The Come-Back Kids

Bob Cairns, Author St. Martin's Press $18.95 (317p) ISBN 978-0-312-02929-6
This predictable first novel could easily be called ``The Bad News Bears Turn Middle-Aged.'' In 1954 the New Becton (Md.) Hot Dogs challenged the Little League World Series Champion Poughkeepsie Pintails to an exhibition game. When members of the Pintails and their coaches objected to the presence of two black players on the Hot Dogs, the game was canceled. Thirty years later, Elmer ``The Giant'' Thummer, the team's old coach and now a wealthy hot-dog king, decides to sponsor ``The World Series That Shoulda' Been but Never Was.'' The novel's main character is team captain and catcher Walker ``Hoot'' Horton, a small-town newspaper sportswriter who suffers from anxiety attacks. The book opens at the Hot Dogs training camp, then follows them north on the custom-made, hot-dog-shaped team bus, for games at Wrigley Field, Tiger Stadium, Cleveland Stadium, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. The promotional stunt eventually gains nationwide attention due to a player's strike, a fan's protest and the columns of a sexy, female sportswriter named Larry Barnes. Eventually, a power struggle between Thumma and his rival at the hot-dog company threatens the Series. The first-time author writes with a lot of energy and a good deal of lusty charm, but there are very few surprises here. The novel is too long, too obviously plotted and feels as if it's told from the wrong point of view--Horton's occasional first-person narration outshines the rest of the narrative. And the tidy ending of this good-natured but ultimately forced effort can be seen all the way from the warning track. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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