September 24, 2013

BOOKS: California Rush, Sherwood Kiraly (1990)

For the most part, baseball's a simple game. Hit the ball, throw the ball, catch the ball, run the bases. But some strange things can happen, and there are a lot of obscure rules that pop up when they do. And so every now and then, someone writes a story about that mythical game in which all of those things happen, the most bizarre game of baseball every played. Sherwood Kiraly's California Rush is such a story, and it's an entertaining take on the theme.

The first two-thirds of the book meanders a bit, as we stroll casually through the careers of the men who will be the opposing managers in the key game. Davy Tremayne is a golden boy -- attractive, talented, popular with the fans. Jay Bates, on the other hand, is a short-tempered fellow who will bend the rules as far as they'll go to get an edge.

But the meandering pays off, because by the time we get to the final game, in which Davy is managing (and playing for) St. Louis, and Jay is managing the California Rush expansion team, we know them well enough to understand their behavior and their reactions to the bizarre events that unfold. And a wild game it is, unfolding in so unlikely a fashion that one player refuses to continue, believing that this game can only be the work of the devil, and it would be sacrilegious to keep playing.

California Rush is by no stretch great literature, and if you're not interested in baseball, you'll be bored to death by it. But for baseball fans, it's a moderately amusing story, and Kiraly manages to keep finding new bizarre plays and rule interpretations to throw into the final 50 pages.

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