Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Good Field, No Hit - Duane Decker's Beloved Blue Sox (Book Review)

As Michelle Nolan comments in Ball Tales, Duane Decker's "Blue Sox stories, originally published from 1947 to 1964 and reprinted into the early 1970s, are among the most cherished and best remembered sports books of the baby boom generation."  The books follow the fortunes of thirteen baseball players trying to make their major league fortunes through various challenges.  I found them at the John Ward School library, introduced them to my brother, and more recently shared them with my nephews.  I was delighted to hear that my eldest nephew Christopher had submitted a book report on the first book in the Blue Sox series - which I thought you would enjoy:
Good Field, No Hit

Have you ever played baseball? Have you ever played some heads up hustling baseball? Johnny Madigan has played in the bush leagues for six years. Six loooong years. Sportswriters everywhere have tagged him, Good Field, No Hit, for the way he guards third base, but his complete and utter lack of power at the plate. Johnny’s kid brother, Buzz, Is always convinced that someday Johnny will make it to the big leagues. Johnny is not so sure. This is why when the Blue Sox pick him up Johnny, it is like a dream come true. 

The Blue Sox are in desperate need of a third baseman, as their other one is washed up and over the hill. On the hard-hitting Blue Sox however, sometimes being a good fielder is not nearly enough. Especially when competing with a 6”4”, 250 pound, maniac named Mike Marnie, who  has got more power than anyone in the majors. This same monster is only half as good with his defence at third, but the longball is all that matters to Jug Slavin, coach of the Blue Sox. It looks like Johnny is going down to the Bluefield Clippers, a Blue Sox farm team in the middle of nowhere, for sure. Ol’ Jughead was a power hitting shortstop when he played in the league himself. This is probably why he had eyes for the talent of Mike Marnie of Johnny Madigan. As for Marnie he is pretty sure of himself. He even goes out of his way to be a jerk to Johnny because, “No team could hold both players. There was simply too\ much bad blood between them. The club would split up into sympathetic fractions, and no coach could allow that. Marnie had kept it that way since spring training. It was a good move from his side of the fence, even if it was a dirty pool.”

Just before what Johnny believes is his last game in the big leagues, Buzz stops him at the gate to the field and tells him that he has a hunch, a certain hunch, that today was the day that Johnny will finally make it into the lineup. At the time Johnny just laughs. He isn’t laughing when Mike sprains his ankle and Johnny comes into his first ever MLB game. Johnny is the starting third baseman until Mike gets healthy again, but the question is, can Johnny prove once and for all that he, not Mike, has what it takes to be a starting third baseman in the MLB. All the signs point to yes. Until one day, out of the blue, Johnny is affected by the common disease, rabbit earitus. Or in better known terms, a heckler. Hecklers are a breed of human who take great joy in knocking certain athletes off their game. Will Johnny be able to handle the pressure?  

This story is a classic example of the scrappy little guy against the big mean, knuckleheaded guy with just the right amount of perseverance, and the importance of following your dream.

I can definitely relate to Johnny as I play third base on my little league team to. I know from experience that a team player in the dugout, is ten times better than a good player on the field. A team player unifies a team. A self-first player breaks one up. 

This compulsive, fast paced, and explosive, baseball themed book by Duane Decker is one of the greatest books I have ever read. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes Matt Christopher books. Sadly it is extremely rare, and the only copies on Amazon are $389.99. One of the best books in Duane Decker’s Blue Sox series, this book will delight readers of all ages.  

Thank you for being a guest blogger, Christopher!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read this book back in 1959 when I was 11 years old. Thanks for the memories.