Customer Reviews for

Once upon a Fastball

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2008

    Big-hearted, funny, deeply humane

    Written by a self-confessed baseball fanatic, who shares his protagonist¿s love for all the quirky details of the game, Once Upon a Fastball is a big-hearted, funny, deeply humane book that captures the atmosphere of an ¿America searching for heroes.¿ We are introduced to the story through the eyes of a middle-aged Harvard history professor and baseball historian, Seth Stein, as he stares at the long-forgotten faces on his grandfather Sol¿s baseball cards, wondering what has become of these men whose names once held a mythical ring. Each card recalls the uniqueness of the player and the bizarre lore that true fans love to remember¿like who pinch-ran for the midget, Eddie Gaedel, or the fact that Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Murry 'spelled without the a' Dickson won twenty games in ¿51 and lost 21 in ¿52. Mitchell¿s language combines the rich idiom of his Brooklyn grandparents with the poetic lingo of the sport in a way that resurrects the glow of the past¿not just names, dates, and events, but ¿virtually everything in the air that drives people to action.¿ The plot turns on Seth¿s effort to reconstruct the events that led to ¿Papa Sol¿¿s sudden disappearance by solving the riddle that accompanies his grandfather¿s mysterious gift of a scuffed SPALDI baseball. What caused the tell- tale ¿scuff¿? Like a jinni, the ball, when touched and rotated, carries Seth back to famous moments in baseball history when his grandfather was there to root for his beloved Giants and then for the Red Sox: Oct. 3, 1951, at the Polo Grounds in the Bronx, the day of the ¿Jints¿¿ miraculous last-ditch victory over the hated Dodgers in the final game of the pennant race when Bobby Thompson hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th Oct., 1962, Game 7 at Candlestick Park, bottom of the 9th in the World Series, when Willie McCovey lined out with two men on to lose to the Yankees Oct 25, 1986, Shea Stadium, Game 6, Red Sox vs. Mets, 9th inning of the World Series, score tied, Red Sox ahead by two runs in the top of the 10th, and Mets win by 3 when the ball squirts through the legs of Bill Buckner Oct. 19, 2004, the last day anyone saw 76-year-old Papa Sol, Red Sox vs. Yanks, 7th game of the AL playoffs at Yankee stadium, Damon hits a grand slam home run and the Sox win 10-3. ¿Seth [and this reader] drinks it all in like a bee sucking pollen from a jasmine tree.¿ Each one of these events takes place within a uniquely American changing cultural context that Mitchell brings alive in all its intimate detail: Seth¿s bachelor apartment with its Naugahyde La-Z-Boy, squash rackets, Martin 000-28EC guitar Sol¿s house on 49th St. in Brooklyn, 1951: Spic and Span and Wheaties in the kitchen, Philco ¿Transitone¿ radio, 3-cent purple postage stamp, Lucky Strikes, Uncle Miltie on the 12¿ t.v., Catcher in the Rye, the Korean War, American and Russian nuclear tests, Joe McCarthy 1962, Berkeley: pink stove, pine paneling, Venetian blinds, stereo system that plays a Del Shannon LP, Cuban missile crisis, Rachel Carson¿s Silent Spring, the death of Marilyn Monroe, sugar-free soft drinks 1986, 3- door fridge with through-the-door ice and water service, Cuisinart, Reagan and Gorbachev on the cover of Time magazine, explosion of the space shuttle, Challenger, Chernobyl 2004, 'see p. 166' The flashbacks recall the times when pitching ¿warriors¿ like Ford, Wynn, Drysdale, Koufax, Marichal, Spahn, or Seaver ¿went the distance.¿ Each do-or-die episode brings home a moral and an example: ¿I¿ll never give up on you guys¿, says Papa Sol of the Giants. The old scuffed ball ¿with its 108 crimson stitches holding it together¿ allows Seth to ¿feel in his nerves and vitals¿ the history of his missing grandfather¿s life. As a metaphor for knowledge, the ball, like Mitchell¿s wonderful book, reminds us that ¿Bad hops can be devastating or rec

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2008

    A reviewer

    I LOVE baseball. I LOVE good Books, and I even love time-travel books and films, so I figured this was a Walk-off Victory. Not Hardly. Even more than baseball, Mitchell loves the sound of his own voice. 'Terry delivers an asprin tablet and the attendees at Candlestick expel a collective ooooooh as dirt that has been lying caked and fallow inside Ellie Howard's catcher's mitt explodes in all directions when the ball makes impact, like dust shooting out of a Persian rug that has just been spanked by a batwing beater.' Seriously? That's one sentence. And it is not atypical. I could even overlook his droning sentences if Mitchell didn't have one plot twist that main character chooses not to follow up on. That did it for me. Ridiculous. Sorry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2008


    This is a wonderful story. Not just baseball, but life itself. You will really love this one a lot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2008

    A reviewer

    Great baseball book. It will entertain from the very first pitch.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2008


    Once Upon a Fastball is a wonderful blend of baseball history and memorable events and characters. This is truly a work of art.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2008

    Bob Mitchell hits one out of the park!!!

    You don't have to be a baseball fanatic to love 'Once Upon A Fastball.' It pulls you out of your specator's seats and makes you a player in the history of the game. You can taste the hot dogs!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2008

    Tha National Pastime

    Once Upon a Fastball is a beautifully written, engaging, tender and moving novel. The touch of a 'special' baseball transports the protagonist and the reader back to four legendary moments in baseball history. It is a magical and poetic journey: of self discovery, the search for a missing loved one, baseball lore, family values and love. Bob Mitchell has written a first-rate novel. His love of baseball, poetry, history, people and life will move you. It's a book that will leave you smiling and wanting to share it with a friend or loved one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2008

    Home Run!

    In a world of Video Games and Reality TV, kudos to Bob Mitchell for reeling us in 'maybe a fishing book some day!' and gifting us with the sounds, sights, and yes, tastes of pure joy baseball. Thanks for giving us characters from the heart you made us root, root, root for the home team from the moment we picked up the book until the final inning! Baseball caps off to you!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2008

    Baseball and Love Together

    As a former high school and college baseball player, I still am a lover of the game. I expected a 'typical' baseball story. Instead,author, Bob Mitchell, truly surpised me. His novel brought back some of my fondest memories of baseball history, and combined those elements with a family story which brought tears to my eyes. 'Once upon a Fastball' is a must read for the sports fan who believes in family and loves everything about the game and the values that surround it.

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