Guide to Baseball Novels: W
- Wallop, Douglass. The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. New York: Norton, 1954. A middle-aged realtor sells his soul to give the Washington Senators a shot at the championship.
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.
- Weeks, Jack. The Hard Way. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1953. Hard-luck kid rises from reform school to the bigs.
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.
- Wendel, Tim. Castro's Curveball. New York: Ballantine, 1999. A retired schoolteacher returns to Cuba, where he played baseball half-a-century earlier; we see his story in flashback, as he becomes the lover of a beautiful revolutionary and teaches Fidel Castro how to pitch.
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.
- Wiggs, Susan. Fireside. Don Mills, ON: MIRA, 2009. Romance pairs a bumptious ballplayer and a young woman "hired to smooth his rough exterior for the media."
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.
- Wilber, Rick. Rum Point. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. Burnt-out manager tries to hold together his club for a pennant drive in the midst of drug dealers, murderers, and cops (one of the cops being his own daughter).
Strong "Florida Noir" novel with enough baseball to satisfy fans of sport litertaure, too. Read about Rum Point on lection.
- Willard, Nancy. Things Invisible to See. New York: Knopf, 1984. A man: hits a woman in the head with a baseball by accident, in the dark; falls in love with her; enlists and serves in the South Pacific; and returns home on leave to play a baseball game against Death Himself.
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.
- Wilson, M.R. Protocol 9. n.p.: Xlibris, 2002. In a world where baseball results are dictated by computers and pawned off as real, a band of purists come together to expose the fraud.
- Winegardner, Mark. The Veracruz Blues. New York: Viking, 1996. Different voices, assembled by a frustrated sportswriter-turned-novelist who acts as overall narrator, tell the story of the 1946 Mexican League and the fortunes of the American players, black and white, who played there.
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.
- Winokur, W. William. The Perfect Game. New York: Kissena Park Press, 2008. Youth-league club from Monterrey bands together for an improbable road trip to play against organized Little League competition in the States.
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.
- Witwer, H.C. From Baseball to Boches. Illustrated by F.R. Gruer and Arthur William Brown. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1918. Wise-cracking southpaw finds himself drafted by the "Alleys."
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.
- Wojciechowski, Gene. About 80 Percent Luck. Kingston, NY: Total / Sports Illustrated, 2001. Veteran Chicago newspaperman is sentenced to the Cubs beat.
Comic novel, severely strained.
- Wolff, Miles. Season of the Owl. New York: Stein and Day, 1980. Minor-league life in the 1950s, interrupted by deep secrets.
Has the pace of an American League day-night doubleheader.
- Worden, Mike. The Heroes of Henley's Woods. Mt. Clemens, MI: Gold Leaf Press, 1998. Twelve kids spend the summer of '57 in Warren, Michigan, playing ball and following the major-league pennant races.
Infinitely detailed exercise in nostalgic chronicle.
- Wuerfel, Jason. Pray for Rain: A College Baseball Story. n.p., 2005. Last-string player copes with the vicissitudes of his final year of college eligibility.
The author is a former University of Michigan letterman in baseball.