The 1898 Baseball Fe-As-Ko

Randall Beth Platt, Author
Randall Beth Platt, Author Catbird Press $24 (300p) ISBN 978-0-945774-47-1
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Cornball humor enlivens but crowds this fourth book in the ""Fe-As-Ko"" series, charting the continuing adventures of Royal Leckner, manager of the northeastern Oregon Four Arrows Ranch, and his intrepid wife, Elijah Marie. In this outing, Roy finds himself caught up in the ongoing battle between his wife, E.M., and her beautiful half-sister, Augusta. In the course of their competition, E.M. maneuvers Roy's employer, slow-witted ranch owner Levi, into trading his cattle for a down-and-out exhibition baseball team, the Bowery Bulldogs, who are on tour in Washington State. Faced with financial ruin, Roy has no choice but to engage a banned-for-life player, who happens to be the ranch's blacksmith, as coach to whip the team into competitive shape so they can earn back their investment. Though the plot has potential, it takes a lot of pages to get past Roy's self-conscious, first-person, vernacular storytelling. E.M. and her sibling are the most interesting characters in the book, but they only play supporting roles as foils for Roy and the men, and are generally brought out to relieve Roy's ponderous displays of country bromides and rustic malapropisms. Platt's knowledge of period baseball is spotty (home runs were not common in 1898 and not even officially sanctioned by all leagues), and her handling of period ranching is also shaky. Nevertheless, despite recurring inconsistencies, the novel has slapstick appeal and an underlying warmth. (Apr.)
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