Strike Zone

Overview

It's 1993. The Chicago Cubs win ten straight to tie the Phillies on the last day of the season. With an exhausted pitching staff, the Cubs call on thirty-two-year-old rookie and clubhouse oddball Sam Ward to pitch the big game. For Ward, a career minor leaguer up for his sixth "cup of coffee," it's his first start in the big leagues. His chance to prove that he's not a "baseball bum," that maybe his wife shouldn't have left him, that he's not crazy. But something is wrong. Sam Ward is not getting the calls from ...
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Overview

It's 1993. The Chicago Cubs win ten straight to tie the Phillies on the last day of the season. With an exhausted pitching staff, the Cubs call on thirty-two-year-old rookie and clubhouse oddball Sam Ward to pitch the big game. For Ward, a career minor leaguer up for his sixth "cup of coffee," it's his first start in the big leagues. His chance to prove that he's not a "baseball bum," that maybe his wife shouldn't have left him, that he's not crazy. But something is wrong. Sam Ward is not getting the calls from umpire Ernie Kolacka. And he doesn't know why. Was it that wisecrack he made a few years ago at the sports dinner, the gay rights petition, the clubhouse incident with President Nixon? Sam only knows that he has to win. What he doesn't know is that the game is fixed. Sixty-year-old Ernie Kolacka, forced into retirement, is umpiring the last game of a distinguished career - a consolation prize in an otherwise disappointing life. His own promising future as a ballplayer shot down in Korea, unhappy in marriage, ignored by his kids, Kolacka hangs on to certain principles that he lives by - integrity, hard work, loyalty to friends. But when his principles collide, Kolacka is suddenly faced with an unbearable moral dilemma. Writing his first novel, Jim Bouton, author of the classic Ball Four, shows an original comic touch with the creation of Sam Ward. Eliot Asinof, veteran novelist and author of the acclaimed Eight Men Out, is the gruff and crusty voice of Ernie Kolacka. In alternating chapters, Ward and Kolacka face off in a duel of competing characters whose lives are on the line - one ball game seen from two utterly different points of view. A double-blind study of balls and strikes, right and wrong, life and death. As Sam watches the breaks fall against him, he struggles for a way to triumph. As Ernie feels his career, his integrity, slipping away, he balances on the edge between honor and death.

The ultra-inside baseball thriller by the bestselling authors of Eight Men Out. On the mound is 32-year-old Sam Ward--it's his last chance to justify all he has sacrificed for this ultimate start. Behind the plate is aging umpire Ernie Kolacka, who has reasons to use his position to fix the game.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's the last day of the baseball season at beautiful Wrigley Field. The Phillies and Cubs are all tied up; the final game will determine who makes the playoffs. It's also the last game for 60-year-old umpire Ernie Kolacka, who is due to retire. But an old friend has just pleaded with Kolacka to repay a debt of honor incurred during the Korean War; by doing so, he will ensure a Cubs loss--and make $200,000 along the way. Kolacka's ``victim'' will be Cub pitcher Sam Ward, a 32-year-old rookie knuckleballer who's as flaky as his favorite pitch. Though opposites in many respects, Ward and Kolacka have a lot in common: their love of the sport; their single-minded pursuit of their major league dream; their fading marriages. Inning by inning, with balks, ejections and called third strikes, Kolacka steadfastly repays his debt, until the game goes to the top of the ninth. The Cubs lead 5-4, but the Phillies have the bases loaded, the count is 3-2 with the most important pitch of the season on the way--and Sam Ward is about to save Ernie Kolacka's soul. This inspired collaboration melds the humor of Bouton's Ball Four and the darkness of Asinof's Eight Men Out . It's an exciting read with an ending that will make fans stand up and cheer. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 marketing campaign; author tour. (June)
Library Journal
On credentials alone, this book is essential for readers of popular fiction. Bouton is a former Yankee pitcher, permanent enfant terrible, and author of Ball Four plus Ball Five (1981), one of the zaniest true-life adventures in baseball ever written. Asinof is author of Eight Men Out (1963), the definitive account of the Black Sox scandal of 1919. They alternate chapters, and perspectives, on a game that will determine whether the Chicago Cubs will go to the League Championship Series. Bouton tells it from the viewpoint of the pitcher, Sam Ward, the league's oldest rookie. Asinoff tells it from the viewpoint of umpire Ernie Kolacka, a man too honest to succeed in the game; now calling his last game before forced retirement, he is under immense pressure to throw the game. The close-up, inning-by-inning view of the workings of the game will remind true fans of Daniel Okrent's Nine Innings (Ticknor & Fields, 1985). This is a terrific story about two men who love and need baseball as well as a suspenseful story about one important game. Strongly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/94]-Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, Ia.
School Library Journal
YA-It's the last game of the season and the Cubs and Phillies are battling it out to decide which team will make the playoffs. Sam Ward, a 32-year-old rookie, takes the mound for the Cubs, his first start in the major leagues. A lot rides on his performance, for this game will determine whether the sacrifices he and his family have made for him to follow his dream have been worth the price. Umpiring the game, his last before forced retirement, is 60-year-old Ernie Kolacka, whose career is the one aspect of his life that he regards with any pride. Kolacka is torn by divided loyalties when a longtime friend pleads with him to call the game in favor of the Phillies. Bouton and Asinof, writing in alternating chapters, give two utterly different viewpoints-pitcher and umpire's-from the hours preceding the big game through its final inning. A thoroughly satisfying book, providing insight into baseball as well as telling an exceedingly good story.-Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451183347
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/1995
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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