Book Report: Wild Pitch by Mike Lupica (2002)

This book was on the deep discount rack at Barnes and Noble for only $1.00 when Heather and I made our way in to spend the season’s gift cards. Only $1.00. I read Full Court Press in April 2004 (that long ago already?). I enjoyed that book and thought I would buy another. I did.

Wild Pitch tells the story of Charlie Stoddard, a pitching phenomenon with the 1980s Mets who blew his arm out and then served as a journeyman for a number of years. Five years out of baseball, Stoddard spends his days chasing women and booze, earning a living making appearance at sports memorabilia shows. A particularly vigorous sexual escapade throws his back out, and his partner puts Charlie in touch with a Chinese therapist who can not only fix Charlie’s back, but also his arm.

At the age of 40, Charlie tries to put his life back on some sort of track, reconnecting with the ex-wife he wronged, the son who doesn’t acknowledge him, and perhaps just to feel the thrill of pitching…and maybe even winning….again.

Lupica’s deft characterizations of the lightly-comic people populating his books (damn, I tried to avoid characterizations of characters, and ended up with people populating….) drive the story along. I sympathized with the understated themes of redemption and growing older and maybe even up. The focus of the winning isn’t winning it all, it’s playing to win.

Man, this Lupica fellow is good. I’m looking forward to reading more of his novels, and they’re sports novels, with nary a body to be found.