The Might-Have-Been by Joseph M. Schuster
Random House • $25 • ISBN 9780345530264
Published March 20, 2012
I have expressed my love of baseball novels—and baseball in general—many times on this blog (see: here, here, here, here). So, it was no surprise that fiction editor Trisha Ping directed my attention to a 2012 debut about America's pastime: The Might-Have-Been by Joseph M. Schuster.
Anyone who hears about this book will no doubt try to compare it to The Art of Fielding, although the stories (and writing) are quite different. Whereas The Art of Fielding is about the amazing promise at the beginning of a career, The Might-Have-Been is about the sluggish middle, and what comes after.
Here's the basic plot: Minor league player Edward Yates never gets called up to the big leagues, and he's languishing at age 27 (that's old in baseball years)—until he has a sudden inspiring spurt of play, and suddenly he finds himself wearing a Cardinals jersey. His time has finally come . . . until an injury changes everything. The real story details what happens after a dream is dashed, and when you can't let go.
Here's an early scene (in 1976) from when Edward learns that his life is changing—or at least, he thinks it's going to change:
"Look," Hoppel said, "you done good. last year, I would've said you was going nowhere. You got the body, but your brains was for shit. This year. . ." Hoppel shrugged. "Long story short. You're going to St. Louis."
Edward Everett felt his heart leap in his chest. "I. . ." he started to say, but couldn't think of any words. Today he had been playing a road game in Omaha, sleeping four to a room at the Travelodge, and tomorrow he'd be in St. Louis, where Musial, Hornsby and Gibson had played and where he's step onto a field with Lou Brock as his teammate. "Called Up"—the words seemed in some way holy.
What are you reading today? Are you interested in The Might-Have-Been?
It seemed only appropriate to feature a book concerning the Cardinals in the same year that The Birds won the World Series (yahoo!). And at a time when they're in the news thanks to Pujols' 10-year contract with the Angels (boo!). Anyone have any thoughts about that? (Keep it civil.)
By the way, that cover is remarkably similar to another debut, Rahul Bhattacharya’s The Sly Company of People Who Care—no?