This novel about baseball and all its trappings from Lupica, a nationally syndicated sports columnist as well as author of both fiction and nonfiction books (Bump and Run; Summer of '98), offers a hilarious account of the comeback of Showtime Charlie Stoddard, a pitching phenom for the New York Mets forced into early retirement by a ruined arm. Five years after his final sorry major league appearance, Charlie encounters a mysterious therapist named Chang, whose treatments make his tortured arm feel so good he dreams of pitching again. Charlie, who is 40 going on 16, has an ex-wife, Grace, whom he still loves; a son, also a pitching phenom, who is so estranged he refuses to acknowledge his father's existence; and a shallow life made up of card playing, booze and one-night stands. How Charlie ends up pitching for the Red Sox as they try to hold off the Yankees in a tight pennant race and just possibly shake off the collective curses of the Bambino, Bill Buckner and Bucky Dent, is fast and funny and occasionally brings a tear to the eye as Charlie begins to grow up just a little and sets out to heal old wounds and make a new life for himself. The plot is obvious, the father and son story line is old hat and the happy ending is telegraphed like a hanging curve, but the laughs, the fast pace and insider baseball lore make up for weaknesses. (Sept.)
Forecast:Sports fans know Lupica, and those who feel the need to supplement their summer baseball viewing with a fictional fix will find his latest to their liking.