Start your review of Calico Joe Write a review Shelves: baseball , fiction , cubs The blurb on the front of the book reads the great American storyteller meets our national pastime. I remember when Calico Joe came out. The Cubs were in the midst of another losing season and the radio announcers had John Grisham in their booth to discuss his new baseball book. Warren, a mediocre journeyman pitcher, was an even worse father. Paul wavers back and forth if he should pay a visit to his father before he passes away, inevitably deciding to do so.
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It began quietly enough with a pulled hamstring. The first baseman for the Cubs AAA affiliate in Wichita went down as he rounded third and headed for home. The next day, Jim Hickman, the first baseman for the Cubs, injured his back.
The team suddenly needed someone to play first, so they reached down to their AA club in Midland, Texas, and called up a twenty-one-year-old named Joe Castle. He was the hottest player in AA and creating a buzz. In the summer of Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen. The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records. Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher.
On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his Dad. Afterward, they delivered the grim news that most people in his condition could not expect to live for more than ninety days. Since I knew nothing of the surgery, or the tumor, I was not there when he was given his death sentence.
Communication is not a priority with my father. Ten years ago he divorced one wife and had found another before word filtered down to me. I replied that he had never wanted to talk, regardless of how he felt.
She asked me to spread the news to the rest of the family. I almost asked "Why? The rest of the family consists of my younger sister, Jill, and my mother. Jill lives in Seattle and, as far as I know, has not spoken to our father in at least ten years. She has two small children who have never met him, and never will. My mother, after surviving twelve years of marriage, got lucky and got out, taking Jill and me with her, and I have a hunch that the news of his impending death will have zero impact on her.
Needless to say, we do not get together at Christmas and exchange gifts by the fire. After the phone call from Agnes, I sit at my desk and ponder life without Warren, my father. I started calling him Warren when I was in college because he was more of a person, a stranger, than a father.
He did not object. At least I make the occasional effort; he never has. After a few minutes, I admit the truth--life without Warren will be the same as life with him. I call Jill and break the news.
Her first question is whether I plan to attend the funeral, which is somewhat premature. She wants to know if she should try to visit him, to say hello and good-bye and go through the phony motions of acting as though she cares, when in fact she does not. Nor do I, and we both admit this. We have no love for Warren because he never cared for us. He abandoned the family when we were kids and has spent the past thirty years acting as though we do not exist. Jill and I are both parents now, and we find it inconceivable that a father can have no use for his own children.
How about you? He has burned most of the bridges in his life, but there is one rather substantial piece of unfinished business that he has to deal with before he dies.
My mother lives in Tulsa with her second husband. In high school, Warren was the superjock, and she was the homecoming queen, the most popular girl. Their wedding thrilled their small town, but after a couple of years with Warren all thrills were gone. I know they have not spoken to each other in decades, and why should they? Pancreatic cancer, he has less than three months to live. His memorial service will not be packed with grieving family members. And he drank and chased women and lived the hard life of a professional baseball player.
He was arrogant and cocky, and from the age of fifteen he was accustomed to getting whatever he wanted because he, Warren Tracey, could throw a baseball through a brick wall. We manage to move the conversation to the kids and when she might see them again. Because of her beauty and brains, she landed on her feet after Warren. She married a slightly older man, an executive for a drilling company, and he provided a fine home for Jill and me. I doubt if Warren ever did.
Calico Joe August 6, A surprising and moving novel of fathers and sons, forgiveness and redemption, set in the world of Major League Baseball… Whatever happened to Calico Joe? It began quietly enough with a pulled hamstring. The first baseman for the Cubs AAA affiliate in Wichita went down as he rounded third and headed for home. The next day, Jim Hickman, the first baseman for the Cubs, injured his back. The team suddenly needed someone to play first, so they reached down to their AA club in Midland, Texas, and called up a twenty-one-year-old named Joe Castle.