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A free baseball book from the author of Nothing Down

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A new baseball novel from the author of Nothing Down and Return to Dead City

17 Jun


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Only the drug pushers and scoundrels appear to thrive in Centre Town, Pa., home to the Class A baseball team Mets and childhood home of Cozzy Crager, the world-weary protagonist of “Return to Dead City.”
Crager and Centre Town are a perfect fit. Batting booze and his worst nightmares of years spent on the Albuquerque police force, he’s back in this decaying, crime-ridden town for the first time since he was a young man. Crager is barely settled into his gig as a detective when he gets an anonymous call of a murder.
Lance Miller, the Mets’ slugging star with the shadowy past, has been found dead in a downtown hotel. Lance’s time with the team had been brief, his relationship with teammates, lovers and others somewhat vague and mysterious.
And so, Crager begins the task of following leads and ferreting out information, a job that takes him from the back alleys of the city to the halls of academia. Crager works alone and without as much as a stipend. Soon, he wonders why. For he will have his hands full.
In “Return to Dead City,” Crager has come home without feeling exactly at home. For as Crager is to learn,Centre Town is a town where nothing has changed, but everything has changed.

For the Love of the Game

21 Mar

Playing major-league baseball for free has its price

Posted Mar 20, 2014 by Bob DáAngelo

Updated Mar 20, 2014 at 11:02 PM

Itás a time-honored sports cliche. A player is so happy to be on a major-league roster that despite his salary, he says he would have played for nothing. Former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent used a variation on that phrase for his 2008 book in which he interviewed players from the 1950s and á60s: âWe Would Have Played for Nothing.ã
Itás a whimsical thought. But what if a player actually insisted on playing for free, or at the very least, the bare minimum, shunning a lucrative contract because he was a purist about baseball?
Thatás the premise put forth by Pennsylvania journalist Mike Reuther in his self-published novel, âNothing Down: The Short Baseball Life of Homer Newbodyã (Paperback; $8.95; $2.99 Kindle through
Reuther, a longtime reporter for the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, has written about politics, health, local government, crime and sports. His passion, however, is baseball, and he describes himself as a âlong-sufferingã New York Mets fan and still plays in Sunday summer leagues for older adults.
Homer Newbody is not a power pitcher, but he gets by with perfect control. Taught to love baseball by his Uncle Hal, Homer makes a huge splash when he tosses a no-hitter in his major-league debut. To add more to the legend, he pitches back-to-back no-hitters and is helping the New York Yankees challenge for the American League East title.
Homer is a humble, naïve player from central Pennsylvania, who believes baseball should be played for the love of the game ä and not for money. Heás also a baseball historian, rattling off names and numbers of all-time greats. But itás the money angle that flies in the face of other major-leaguers ä including his teammates ä who resent his philosophy and let him know about it. In particular, Tom Traber, who bears a striking resemblance in style and temper to Roger Clemens (even his nickname, The Tracer, reminds the reader of The Rocket), is angered by Newbodyás stance.
The Yankeesá owner, Philo Spahn, is an executive cut from the George Steinbrenner model. The teamás pitching coach is Newbodyás mentor, Roger âStashã Corey. A little touch of irony here ä think Pennsylvania and âStash,ã and you get Stan Musial (ãStashã was another nickname for Stan the Man, a Hall of Famer from Donora, Pa.). Spahn is willing to pay top dollar for his players, but he has never been faced with a player not wanting to be paid.
Despite the scorn of his peers, Newbody strikes a chord with baseballás blue-collar fans. They appreciate his talent and his principles, and Newbody becomes a baseball folk hero.
My favorite character in the book was Syd Mankiewitz, a slugging first baseman near the end of his career known as the Jewish Prince. I am not sure if Reuther intended it, but Mankiewitz reminds me of a latter day (but more successful) Ron Blomberg, a Jewish pull hitter who played for the Yankees in the 1970s.
Thereás even a romantic angle, as New York Progress reporter Leslie Shamback uses her charm to mask a calculating, competitive approach to journalism. And Shamback is not afraid to slide between the sheets to get her scoop.
After a strong start, Newbody encounters arm trouble. He takes two trips to the disabled list, but is ready to pitch when the Yankees and Red Sox meet in the regular-season finale with a playoff berth hanging in the balance. What occurs foreshadows the bookás tragic ending.
The final chapter is sad and has a twist, but it will catch the reader off-guard. It is almost too jarring, too abrupt, like waiting for a Newbody curveball, only to be faced with a hard fastball under your chin.
Reuther is an engaging writer and has created some interesting characters. I was left with the feeling, however, that there needed to be more to this book. I wanted to know more about barfly Myra at Staceyás Bar in Centre Town, for example. And Homerás father, a mysterious figure who plays a role toward the end of the book. There are questions that could have been answered with a few more chapters, perhaps. The book is less than 200 pages long, so Reuther had more space to flesh out some of the characters.
But despite those criticisms, âNothing Downã is a pleasant effort. Reuther draws on his baseball knowledge to create a light, quick read.
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