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. He was the hottest player in AA and creating a buzz.
In the summer of 1973 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. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever…
In John Grisham’s new novel the baseball is thrilling, but it’s what happens off the field that makes CALICO JOE a classic.
John Grisham Amazon Q & A with John Grisham
Q: What's your favorite baseball team?
A: St. Louis Cardinals. My father was a Cardinals fan, as was my grandfather. When I was a kid growing up in the rural south, everyone listened to the Cardinals on the radio. We seldom missed a game.
Q: What's your most memorable game--as player, coach, or fan?
A: I played a lot of baseball when I was a kid and teenager, but I do not recall making any spectacular plays. When I coached baseball, my teams usually lost. As a fan, Game 6 of the World Series last year, Cardinals vs. Rangers, comes to mind.
Q: Have you played or coached baseball? What position?
A: I was an average high school baseball player with big dreams. I tried to play in college, but got myself cut in the fall practices. I was an outfielder with a weak arm.
Q: Why are there seemingly more baseball books--both fiction and nonfiction--than other sports?
A: Baseball is a uniquely American sport, and it is the oldest organized sport in the country. It has a rich and colorful history, and up until the last generation, it was the most popular sport for kids to play. Sadly, that is changing.
Q: Who was the Joe Castle of your childhood--a player you revered? And was there a Warren Tracey?
A: I was never much of a Red Sox fan, but I adored Tony Conigliaro. He was a great player, and a certain Hall of Famer. The beanball that struck him in the eye ruined a great career.
Q: While researching Calico Joe, did you attend or watch games? Did you write any of the book at a stadium?
A: I only write in one place, and that's my office at home. I take a lot of notes when I travel around and research, which I did for Calico Joe.
Q: Did you employ any other behind-the-scenes techniques--watch old footage, interview players, read old issues of Sports Illustrated?
A: Yes, all of the above. I interviewed several former major league players. I read lots of old magazines, news articles, and books about baseball, and specifically, The Code. I found some footage of famous beanball wars of recent times.
Q: Do the beanball or the brushback have a place in today's baseball? Even Joe seemed to accept them as "part of the game."
A: Yes. There are times in baseball when a particular hitter must get hit. There are many reasons for this, but retaliation is always a factor. Problems arise though when the pitch is above the shoulders, and aimed at batter's head. If a pitcher does this intentionally, and they do it all the time, they are fooling around with a player's career. Throwing at a batter's head is never acceptable in baseball, even as retaliation.
Q: Have you ever been hit? Have you ever hit someone else?
A: Every baseball player gets hit. Fortunately, I was never beaned in the head. Our coaches never let me anywhere near the pitcher's mound, so I never hit a batter.
Q: Do you love baseball? If so, why? Any concerns that the sport and its stars (as Warren gripes in the book) have changed?
A: I still love baseball but it's not the game of my youth. The pro game today is dominated by money and, frankly, there is a lot of bad baseball being played. I find it frustrating, but I always get pumped at World Series time. College baseball is far more exciting.