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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Might Have Been: Baseball, Life, and Living With Regret

In life as in baseball, regret stings. Whether that regret is a result of poor decisions or horrible quirks of fate doesn't make it less haunting. You're still left wondering "what if." This is the idea Joseph Schuster explores in his fantastic debut novel The Might Have Been.

Thirty years ago, Edward Everett Yates got an unexpected call-up with the Cardinals, just when it was looking like his baseball career was about to flame out. But he blew out his knee before he was able to record an official major league plate appearance (one sacrifice bunt, and four hits washed away by a rainout). When the Cardinals release him on the day after Christmas (insult to injury!) he gives up, and consigns himself to the has-been bin, moving back to his small hometown in Ohio where he helps his uncle sell flour.

Baseball is life, though, the rest is just details — as the Tshirt cliche goes. And Edward Everett can't quite get baseball out of his system. Fast-forward three decades, and we find a 60-year-old Edward Everett, still in the game, now managing a Single A team in a po-dunk town in Iowa.

Despite being a socially awkward, somewhat dimwitted dude, Edward Everett demands our sympathy. We want him to find his peace and we want the game he depends on to finally give back to him. In fact, the question becomes, has Edward Everett's life-long dedication to the sport he loves — despite it being the cause of many of his life's calamities — admirable or pathetic? Has a life in baseball made it worth many of his poor life choices and biggest regrets? If not now, will it ever be?

I loved this novel, but especially the second half, as we meet all of Edward Everett's minor leaguers — from the egocentric, "rules-don't-apply-to-me" bonus babies destined for Major League greatness to the fringe players just barely hanging on to their baseball dream. The story of one player in particular, a light-hitting outfielder whose days in professional baseball are numbered, highlights the tragedy of

If you're a baseball fan, you'll love this novel (published just this past March), too. It really is one of the finer baseball novels you'll find. It's a quick read with A+ storytelling. Highly recommended!


3 comments:

  1. Baseball, for whatever reason, lends itself to novels better than most other sports (only boxing seems to out-perform in literature). I've not heard of this book but from your review it sounds like a great read. I'm looking forward to picking up a copy.

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    1. Agreed - something about the mystique and "legend" of baseball (and, some would say, its possibilities as a metaphor for life), make it fertile literary ground. Definitely check this out, if you're a baseball book fan - it's really good.

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  2. Sounds good to me. Thanks for bringing it to our attention! I hadn't heard of it.

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