Calico Joe

Calico Joe

3.9 303
by John Grisham, Erik Singer

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A surprising and moving novel of fathers and sons, forgiveness and redemption, set in the world of Major League Baseball…
Whatever happened to Calico Joe?
     It began quietly enough with a pulled hamstring. The first baseman for the Cubs AAA affiliate in Wichita went down as he rounded third

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A surprising and moving novel of fathers and sons, forgiveness and redemption, set in the world of Major League Baseball…
Whatever happened to Calico Joe?
     It began quietly enough with a pulled hamstring. The first baseman for the Cubs AAA affiliate in Wichita went down as he rounded third and headed for home. The next day, Jim Hickman, the first baseman for the Cubs, injured his back. The team suddenly needed someone to play first, so they reached down to their AA club in Midland, Texas, and called up a twenty-one-year-old named Joe Castle. He was the hottest player in AA and creating a buzz.
In the summer of 1973 Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen.  The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records.
Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher. On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his Dad. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever…
In John Grisham’s new novel the baseball is thrilling, but it’s what happens off the field that makes CALICO JOE a classic.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
In his latest, Grisham takes another break from blockbuster legal suspense to explore the world of athletics. Decades after the fact, Paul Tracey looks back on the fateful events of the summer of 1973 involving his drunken and abusive father, Warren—a pitcher for the New York Mets—and a red-hot Chicago Cubs rookie nicknamed Calico Joe. Narrator Eric Singer portrays both Joe and Warren—the former innocent and earnest, the latter a bully—with energy and passion. The narrator lends Arkansan Joe an accent and cadence that are equal parts aw-sucks nonchalance and deer-in-the headlights wonder. In his portrayal of Warren, Singer effectively channels the character’s vitriol both on and off the field; the scenes involving Warren’s abusive coaching sessions with young Paul pack a particularly powerful emotional punch. Singer’s rendering of the labored speech of an aging Joe in the later portion of the book may seem heavy-handed in some respects, but remains compelling nonetheless. A Doubleday hardcover. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Calico Joe
“Grisham knocks it out of the park.”—The Washington Post
“An enjoyable, heartwarming read that’s not just for baseball fans.”—USA Today
Praise for John Grisham
“Never let it be said this man doesn’t know how to spin a good yarn.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Grisham may well be the best American storyteller writing today.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
Steven V. Roberts
John Grisham's legal thrillers are dense and hefty, full of twists and turns and tension. His latest novel, Calico Joe, is not like that at all. It's a sweet, simple story, a fable really. And like all fables, it has a moral: Good can come out of evil; it's never too late to confess your sins and seek forgiveness…if you believe in redemption—and who doesn't—you won't be disappointed. Grisham knows baseball as well as he knows crime.
—The Washington Post

It took just one pitch to change the lives of Cub slugger "Calico Joe" Castle and Mets hurler Warren Tracey. The paths of the rookie phenom and the hard-throwing, hard-partying pitcher converged in that terrible moment, but it is what they did in the months and years beyond that truly shaped their fate. A John Grisham novel bound to be a Father's Day gift.

Sessalee Hensley

Kirkus Reviews
Only one player in Major League Baseball history has been hit and killed by a pitch, but bean balls—balls thrown near the head—have ended careers. Grisham's (The Litigators, 2011, etc.) novel imagines the act and its consequences. It's 1973, another magic baseball season. The National League East has six teams contending, among them the traditionally hapless Chicago Cubs, soon jinxed once again when its first baseman is injured. Now the Cubs must add a minor leaguer to the roster. That's Joe Castle, a kid from Calico Rock, Ark. Calico Joe immediately begins to set rookie records, leading the Cubs to the top of the standings. Watching from New York is Paul Tracey, a baseball fan as avid as only an 11-year-old boy can be. In fact, Paul's father pitches for the New York Mets, but Warren Tracey, "accustomed to getting whatever he wanted," is a jerk. Warren is a journeyman pitcher, solid in an occasional game, kicked around from one team to another, never an All Star. Warren also abuses his family, drinks and chases women. The novel unfolds from Paul's adult perspective, with flashbacks. The crucial plot point comes in a flashback when Calico Joe, putting up "mind-boggling" numbers over 38 games, meets Warren in Shea Stadium and hits a home run. During his next at bat, as part of some unwritten "code," Warren goes head-hunting and beans the young player. Calico Joe's career is over, and he drifts home to Calico Rock, partially paralyzed, speech impeded, to work as a groundskeeper rather than earning a plaque in baseball's Hall of Fame. Decades later, long estranged from his father, Paul learns that Warren is dying of pancreatic cancer, and he decides to force his father to confront what he did to Joe Castle. Interestingly, the novel's most fully formed character is Warren, and while the narrative and settings are solid, the story drifts toward a somewhat unsatisfying, perhaps too easy, conclusion. A reconciliation story, Hallmark style.

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Product Details

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hours
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.26(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.14(d)

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Calico Joe 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 303 reviews.
SEC_North More than 1 year ago
With this piece of work he does manage to touch on your inner child, fantasizing of playing with greats as a child, on your favorite team. With this there is that splash of drama, wishing the book jacket is wrong and maybe things don’t turn out the way the inevitably seem to be heading. I love Grisham novels. (As an Ole Miss Alum I love how he always finds a way to put us in there). While this is a rather short piece (142 pages on Nook) it is a nice light read. Spring is here and with the air becoming crisp, this is a perfect lazy Sunday Morning/Afternoon read. Go to the park open the first page and be home in time to start dinner. If you are looking for something short a sweet to pass some time, I would recommend this book. If you want a heart stopping drama you may want to look elsewhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a died in the wool Cubs fan and former resident of a Chicago suburb, this book spoke to me in a way that may not be the same for others. I could see my Dad & I standing in line to buy tickets to games and hear the cheers of the crowd. Yet this book wasn't just about baseball but about people, relationships and some of the unrecognized challenges of life. I loved this book.
SamanthaCarly1 More than 1 year ago
Calico Joe by John Grisham is worth more than $15.00. This is one of the best books I have ever read. It connects family with America’s favorite past time, baseball. It is a story of heartache and pain but also redemption. John Grisham message in the book is to live life to the fullest and to live everyday like it’s your last. Also, Grisham brings out the point to not have any regrets throughout your life. The main character, Paul Tracey, is that typical boy who played little league and wants to become a major league player. Grisham does an exceptional job of connecting baseball with boyhood idols. This story is very relatable to many kids and adults. Reading this I had mixed emotions. Paul’s dad Warren (New York Mets pitcher) is the character you hate in the beginning of the book and have a love-hate feeling by the end. The title of the book, Calico Joe, comes from a character in the book Joe Castle. Joe is from a small town in Arkansas called Calico Rock. In his first game he sets many records. The game where Warren Tracey faces Paul Tracey’s hero Joe Castle is when the story gets really good. The beginning starts out slow but once you hit the game part, I didn’t want to put the book down! I easily could have read the book in three days. The only negative I have about the book is it changes point of view constantly. It starts when Paul is 11 then shifts to Joe Castle’s story and then switches to Joe Castle in his thirty’s. In the beginning it can be confusing but after the first chapter or so, it is easy to follow. I would also not recommend this book to people who don’t enjoy baseball because everything in the story relates back to it. This book connects to kids and adults. I told my grandfather how much I loved it and now he wants to read it because he likes Grisham’s books! This book changed my outlook on life. I felt the heartache and regrets Warren went through. A must read for baseball fans!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Familiarity with top names in 1970's baseball helps considerably in the enjoyment of this story. You don't have to go too deep into the roster, but if you don't know who Rick Monday is you probably won't make it to the 7th inning stretch of this book. If you stick with it to the end you'll be rewarded with a nice, comfortable win. No bottom of the 9th, down by 3, 2-out, full count, bases loaded drama. But an enjoyable Sunday afternoon anyway.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about baseball & a son's courage to help a failure of a father find pride & redemption for the first time in his pathetic life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like Grisham novels but i was disappointed at how short this story was. I am a life long Cubs fan and the story nicely captured the enthusiasm and dedication of Cubs fans and revived old memories of Cubs baseball. Memories of a very different baseball era than todays baseball. A very poignant story. At only 142 pages, $12+ is a little steep for the ebook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
John Grisham is so good at telling a gripper of a story. I'm a baseball fan and I knew Tony Kubek from high school. You will think it is a true story ,but so tragic in the circumstances of the lives of the main charactures. Kind of liked to have seen Joe play for real. Short but sweet. If you liked Playing For Pizza you'll love this book too. Thanks Mr. Grisham
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Save your money..... unless you like to read never ending baseball statistics!
TheShort1 More than 1 year ago
Grisham is always good, but I'm not into baseball, so it didn't seem as good as most of his books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A story of the past and the present woven with heartache, pain and yes, redemption. Easily read in one sitting. Such an emotional journey, such a fitting ending. I love the game of baseball and have enjoyed reading John Grisham's books for years. Nice to have the two combined!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well-written and has emotion in it for anyone....great story...quick read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A bit short. But a wonderful story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good easy read for any fan of baseball, non fans can enjoy it too. Good morale to the story. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story with a powerful message about forgiveness!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although a fan of Grisham, I can't honestly recommend this "novelette" In my opinion Grisham should stick to criminal and courtroom drama! Calico Joe is a slow moving, dreary, flashback riddled, pathos themed account of the short, tragic stardom of a baseball player and a father/son's dysfunctional relationship. It is livened up only with the authors generous use of what read like actual baseball innings and games, (with the exception of the heroics of Calico Joe). Teenagers might enjoy it much more that older readers.
Icecream18JA More than 1 year ago
Eleven year-old PauI Tracey idolizes Joe Castle, the greatest-ever young player out of the Cub’s farm teams. Paul is also the son of Warren Tracey, an on again – off again – alcoholic, abusive, jealous New York pitcher. Paul dreads, yet looks forward to the day when his dad will face Joe Castle in a game; “My father versus my hero.” When Paul, who knows his father’s “old school” rules, sees cues that his dad is going to put Joe in his place, Paul knows what’s going to happen. The horror of that moment lingers with him all his life…until he hears that his estranged father is dying of cancer. That starts Paul on a journey to attempt to bring some peace to the wrong that was done in the summer of 1973. My husband has no fond memories of Little League although he wasn’t bullied about his play after every game by an abusive dad. Reading the story was fun because the Cubs mentioned, Kessinger, Banks, Monday, were the only team I followed in all the years I’ve lived in Chicago. Using the Cubs, with their loyal, always optimistic, always disappointed fans, for this story of sports triumph and tragedy was a perfect choice. Paul’s relationship with his dad is depressing. Joe Castle’s relationship with his family and small town supporters is heart-warming. Grisham somehow brings the two together and makes the resolution feel complete…although not “right” to this reader. The story is entertaining but unsettling; except for Joe Castle and his brothers – the characters didn’t charm me. Three Stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While the end was touching, this book was much too short and predictable. I found myself skimming over the extended baseball sequences that dominated the first half of the book. Maybe ok for a free read but not nearly worth the $12.99. :(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I guess the author stepped out of his wheelhouse as the novel was trite and poorly written for an easy paycheck, the will probably make it in to a movie that will make millions.
kr0196 More than 1 year ago
This was a great story but 142 pages. Come on John...You can do better than that. Put a little effort into it.
Darlene28 More than 1 year ago
You can never go wrong with John Grisham and this is no exception. You may think that you have no interest in sports or a book about men but this book is more than that. It's family, forgiveness, it's just more and oh so enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not finish this book. So much accounting of play after play I just couldn't stay wth it after about 45 pages. Do not recommend unless you are way into the game ad history of bseball.
PCSTEXAS More than 1 year ago
Quick easy read. Predictable story. A little too short. I'm a life long baseball fan and HS player. I hate the Cubs and Mets but still liked the book. Some life lessons but maybe not a good choice for a non baseball fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I look forward to each new book by John Grishom but this was not good.