Monday, August 20, 2012

Calico Joe

I've never been a book guy.  I don't do much "pleasure reading."  I'm more of an information junkie, reading to add some new knowledge to the WW database.  I think that started when I was seven, reading the backs of baseball cards.

But when I saw that Wrigley Field was on the cover of John Grisham's latest book, I figured it was a book I should read.  After finishing the book, I can say that you need to read it too.  It was great!

Calico Joe is the story of a flash in the pan rookie on the 1973 Cubs named Joe Castle and how his life intersects with the story's narrator, Paul Tracey, the son of a Mets pitcher.  Thirty years later, Paul looks to bring some closure to an incident involving Joe and Paul's dad.  It's a very well-told story and it was a very quick read.  It's also a fairly short novel, only 198 pages.

Though fiction, Grisham works in many details of the actual 1973 Cubs.  Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger is mentioned several times, and he actually read an early draft of the book and gave Grisham some help in making the story more accurate.



Other '73 Cubs with a mention include Jim Hickman, manager Whitey Lockman, Fergie Jenkins and Rick Reuschel.

When Joe Castle broke in with the Cubs, they were on the road and he was given #42.  Once they got back home, he was give a more normal number, #15.  (I used the picture of a fairly unknown Cub of the era as a stand-in for Joe Castle.)

The only problem I have with the book is the cover, and I'm sure Grisham had nothing to do with it.  A modern picture of Wrigley Field was used.  

But then some know-it-all editor probably said that in 1973 Wrigley didn't have lights. The lights were removed.  Of course, in 1973 there weren't rooftop bleachers, ads on the bleacher doors, expanded bleachers, or a batters eye suite in center field.

Forget the cover and read the book.  You won't be disappointed (unless you're a Cubs fan....but then if you're a Cub fan you're used to disappointment!).


  1. I really enjoyed the book as well. Nice job on the Joe Castle card!

  2. I actually just ordered this book off Amazon. I'm looking forward to it arriving. I'm glad you enjoyed it; most that I've talked to have.

  3. Thanks for the advice, I will add it to my list of books to grab next.

  4. I read this on a pair of cross country flights a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it as well. An excellent summer read that does a great job of combining fiction with a great feel for the game and historical accuracy.

  5. John Grisham is a master storyteller, indeed.

    Mahalo (thank you) for sharing your baseball card collection with us. Now I am on the hunt for a Joe Castle card so I can touch a piece of the magic of that spectacular moment in baseball history.