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Book review: “Calico Joe” by John Grisham

John Grisham's latest novel, “Calico Joe,” isn't as much about the amazing career of Joe “Calico Joe” Castle, rookie for the 1973 Cubs, as it is about one of his biggest fans, 10-year-old Paul Tracey, and his relationship with his father, Warren Tracey, a seasoned pitcher for the Mets.
BY PHYLLIS BENNETT Published: April 29, 2012
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John Grisham's latest novel, “Calico Joe” (Doubleday, $24.95), isn't as much about the amazing career of Joe “Calico Joe” Castle, rookie for the 1973 Cubs, as it is about one of his biggest fans, 10-year-old Paul Tracey, and his relationship with his father, Warren Tracey, a seasoned (37-year-old) pitcher for the Mets.

Like most baseball fans, Paul idolizes Calico Joe as he breaks long-standing records beginning with his first Major League Baseball game. Out of loyalty for, and fear of, his father, whose own career is flagging, Paul keeps his baseball scrapbooks of Calico Joe and other great players hidden.

Warren spends a lot of time on the road with his team yet manages to get in a lot of drinking and carousing. When this “self-absorbed, brooding man” is home, his family can hardly wait for him to get back on the road.

In Joe's first game against the Mets, Warren pitches a fastball that changes forever the lives of Calico Joe and Warren. It also changes Paul's family's life and his attraction to America's pastime.

Decades later, Paul attempts to get Warren to admit to and make amends for the biggest mistake he ever made, though doing so might not repair Warren's damaged legacy.

Grisham hits a home run with this touching novel.

— Phyllis Bennett