as if to disprove Tolstoy's dictum that they are all happy in the same way. A disparate and disorganized novel that still generates considerable appeal.

Criticism: Hye, Westbrook

An ambitious novel, which decenters the usual Big Game archetype and tries a more dialogic approach. Keenly researched and well-written, this is perhaps the best baseball novel of the 1990s.

Criticism: Rutter

Things become even more improbable when the lads head for Williamsport and the World Series. A gently fictionalized version, with strong Christian elements, of the actual 1957 Little League champions, including archival photos and supporting documentary material.

Epistolary busher Ed Harmon, writing to his old pal Joe, reminds one of Jack Keefe, of course, but with little of Keefe's libidinous charm or unselfconscious verbal energy. There is little baseball in the novel, which reads mostly like a patriotic plug for the war effort.

Comic novel, severely strained.

Has the pace of an American League day-night doubleheader.

Infinitely detailed exercise in nostalgic chronicle.

The author is a former University of Michigan letterman in baseball.