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Many of you will have read and loved Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels (see Orrin's review).  For Love of a Game is a previously unpublished baseball novella that Jeff Shaara found amongst his father's paper after he died.  Baseball was apparently a great love of his father's and that love is apparent in this work.

The story concerns a future Hall of Fame pitcher, Billy Chapel, who has spent his whole career with one team, but now as he nears the end of his career he learns that he's been traded.  As he takes the mound for his final game of the season he ponders whether it will be the last of his career.  Compounding his problems, his long time girlfriend, Carol, has just told him that she's leaving.  Billy has always been a consummate professional, driven by respect for himself and the game, but like many athletes, he's remained somewhat immature, a status that is best reflected in his inability to acknowledge, to her or to himself, that he loves Carol.  Over the course of a brilliantly pitched game, Billy has to come to terms with the reality he has been able to hold off until now.  He has to grow up.

Shaara tells Billy's story as a kind of internal monologue, which inevitably makes for a talky and, despite the intercut action of the game, somewhat claustrophobia-inducing tale.  But Chapel is nearly religious in his commitment to excellence and his determination to always use his gifts to the utmost of his ability.  He brings a refreshing respect and seriousness to his craft and takes deserving pride in what he has accomplished.  Because of this, we can actually believe that he is capable of taking on the responsibilities he now faces.  He's a very likable character, but more than that, he's admirable, both as an athlete and as a man.  And that's more than enough to carry the book through some slow spots.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Michael Shaara (2 books reviewed)
Sports (Baseball)
Michael Shaara Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: MIchael Shaara
    -BIO: Michael Shaara (Jeff Shaara)
-ESSAY: ‘For Love of the Game’:: A family saga, a rediscovered manuscript and an unlikely movie (Cody Stavenhagen, Jan 9, 2023, The Athletic)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Hall of Distinguished Alumni (Rutgers)
    -The Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction
    -ARCHIVES : "michael Shaara" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of For Love of the Game (Joshua Pederson, Michigan Daily)

    -REVIEW : of For Love of the Game (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of For Love of the Game (James Berardinelli Reel Views)
    -REVIEW : of For Love of the Game (Douglas Downs, Christian Spotlight on the Movies)
    -REVIEW : of For Love of the Game  (LAWRENCE VAN GELDER, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of For Love of the Game   (Stephen Hunter, Washington Post )
    -REVIEW : of For Love of the Game   (Andrew O'Hehir, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of For Love of the Game   (KENNETH TURAN , LA Times)
    -REVIEWS : of For Love of the Game   (Metacritic)

    -REVIEW : Hero Zero  : Author-historian Jeff Shaara looks at heroism, racial slurs--and
'Battlefield Earth' Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies  in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This is not a review; rather, it's a freewheeling, tangential discussion of  art, alternative ideas, and popular culture. (David Templeton, MetroActive)
    -PROFILE : Best sellers run in the family (Judy Taylor Cramer, Florida State Times)