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Book Review: Blockade Billy, by Stephen King

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We’re just about at the halfway point of the major league baseball season, so what better time for a new baseball book? No, it’s not another book of statistics — you know the ones, chock-full of inane things like “that’s only the 37th time in league history that a left-handed hitter faced a right-handed pitcher who both made their First Communion on the same day, albeit in different churches, in the same town.” Nope, this is a much better book, and one you can read from start to finish in less time than it takes to watch a game. Stephen King, Red Sox fan and master of horror—for years the two went hand-in-hand—penned this little novella (supposedly in two weeks) about William Blakely, known throughout his career with the Newark Titans as Blockade Billy. A player whose entire major league career was wiped from the record books for reasons which come to light late in the story, Blakely was a last-minute addition to the Titans roster after their two regular catchers were hurt just before opening day. And they were hurt in a manner that just never could happen to a catcher with the nickname “Blockade.”

King, a big baseball fan, inserts himself into the book as the person the story is being told to, years later, by the Titans old third-base coach George “Granny” Grantham. And King manages to get in some digs at the modern game while he’s at it: “Oh, nobody would have been allowed to wear their cap cocked to the side, or curve the brim, and your hair had to be neat and short (the way these chuckleheads wear it now, my God)…” Take that, Manny Ramirez!

Of course, as with any King book, there’s a dark side to the whole story. You can tell something’s in the works early on, but I’ll admit I didn’t have a clue how it would end until King was ready for me to find out. And unlike his last big (and I mean big) novel, The Dome, this time I wasn’t disappointed with how it all ended. This is one of those books you can enjoy even if you’re not a Stephen King fan—or a baseball fan for that matter. I (actually, my wife, who’s not a baseball fan by a longshot, but was pulled in by the great cover art) picked up a copy at the local library. It’s not a bad way to spend an hour.

jim corbran

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