Calico Joe

Calico Joe is an engaging story about a father/son relationship.  The book is reviewed by Melissa G. at Sweet on Books.

What you need to know:

• Packed with baseball lingo and details about the sport, Calico Joe is an engaging story about a father/son
• This story is told from the point of view of the son of a famous (fictional) pitcher for the Mets.
• Calico Joe may be considered a book for adults, but it is a great selection for young adult readers, ages 12 and up.
• There are references to cancer, alcohol, infidelity, and sex, and there are descriptions of violent situations that
include hitting, slapping and fighting, but nothing is explicit.
• This book would be a great addition to a middle or upper school reading list.
• The story shifts back and forth between 1973 and 2003, so readers need to be able to keep track of the changing
time periods.
• While this story is fiction, it does include some real people, places and events.

Sweet book summary:

The sports element in Calico Joe may draw readers in, but the story itself will leave them with much more than baseball on their minds. Yes, it is definitely about baseball. Readers will find stats, records, play by plays, and phrases like “high and tight” and “worked the count” throughout the book. They will also find a compelling story about a boy and his father and the boy’s need to make right his father’s wrongs.

Paul Tracy is only eleven years old in the summer of 1973. His father, Warren, pitches for the Mets, and while Warren may not be the star of the team, it’s an achievement that would make any son proud. Sadly, Warren makes it tough for Paul to feel anything but contempt for him. Warren has little interest in his family and spends his free time at bars or chasing after women. He never achieved his dreams of greatness, and Warren takes that failure out on those around him. He harasses Paul at his Little League games, and he beats up on him to get him to follow his “code”. The code says you “gotta protect your team”. He goes on to tell him that it might mean hitting a batter because “It takes guts to throw at batters, but a pitcher has to do it.” Paul and his mother withstand both verbal and occasionally physical abuse, but the summer of 1973 changes everything for them.

When Warren pitches against the young rookie phenom, Joe Castle, he makes a drastic decision that has a devastating impact on Joe’s life and that also has a resounding effect on the lives of Warren, Paul, and baseball fans everywhere. Paul worships the humble, hardworking rookie, Joe Castle, who is the opposite of Warren, and probably the type of father he wished he had. When Warren throws a pitch that night, that takes young Joe, not only out of that game, but out of the game for the rest of his life, the world is crushed, but no one is more distraught than Paul. Did Warren mean to injure Joe? That is a question debated by baseball fans young and old, but Paul thinks he knows the answer. Before that day, Paul has said, “The game was my world; the players, my idols.”, but after that pitch, he never looks at baseball in the same way again. It takes him thirty years, but in 2003, he finally confronts his father about that fateful day, and they, along with Joe, finally find some closure.

The stages of life – and baseball – are highlighted in the main characters. Paul is the innocent Little Leaguer dreaming of a future where anything is possible. Joe is the young rookie who has the potential to make those dreams come true. And, Warren is the has-been whose career symbolizes the wasted talent of an insecure, self-absorbed man. Their experiences, and the results of their actions, will get readers thinking about important concepts like consequences, regrets and forgiveness.

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