Battle Creek

Battle Creek

4.0 1
by Scott Lasser

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Gil Davison is the coach of an amateur baseball team in Michigan, national finalists many times over but champions never. He has spent his adult life juggling his roles as coach to the team, father to his estranged son who has made it clear he is doing just fine without Gil, and caretaker to his disapproving father who is dying of cancer. So when a hot rookie

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Gil Davison is the coach of an amateur baseball team in Michigan, national finalists many times over but champions never. He has spent his adult life juggling his roles as coach to the team, father to his estranged son who has made it clear he is doing just fine without Gil, and caretaker to his disapproving father who is dying of cancer. So when a hot rookie hitter wanders into town—fresh from a stint in prison—Gil convinces himself that this season his team must win the championship, their last chance to fulfill an elusive dream. But the events that unfold are unexpected, enlightening, and overwhelmingly powerful—and will change each of these men forever.

Editorial Reviews

Battle Creek is distinguished by Lasser's ability to write about the game with neither myth nor sentimentality. He captures the game's interludes, its breaths and caesuras, with subtlety and grace.
Baltimore Sun
A first novel by a Lehman Brothers trader named Scott Lasser may be, in its quiet way, perhaps the most absorbing book to be published this may...Lasser has managed to capture the profound dignity in these ordinary lives and the poetry of a baseball season unsullied by the promise of big money or celebrity. And in the end, within this macho world of reticent action men, this is a novel that turns out to be all about love.
New Yorker
Lasser's prose is spare and precise, but the characters he writes about—greenhorns and aging athletes, fathers and sons—are most eloquent in their silence.
Austin Chronicle
One warm, compelling, heart-wrenching, fascinating story...Mr. Lasser's truest strength is an unassuming genius for characterization.
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Lasser's novel offers...snapshots of players throwing and hitting perfectly, moments that remain in memory, expanding into timelessness. —New York Times
Library Journal
This fine first novel deserves every bit of the excitement it is generating. Gil Davison, coach of an amateur baseball team that has always made it to the championship finals but never won, is resolved that this season they will win it all. A man who has always loved the purity of baseball, he finds that the thirst for winning leads him to compromises that are hard to live with. The book also explores the other key members of his team--the aging pitcher who cannot admit to the pain his arm is giving him, the assistant coach who is dying of emphysema, the young phenom who would long since have been tearing up the major leagues if he hadn't been in prison for beating the brains out of his girl's other guy. The baseball is lovingly, truthfully described, as are the men's friendships and betrayals. All public libraries will want this. [BOMC selection.]--Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, IA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A tepid first novel for boys who love the boys of summer. Lasser's narrative trots perfunctorily through the lives of a handful of minor-league baseball aspirants before culminating in a championship game played in the cereal mecca of the title. Gil is the coach. Divorced, troubled by the failure of his team, Koch and Sons, to win the national finals for four years running, Gil has uninteresting intimacy issues with his dying father that need to be worked out before the story can end. Vince is the pitching coach. Terminally ill with emphysema, he sports a wise and craggy countenance that has dispensed wisdom to his bullpen for years, yet his wife refuses to learn how to pay the telephone bill at home. Vince dies just before the finals, and the wife is relieved of her responsibilities—she dies, too. Mercer, an aging pitcher whose skills are slowly fading, also has intimacy issues, in his case with his girlfriend: he has to cough up a commitment before the first pitch can be thrown. Luke James is a troubled ex-con, a tightly wound young wizard with the bat just getting used to life on the outside: ticking time-bomb, or possible savior of the team? No one can say, since James is killed at bat by a wild pitch as the big game winds down. Readers will want to send these cardboard characters to the showers for the season. The on-the-field action, which in sports novels is often the redeeming point of light in an otherwise uninspired blur of domestic adjectives, fails to stir and is only dutifully described, as if the author actually wants to return as quickly as possible to the really interesting emotional lives of these guys. Featuring a desultory text strewn with faceless womenin perky T-shirts who mostly serve drinks, Lasser's debut has as much spellbinding crackle as a pre-season rainout. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.71(d)

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Chapter One


Before the screen door can slap shut, the smell of grass hits him. It is the very odor of youth and freshness, and it makes him come to a stop on his porch. By any measure it is a glorious day. The sun shines, the air is warm, the sky is the robin's-egg blue of spring. Though Gil Davison is not normally the type of man to appreciate the natural world, he notices that the buds have opened on the large oak that hovers over his driveway. Across the street his neighbor, Tom Foss, is dropping clear plastic bags of lawn clippings along the curb.

"Beautiful day, Gil," Foss says. Gil has now moved out in front of his house, as this is a neighborhood in which men commonly talk from their lawns.

"Beautiful," Gil repeats.

Foss waves, as though from a great distance, and goes back to work.

Gil then remembers what he has set out to do: fire a player. Though he has coached baseball for nearly thirty years, he still dreads letting people go. Every year he has to do it ten times or a dozen; it doesn't get any easier. This year, though, he is taking no chances. He has made up his mind that this will be his last season. He wants to go out on top. In previous years he kept some people on board out of loyalty, or because he liked them, or because he liked their wives or girlfriends, or just to avoid having to fire them, but this year he won't do it. This year a player has to produce, or he's gone. Hitters have to hit; pitchers have to get people out. He isn't going to have any shenanigans, any lackadaisical grab-ass. For four years running his team has made the national finals only to lose. No other amateur team has thenational reputation of Koch and Sons, no other team has ever made the finals four years, in a row or not. No other team has placed so many players in pro ball, or has had so many go all the way to the bigs. Koch alumni have played in the World Series, are making big bucks in Anaheim, Baltimore, and Osaka. Last year one of the Battle Creek papers called the team a dynasty. Gil thinks of last year, when he left Mercer in so that the kid could get the championship win, left him in even though he knew Merc was tired, and when San Antonio rocked him and all was lost, Gil could think only that again he'd let his heart rule his head. Football was the game of emotions. Baseball required clear-headed logic. In baseball you played percentages and made your own luck. So this year emotions will have nothing to do with it.

Jerry Callicotte does not think Gil is soft. Callicotte has played on the fringe of Koch and Sons for three years. He has found ways to make himself useful. He has played every position — even catcher — and once got a key out while pitching in an early-season game. Really, he's an infielder, and dead weight. The squad can no longer afford two-fifty hitters who play all positions adequately but none exceptionally. True, Callicotte has an exceptional love for the game, and enthusiasm goes a long way with Gil. Gil has given him tickets to Tiger Stadium, which Callicotte eagerly uses, going early to watch batting practice. He's a good kid and likable enough. Callicotte has even sent Gil a Christmas present. Gil considers all this, but his mind is set.

They are to meet in Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan is playing Wisconsin. Callicotte went to school at Michigan. Gil wants to check out the Wolverine second baseman, and thus he can knock off two jobs with one trip. He convinces himself he can be hard and efficient. He has told Callicotte to meet him behind home plate, Gils favorite place to sit.

Gil steadies himself as he drives down M-14. His Continental is freshly washed, a moving spectacle of shiny deep-green clear-coat paint. Gil is content for the moment, a feeling borne, unconsciously, by the smell of leather and what he sees out the window. Here, then, is the comforting landscape: rows of corn barely sprouted; trees quaking with their new leaves; the roadside Queen Anne's lace bowing in the breeze; the now milky-blue sky stretching out endlessly toward Chicago and beyond. On the radio the WJR jockey chatters on about a human interest story a step above the supermarket tabloids, and then comes a Frank Sinatra song sung by Tony Bennett. Gil glances at the car's clock. In seventeen minutes the Tiger pregame show will begin.

Perhaps it's the music or the sky or even the drive along M-14, but suddenly Gil remembers waking this morning certain that his two sons were standing at his bed. Rick was about eight and Laurence five. They were in their pajamas, their short hair matted from sleep. They looked so innocent, especially Laurence, that Gil thought he might cry. They wanted to play, to roughhouse on the bed. This was before Gil's two disks were removed, before the second knee operation and the cholesterol watch. Downstairs he could hear the radio; there was the long-ago smell of bacon. WHen he invited the boys up, they jumped, but instead of landing, they disappeared. The sensation was overpowering. Gil staggered to the bathroom, where in the mirror he saw his tired, sixty-four-year-old face lined with tears...

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What People are saying about this

Christopher Tilghman
From now on, every time you drive past a baseball game on a summer evening, you'll think of this lovely, poignant novel, and you will understand.
— (Christopher Tilghman, Author of In a Father's Place)

Meet the Author

Scott Lasser recieved his M.F.A. from the University of Michigan and M.B.A. from the Wharton School, and is presently the treasury bill trader at Lehman Brothers. He has written for the PBS nature series Wild America, and his short stories have appeared in the Missouri Review, the Mississippi Review, and other literary journals. He lives in New York with his wife and two children.

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Battle Creek 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
da-santa More than 1 year ago
I am a 16-year-old high school student who decided to read this book because I enjoy reading about sports and this book is all about sports. I was assigned to read a book in my spare time and I thought I might as well read about a topic that I enjoy. The book I decided to read was Battle Creek by Scott Lasser. The book is about how off-the-field issues affect an amateur baseball team on their quest to try and win a championship. The team has made it to the championship many times but never won a championship. The characters in this book seem very realistic and Lasser makes it feel like they are real people and he's telling their life story. Gil is the coach of an amateur baseball team in Battle Creek, Michigan. This book seemed to always go back to the theme of, if you work hard and always do what you think is the right thing to do you will succeed in life and at whatever you want to achieve. When I read this book it reminded me of the movie Hardball because they both show how a struggling team can overcome adversity and off-the-field problems and still succeed in the sport of baseball. I also related it to the movie The Rookie because that shows a\how an older pitcher loses his arm during the season and overcomes that, and that's what happens to the star pitcher for the team in Battle Creek. I would give this book 4 stars because it shows a very good real life perception of how people live through adversity and overcome through their problems. I would recommend this book to people who like to read about sports or people who like to read interesting books.