Chance

Steve Shilstone, Author
Steve Shilstone, Author Breakaway Books $20 (224p) ISBN 978-1-55821-450-7
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-1-891369-16-2
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The narrator of this patter-filled baseball book is a self-described ""old weird guy poet."" Furthermore, he says, ""I lie to convey the truth... to make the story better."" He claims to have taught Hall of Fame shortstop Chance Caine in a writing class and has been offered money to write about Caine's life. This the narrator does, using conversations with Caine's teammates, opponents, coaches and ex-wives, diary entries and crisp little baseball poems penned by the smooth-fielding, clutch-hitting perennial All-Star himself. He tells about Caine's remarkable career for the Lions of the National League; about the .400 season; about the three failed attempts at a championship ring; and about his fateful last home game. En route, Shilstone introduces a beguiling cast of characters, many of whom stack up favorably to the wackiest figures of W. P. Kinsella's stories (especially, honey-tongued Lion manager Flappy Byness and hack sportswriter Ben Blessee). These are supposedly contemporary players and coaches-and that's one of the things that prevents Chance from being the same old boilerplate baseball nostalgia. The persistent question about the narrator's true identity, however, sometimes drags, and some of Shilstone's efforts to make the narrator more folksy fall flat. But baseball novels are a spotty lot, and one could do a heck of a lot worse than this fine bit of infield chatter. As Byness might have put it, you pays your money and you takes your Chance. (Mar.)
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