BOOK BLITZ: Where Triples Go to Die by Phil Hutcheon

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Sports Fiction 
Date Published: October 2017
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Publisher: Inkwater Press
In irreverent, laugh-out-loud style, Where Triples Go to Die illuminates the messy intersection of sports, race, and romance in contemporary college life. Black superstar Juke Jackson and white counselor Malcolm Wade, each facing relationship crises at home, forge a bond at school as Wade guides Jackson’s quest to join the legion of African Americans who transformed our national pastime. An array of intervening campus issues—date rape, unplanned pregnancy, revenge porn, academic integrity violations, and the aftershocks of war among them—will keep even readers unfamiliar with The Infield Fly Rule turning the pages to find out what happens next.
Praise for “Where Triples Go to Die”
“Phil Hutcheon illuminates the messy intersection of sports, race, and romance in contemporary college life. Black superstar Juke Jackson and white counselor Malcom Wade, each facing a relationship crisis at home, forge a bond at school as Wade guides Jackson’s quest to join the legion of African Americans who transformed our national pastime. An array of intervening campus issues, including sexual assault, unplanned pregnancy, revenge porn, academic integrity violations, and the aftershocks of war, will keep even readers unfamiliar with The Infield Fly Rule turning the pages to find out what happens next. A deftly written and inherently compelling novel by an author with a genuine flair for crafting memorably irreverent characters embedded in a narrative driven story of humor and pathos from first page to last, Where Triples Go To Die will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and setback up on the shelf.”Midwest Book Review
“Where Triples Go To Die by Phil Hutcheon masterfully intertwines the lives of two men from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds who are in different phases of life but are connected through their love of baseball. The humorous novel is filled with sex and scandal alongside the much more serious topics of suicide, alcoholism, and race. Julius “Juke” Jackson is on the verge of suicide after a terrible play in his final baseball game and his live-in girlfriend’s decision to move in with someone else. Malcolm Wade, the college counselor,happens to pass by at the right moment to find Jackson on the verge of a suicide attempt and talks him down. Wade, who has his own relationship issues,works tirelessly to help Jackson through his personal issues. The journey for the two men begins here. The quick-paced novel never loses momentum, as new characters and elements are added into the mix. Hutcheon’s writing style is down to earth, and he has a way of making the reader feel a connection with each of the characters and wonder what could possibly happen next. In addition to the everyday realities, Hutcheon also uses the book as a way to explore African Americans’ role in baseball, both past and present. Readers will also be impressed with the historical references and quotes throughout the novel. Hutcheon does not cease to engage the reader in this intelligent and well-written sports novel.”Manhattan Book Review
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Excerpt
Allenby mentioned a news report that Alex Rodriguez might be retiring from the Yankees at the end of the season and giving up his quest to break the home run record.
“Don’t get me started on that,” Wade said. “When he passed Mays on the list, I was hoping Brad Pitt would be there to greet him at home plate with the blade from Inglourious Basterds, carve an asterisk into his forehead.”
Wade was still convinced that the home run breaking Babe Ruth’s historic mark had been hit by the wrong man. He said now, as more than once before, “Put Aaron in a damn wind tunnel for most of his home games instead of those popgun parks in Milwaukee and Atlanta, then subtract sixty or so homers for two years of military service Willie did and Hank didn’t, they probably come out about even. Can you imagine how many homers Mays would have hit if he played his home games where Aaron did?”
“America didn’t love Hank the way we loved Willie,” Allenby conceded. “But if you really want to play the what if game, just imagine if Mays had signed with the Dodgers instead of the Giants.”
Wade stopped his hotdog halfway to his mouth. “Please, I’m trying to eat something here.”
“Unthinkable, I know, but . . . think about it: if Willie signs with the Dodgers, joins that team with Robinson and Campanella and Newcombe, and then later Koufax, Drysdale, Wills, Gilliam, he goes to at least ten World Series: the three he took the Giants to—two of them were tied pennant races that went to playoffs with the Dodgers anyway—plus six the Dodgers went to during his career, not counting the Army years, and one more year when they tied with the Braves—plus however many more his being on that team might have led to.”
Willie Mays Baseball Card
As much as it hurt to think about it, it was a good point; Wade had to admit it. “And gets to hang out with Sinatra in Hollywood instead of having rocks tossed at his house in San Francisco.”
Allenby continued: “Giants fans always remember that Marichal got hurt in the World Series in ’62, pitched in only one game, and that cost them the championship. But they forget who else got hurt that year.”
“Koufax.” Wade had not forgotten. “You had to remind me, didn’t you?”
Allenby shrugged. “You think that regular season ends in a tie if Sandy is himself in August and September?”
Wade nodded bitterly. “That was the only World Series Willie got to in San Francisco, and they didn’t win.”
Allenby shrugged again. “You worry too much about what Mays didn’t do. You ought to be satisfied with what he did: I know I don’t have to tell you.”
Wade ran down the list: a pennant at twenty, a championship at twenty-three, 660 home runs, a batting title, league-leader in stolen bases four years in a row, two MVPs more than a decade apart, a dozen straight Gold Gloves dating from the honor’s origin, fifteen wins in his last eighteen appearances in the All-Star Game back when it still meant something, when the AL barely acknowledged the existence of black players. Kept his team in the race pretty much year-in and year-out for twenty years. Made what is still the most iconic catch in the annals of a game going on a hundred and fifty years. And taught multiple generations, of every color, how to play the game with joy. Not a bad resumé.
“He’s got nothing to apologize for,” Allenby said, “and you can stop apologizing for him or wondering what could have been. Forget the what ifs. Celebrate what the man did, who he is, not what he might have done or been.”
And thank God he didn’t sign with the Dodgers. “Of course you’re right,” Wade said. “I just wish he had taken a crack at managing. He could have been the one to break that barrier, too. All that knowledge of the game, all that love for it, he could have passed so much more of himself on.”
“I suspect he found his own ways to pass it on,” Allenby said, “and not just to guys on the Giants. Remember Andruw Jones giving Willie credit for a big jump in his home runs after he spent some time with him?”
Some men spend their lives waiting for the Messiah; Wade had spent most of his waiting for the next Willie Mays. He remembered Andruw Jones, but he couldn’t forget Bobby Bonds, George Foster, Garry Maddox, Gary Matthews, Chili Davis—the whole legion of fast, powerful outfielders the Giants had signed, drafted, and developed in Willie’s image—and then lost in free agency or traded away, usually for next to nothing in return, just as they had traded him. Some hurts would never heal.
About the Author

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Phil Hutcheon grew up in Redwood City, California, where his youth baseball teammates included Dick Sharon, later of the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres. With his father he attended games at Seals Stadium and Candlestick Park in San Francisco during the heyday of Willie Mays. He earned a bachelor’s degree from University of the Pacific and a PhD from Rice University. He teaches composition and film at Delta College. He has also taught at Pacific and at Menlo College. Where Triples Go to Die is his third novel.
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United States of Books – Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella

Shoeless JoeShoeless Joe

by W.P. Kinsella

Author: Laura at 125Pages

This weeks United States of Books brings us to Iowa with Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Entertainment Weekly says – Not only was this novel – adapted for Field of Dreams – set in Iowa, but Kinsella also attended the state’s other claim to fame: The Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

itsiowaI went into Shoeless Joe with such hope. I have not seen Field of Dreams, but love uplifting sports movies, so I thought I would love one in book form. But this was no uplifting sports movie, it was a strange tale of a man who builds a baseball field on his failing Iowa corn farm then leaves his wife and small child to kidnap famed writer J.D. Salinger and take him on a road trip. I’m sorry what? Where is my tale of a downtrodden man who has a vision and through that builds his dream on his farm? Instead I get a wacky buddy road trip comedy, complete with carnies and diner hold ups. The action on the farm is limited to the very beginning and the very end, and that is where the heart of the story was. A struggling man trying to save his farm and his family with a dream and pure gumption. Those parts were fantastic, but the rest was just ridiculous.

The plot had its moments, but they were sadly few and far between. The family parts were great, but the whole kidnapping road trip aspect totally lost me. The world created was the same, certain select parts were crisp and vivid, then it veered into crazypants territory. The writing was fine, sentence structure wise, but the story was so over the top I couldn’t really see any fine nuances. The characters were a mashup of amazing and then not, they started strong but then went downhill the more I read. I had no emotional tie to any of the characters. Ray was dismissive of the real world and the potential harm he was bringing to his wife and child.

“…what an outfield,” he says. “What a left field.” He looks up at me and I look down at him. “This must be heaven,” he says. “No. It’s Iowa,” I reply automatically.

Shoeless Joe is considered one of the greatest sports books written. I just didn’t see it. Less a book about baseball to me, and more a book about what too much Round-Up in a field will lead to. I do understand the baseball at the heart of the story and how it linked every part together, but failed to see the amazing parts as the random hostage taking of a reclusive writer and a road trip with said writer to pick up baseball ghosts took away from that for me. As did the husband and father endangering the future of his family by leaving them as their farm is about to be foreclosed on. Now, I don’t hate baseball and I know, national sport and all, but this book just didn’t do it for me.

  • Favorite lines – Pedestrians in the East behave like lemmings rushing dispassionately to their deaths—it takes a good ten minutes to make a left turn into the blinding rush of oncoming traffic, with pedestrians thronging suicidally into the intersections.

  • Biggest cliché – If you build it, he will come.

  • Have you read Shoeless Joe, or added it to your TBR?


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    2 1/2 Stars