Double Play
  • Double Play
  • Double Play

Double Play

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by Robert B. Parker

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1947: Jackie Robinson breaks baseball's color barrier—and changes the world. The event also changes the life of Robinson's bodyguard—and those changes can prove fatal.  See more details below


1947: Jackie Robinson breaks baseball's color barrier—and changes the world. The event also changes the life of Robinson's bodyguard—and those changes can prove fatal.

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Robert B. Parker hits a home run with Double Play. Here's what happens when a bestselling suspense writer turns his remarkable talents to the task of writing a complex and captivating period story about American baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Set in 1947, the season Robinson started playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Double Play lives up to its name, interweaving the story of the man who broke baseball's color barrier with a compelling suspense story about power struggles, prejudice, organized crime, and personal honor. And Parker's readers get front-row seats for all the action, watching everything through the eyes of Joseph Burke, the ex-soldier, ex-boxer hired by the Dodgers to make sure no one harms their prize player. From the first, the Dodgers' manager makes it clear that Burke's job also includes making sure that the proud, strong-minded Robinson weathers the storm of controversy and prejudice surrounding him without becoming embroiled in fights or any other kind of scandal -- even if that means putting Burke's own life on the line. After nearly dying in combat during the war and coming home to find his wife has left him, Burke figures there's not much left to care about…until working with Robinson opens his eyes to the fact that some things in life are worth fighting for. Sue Stone

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Penguin Publishing Group
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Penguin Group
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701 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Double Play

By Robert B. Parker


Copyright © 2004 Robert B. Parker
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-399-15188-5

Chapter One

Joseph Burke got it on Guadalcanal, at Bloody Ridge, five .25 caliber slugs from a Jap light machine gun, stitched across him in a neatly punctuated line. The medics put on pressure bandages and shot him up with morphine and nothing much made any sense to him afterward. It was a blur of tubes and nurses and bright lights and descents into darkness, surgeons, frightening visions, and bad smells and the feel of ocean. One day he looked around and he was in bed in a hospital.

"Where the fuck am I?" he asked a nurse.

"Chelsea Naval Hospital."

"Am I going to live," he said.

She was a fat gray-haired woman with deep circles under her eyes. She nodded.

"Yes," she said.

For weeks he was paranoid delusional. He heard the nurses whispering together at night. They had husbands in the army; they hated Marines. He could hear their husbands whispering with them, visiting them on the floor, parking their cars with the motors running just outside his window. The ceiling lights were recessed. He saw small figures in them, a man being greeted by a butler in an ornate hallway. He slept only in moments, watching the clock on the ward wall. 0300 hours. Dawn will be here in 180 minutes. He could see the tip of a steeple through the window on the opposite wall. Sometimes he thought it was the bridge of a troop ship. Sometimes he thought it was the church he used to go to in South Boston. Sometimes it was a church steeple outside his hospital window. His wife came to visit. He asked her if she would bring him a gun, it would make him feel safer. If he had a gun he wouldn't feel so scared. One day they disconnected him from his tubes and one of the nurses got him up and helped him walk the length of the ward. He had to sit for a while in a straight chair at the other end, before he made the return trip. The next time they took him for a short walk into the corridor, past the nurses' station to the visitors' lounge. He walked stoop-shouldered, shuffling his feet. He sat in the lounge for a while with a small red-haired nurse with freckles. Then he shuffled back. At night he woke up and heard the nurses plotting with their boyfriends, the engines of their parked cars murmuring outside his window. He mentioned it the next morning to a nurse.

"Cars with their motors running?" the nurse said.

"Yeah. I keep listening to them. I keep hoping that they'll leave, but they don't."

"Right outside the window?"


"You're on the ninth floor."

He heard her but the words meant nothing.

"Too many drugs," the nurse said. "Too long in the intensive care unit. It's making you crazy."

He knew she was right. He knew he was crazy, but oddly, knowing it didn't make him less crazy. Sometimes he knew both realities at the same time. He knew he was in a ward at the Chelsea Naval Hospital. He also knew he was being stalked in a stark diner in New Bedford on a bitter cold night. His wife hadn't brought him the gun. He wasn't sure if she'd come back again.

They had him walking every day now. One day he made it round trip-to the end of the ward and back-without stopping to rest. One day they brought him solid food. A ham sandwich on white bread. He couldn't eat it. They brought it again the next day. He took a bite but couldn't force himself to swallow. When no one was looking he spit it into a bedpan. One day a physical therapy nurse came and took him for a walk out of the ward. They went past the visitors' lounge to a stairwell.

"We'll just try a couple of stairs," the nurse said.

He walked up two and, clinging to the railing, walked back down. After that she came every day and took him to the stairs. One day he made the full flight. He drank a little soup. One of the doctors came and examined his wounds, sniffing them to see if they smelled of infection. In a few days the doctor came back and took out the stitches.

The red-haired nurse walked with him, a hand on his arm, when he came out of the hospital and got into a cab. She helped him into the cab and the cab took him home.

The cabbie carried his duffel to the front door of the second-floor apartment. Dragging it inside exhausted him. His wife wasn't there. He sat for a while on the wing chair near the front door, and then stood and walked slowly through the apartment to their bedroom. Her clothes were gone. He went slowly to the bathroom. Her toothbrush was not there. Her makeup was gone. With one hand on the wall he trudged to the kitchen. The refrigerator was empty. He sat on a chair in the tiny kitchen and rested. Then he stood effortfully and went slowly back to the living room. He sat on the couch. He put his head back against the cushions and closed his eyes. Silent. He opened his eyes and looked at the living room. Empty. On the coffee table was an envelope with his name on it. He knew her handwriting. He looked at the envelope for a while. He had so little energy that all his reactions were slow, and everything he did was languid. He picked up the envelope and opened it. He held the letter a moment while he rested. Then he unfolded the letter.

"I'm sorry," the letter said. "I wanted to tell you the day I came to the hospital. But you were so sick. I couldn't."

He rested the letter on his thigh for a moment and took in some air.

"While you were gone, I met somebody. Somebody I must be with. I'm sorry. I will always care for you. But I've got to be with him."

She was never much of a letter writer. Not much of a wife either. He put his head back against the cushions of the couch and closed his eyes and heard himself breathing.


What he remembered most about her was that she almost never wore stockings. He always remembered that when he thought of her. Her name was Carole Duke. In his mind she always looked the same. Dark blue dress with tiny white polka dots, hair worn short, like Claudette Colbert, carefully shaven legs white and stockingless, red high heels. He knew she wore many other things, and no things, but he always remembered her that way.

He met Carole at a USO, in the Back Bay, near Kenmore Square. He was eighteen, on leave between boot camp and the Pacific, at loose ends. His father had died the previous summer in a construction accident. His mother didn't seem to him like a mother. She seemed to him like a drunken slattern, so while everybody else went home after basic, he rented a room, and drifted around the city, waiting until it was time to ship out. He didn't feel particularly lonely. He missed his father, but his mother had ceased to matter a long time ago.

At the USO there was food and big band music, and hostesses who volunteered to dance with the young servicemen soon to be in combat. The room was full of men in uniform. One of the young women, a hostess wearing a blue dress with white polka dots, spoke to him.

"Want to dance, Marine?"

He said he did. And they swung out onto the dance floor to "American Patrol."

"So where are you from, Mr. Marine?"

"Boston," he said.

"Home on leave."

"Sort of."

"Sort of?"

He told her that his mother lived here but they didn't get along. He told her he had rented a room on Huntington Avenue.

"You have your orders yet," she said.

The band played "There Are Such Things," and they slowed. She pressed herself against him.

"First Marines," he said.

"Sounds like the Pacific to me," she said.


Her face was near his as they danced. She smelled like good soap.

"Wow," she said. "I'd be so scared."

"I guess I'll be scared," he said. "I guess everybody is."

"But you do it."


"That's so brave," she said.

He pressed his hand into the small of her back as they danced. A female vocalist sang, "I don't want to walk without you, baby...."

"And you have no one to worry about you?"

"I'll worry about me," he said.

She laughed softly. He could feel her breath on his neck.

"Well, dammit," she said. "I will, too."

She had an apartment on Park Drive not far from the Harvard Medical School area where she worked. He looked around: small foyer, living room on the right, bath next to it, bedroom on the left, tiny kitchen ahead.

"You got your own apartment?" he said.


"You live alone here?"

"Yes. Why?"

"I been living in a barracks with a lot of guys. Alone seems nice."

"As long as it's not too alone," she said. "Would you like a drink?"


She brought out some Vat 69 scotch and some ice and a glass siphon with a lacy silver design on it. She poured two scotches, added some ice, and squirted the carbonated water from the siphon. She handed him one.

"Come on, Mr. Marine, sit with me on the couch."

He sat. She sat beside him. Her bare legs gleamed. He drank some scotch. It was good. His drinking experience was mostly beer up till now.

"How old are you?" she said.


He almost called her ma'am, but caught himself.

"Wow," she said. "I'm twenty-five."

He didn't know what to say about this, so he simply nodded.

"What do you think about that?" she said.

"Doesn't seem to matter," he said.

"No," she said. "It doesn't seem to."

"Were you in high school until the Marines?" she said.

"No. I quit school," he said. "I was doing high ironwork, with a bunch of Mohawk Indians."

"High iron?"

"Yeah, you know, skyscrapers. Mostly the Mohawks do that stuff, but they needed a guy quick, and I was willing."

"My God," she said.

"You get used to it," he said. "My father did it too."

"And you don't get along with your mother?"

"No," he said.


He could feel the length of her thigh against his as she sat beside him.

"A lot of booze," he said. "A lot of men."

"How awful," she said.

He shrugged.

"She does what she does," he said. "I do what I do."

She shifted on the couch and tucked her bare legs beneath her and turned toward him, holding the glass of scotch in both hands.

"And what do you do?" she said.

"Lately," he said, "I been learning to shoot a rifle."

"There are better things," she said.

"Not where I'm going."

She smiled.

"No, but you're not there yet."

He nodded. They were close now, and carefully he put his arm around her. She rested her head against his shoulder.

"You may be young but you seem awfully big and strong," she said.

"High iron does that," he said. "You should have seen my father."

"I should," she said. "Could you talk to him?"


"But not your mother."


"So you're going off to war with no one to talk to."

"I'm talking to you," he said.

"But you must have a lot of feelings bundled up in there," she said. "You need to be able to let go, let it all out."

"Marines mostly teach you to shut up about stuff," he said.

"Well, I will teach you differently," she said. "Have you ever had intercourse?"

He was silent for a moment. His impulse was to claim that he had, but there was something here, something between them. He didn't want to lie.

"No," he said. "I haven't."

"Then it's time," she said and leaned toward him and kissed him on the mouth.


In the summer of 1941, when I was nine, my father used to work around the yard on Sunday afternoons wearing a white undershirt and bear pants. The bear pants were overwashed khakis that he was wearing when, as a young man in Maine, he had shot a bear. The bear's blood still stained the pants, and they became known as the bear pants. The bear pants were, for me, though I would not have known how to say it, totemic, the tangible vestige of a warrior past no longer available.

We lived ninety miles west of Boston, in Springfield, in a white house with a screened back porch. My father used to play the radio loudly on the porch while he worked in the garden or clipped the hedge, so he could listen to the ball game. There were still blue laws in Boston in the days before the war, and baseball was not broadcast on Sundays. So while he staked his tomato plants and weeded among his string beans, my father listened to the Brooklyn Dodgers on WHN, which came clear channel up the Connecticut River Valley from New York.

Normally on Sundays teams played a doubleheader, so all the slow summer afternoon I would hear Red Barber's play-by-play with Connie Desmond, until the sound of it became the lullaby of summer, a song sung in unison with my father I saw Ebbets Field in my imagination long before I ever saw the bricks and mortar. The rotunda, the right field screen with Bedford Avenue behind it. Schaefer Beer, Old Gold cigarettes, the scoreboard and Abe Stark's sign. Brooklyn itself became a place of exotica and excitement for me, and the perfumed allure of New York City, gleaming between its rivers, wafted up the Connecticut Valley and lingered in my nostrils as it has lingered since, years before my father took me there and I found, to my adolescent delight, that it was what I'd imagined.

I learned something of triumph when the Dodgers won the National League pennant in 1941. I did not know who won in 1940. I learned years later that it was Cincinnati. I did not know any players in 1940. By the time I was nine, in September of 1941, the names of the Dodgers marched through my mind like lyrics: Dolph Camelli, Billy Herman, Pee Wee Reese, Cookie Lavagetto, Ducky Medwick, Pete Reiser, Dixie Walker, Mickey Owen. The pitchers: Higbe and Wyatt and Hugh Casey. And I learned something about tragedy in the World Series when Mickey Owen missed the third strike on Tommy Henrich to give the Yankees another chance to win, which they did. I regret it still.

Listening to the scores-Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 2; Cleveland 8, Detroit 1-I felt connected to all the great cities I'd never seen, across the vast rolling reaches of the Republic, connecting me with them and the people there watching the games. I saw them. I smelled the steamy heat in their streets. Philadelphia, Washington, Cincinnati.

In that last summer before the war, listening to the radio while my father wore his bear pants and worked in the yard, it was as if I learned the shaman incantations of a magic sect. The sound of the bat, amplified by the crowd mike. The call of the vendors, the organ playing, the sound of the fans yelling things you could never quite make out. The effortless and certain cadences of the play-by-play announcers, all of it became like the sound of a mother's heartbeat to her unborn child, the rhythm of life and certainty. The sound of permanence.

When my father was through working he'd have a beer, Ballantine as I recall, and he'd pour some in a shot glass and say to me, "Want a drink, Bob?"

It was, for me, the potion of initiation.


Excerpted from Double Play by Robert B. Parker Copyright © 2004 by Robert B. Parker. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Double Play 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great book from parker
MDB More than 1 year ago
This is Spenser if he hadn't had his father and uncles to raise him, and if he had suffered tough breaks early on. Burke is a man of honor and a deep sense of responsibility who's been broken by war and heartbreak. Unable to fit into post-WWII civil society in Boston, he turns to boxing to eek out a living and perhaps work through issues. He's not a great boxer, but his friend sees promise in him and enlists him as an enforcer for his bookie brother. Unable to reconcile violence against women and children with collections, Burke finds himself at odds with his employer. However, his employer respects Burke's position, even if he is mystified by the man himself, and he decides to recommend him for a job as a bodyguard. That sends Burke to NYC and introduces us to NYC crime bosses and a woman with whom Burke finds a connection, as they are both broken souls. Nothing lasts forever, though, and Burke is soon at odds with his new employer when Burke defends his charge's honor at the expense of two thugs and the lady's former boyfriend's ribs. (The boyfriend is the son of a business associate, and causing him harm was pole-vaulting over the line.) As a result, Burke leaves that job and lands a new bodyguard assignment protecting Jackie Robinson. Here is where the story is most compelling, for the two men have a lot in common and can identify with each other. In spite of their obvious racial difference, they have more in common than not - except that Robinson is not the broken man that Burke is. Duty, responsibility and honor are strong in both men, but Robinson is also an educated man (USC) who was able to take advantage of opportunities Burke never had in spite of being the white guy. Robinson also has the love of a good woman and the support of a community who needs Robinson to succeed. It's telling and interesting that in spite of knowing each other for a while, Burke never knew that Robinson had a wife until he drives him home after a game in NYC. "I never knew you were married," he says, not with a little bit of confusion. It never occurred to him that Robinson had any family at all, as Burke has none and doesn't think about it. Likewise, for Robinson it doesn't occur to him because he has never really thought about it either. It just WAS, and that was enough. Robinson and working for Robinson helps to heal Burke. Ironically, his dealings with another mob enforcer also help, as the two men share backgrounds, perspective and sense of duty and honor. You can see the beginnings of a Spenser and Hawk kind of relationship there. As usual, Parker is on his game here. This is not a book about race and race relations, nor is it about the psychology of war vets or what happens to people who suffer hard times. It's about a relationship between two men and how they help each during a pivotal time in one of the men's careers. History is a backdrop. Interspersed among the chapters are recollections of childhood from someone named Bobby who talks about being a Dodgers fan in 1947. It helps give one a sense of place and insight into the times. However, all of that is secondary to the relationship between Burke and Robinson and how Robinson helps heal Burke through their association and friendship. This is fiction; so, we can't say this is exactly what Robinson endured or thought, but that sense of pride, honor, decency, responsibility are all there. The writing is crisp, witty and sparse. Parker doesn't do hyperbole or overly descriptiv
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Mystery writer Robert B. Parker tries his hand at this somewhat unconventional project a mix of fiction, non-fiction and memoirs. Injured WWII Marine Joseph Burke (fiction) returns from a tour of duty in the South Pacific to find that his wife has left him. Burke eventually finds work with organized crime figures which leads to his becoming the bodyguard for Jackie Robinson, who has recently been promoted to baseball's major leagues as a first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African American player to accomplish this feat (non-fiction). There's not much of a plot to the rest of the book basically Burke and Robinson (both thinly-drawn at best) dodge various threats based on either Robinson's skin color or Burke's various slights to organized crime figures during his prior employment. Interspersed throughout the book are sections titled 'Bobby' (memoirs) in which the author reminisces about his youth in Boston as a Dodgers fan (which must have been a lonely existence) while Robinson was making his major-league debut. Clearly this is a labor of love for Parker, and it's not a bad read but unfortunately there's not a lot to recommend it either -- stereotypical characters and a faint plot do not a great book make.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not a bad book for a bargain pick up but nothing really special here. No real intensity and really no care for the main character. A quick read if that's something your looking for.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked learnig about the challenges it was to protect jackie and though grusome at times quite interesting. The part about the ten gage was way to grusome and this book should never be able to get into the hands of kids. Furthermore the parts of him getting spiked and spat at and all that stuff was very educational.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of those you just cannot put down. Taking place in the setting of the first season Jackie Robinson came into the Major Leagues, the main character, Burke, provides everything one could want from a novel. He provides toughness, reflects the pain of a battle-worn man, as well as one scorned in love. Parker really shows growth in the characters as Burke interacts with Jackie Robinson while serving as his bodyguard and both men get an insight to the others feelings and needs. If you enjoy stories that have real characters that not only offer excitement and humor, but also develop as humans during the book, then I think you will find this book a real treat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The transformation of the character Burke is what drives the story. He allows you to see what Jackie Robinson dealt with. The perspective is fresh and well written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Clean writing, identifiable characters, a great storyline. Sprinkled with the author's own childhood experiences about baseball, a running, parallel narrative that puncuates and adds a sentimental perspective to the story. It doesn't get any better than this. Robert Forster's voice is hypnotic (audio version).
Guest More than 1 year ago
The writing is very simple and short but the story itself is a good read. Don't be fooled into thinking it's something more than it is. It's decent summer reading, nothing more, nothing less. If I could do it all over again, I'd probably wait for it to come out in paperback, since hardcovers can get expensive.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Double Play¿ by Robert Parker defies classification. It centers on the 1947 baseball season when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier¿so there is baseball. The Dodgers feel Robinson requires a bodyguard and pick Joseph Burke. Burke is a physically and emotionally wounded Guadalcanal Marine sharp shooter. He has no feelings and nothing to lose, follows orders and shoots straight¿in other words, the perfect choice to protect Robinson. The plot to kill Robinson originates with a New York mob boss. Burke¿s astute manipulations of the mob and the Harlem gangsters combine to save the day. So there is mystery and gunplay. Mr. Parker alternates the death threat story with recollections of his own childhood as a fan of the Dodgers. Nostalgic period detail paints the scene with atmospheric touches like vintage songs, network radio shows, Red Barber calling the games and 1947 box scores. But it is the relationship between Robinson and Burke that carries the story in this lean, taut, intricate, poignant novel. While it is Burke who thwarts the assassination of Jackie Robinson, it is Robinson who truly saves Burke. In the Parker tradition, Burke is ¿someone who plays the game, protecting those who follow the rules and punishing those who don¿t. We call him a hero.¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you love sports, if you love the good old Jackie Robinson, than this book is definatly for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First Parker book I have read. Also my last. Almost elementary in every fashion. If you have 20 minutes to kill, then read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All 304 pages fly by in one sitting. The author deftly creates historical fiction that satisfies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The plot was incredible and turned out aas a masterpiece!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Parker's cadre of fans will easily identify the themes of integrity and redemption that run through his mysteries and Joseph Burke will be another character embraced by his readers. Parker does a brilliant job of painting a picture of the game of baseball and the bigoted world Jackie Robinson burst into in 1947. His descriptions of each man as an individual and the relationship between Burke and Robinson draw the reader in. The story line, as in all of Parker's novels, is brilliantly crafted and written to perfection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1947, Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, shocks America when he announces that he is breaking the color barrier by bringing up Jackie Robinson from the Montreal farm team. However, Mr. Rickey knows that many people do not want to see the line broken so to keep Jackie safe, he hires former World War II marine Joseph Burke to act as a bodyguard............................. Robinson and Burke quickly develop mutual respect though they are as different a duo as any pairing on the planet could be. Perhaps more important they learn to trust one another because the stands are filled with many folks who believe no man of color belongs in major league baseball and are willing to do something to cleanse the game including killing Jackie........................... This is no DOUBLE PLAY as Robert b. parker instead hits a grand slam home run with this tremendous look back to an era that seems like ancient history with all the accomplishment minorities have made in professional sports though under six decades ago. Jackie is portrayed as a proud individual who lets his on field performance speak for itself (think of the pressure on him) while holding within any acrimony towards those who label him with profanities. Burke is a wonderful counterpoint who sees how delightful a person Jackie truly is and willingly would die to keep his new friend safe. Mr. Parker hits all the bases with this game winner......................... Harriet Klausner