Jessica, now engaged to Manny, invites Miranda, her husband, and their parents to join her in a luxury suite to watch the hometown Washington Filibusters take on their archrivals, the Florida Keys, in a championship game. As they are wined and dined by the team owner, Miranda envies her sister's seemingly perfect life and faces the reality that her own is a facade. But when the forces of revenge and corporate greed catch up to the "perfect" couple and blow their world apart, Miranda is suddenly thrust into a world of international politics.
Let's Play Ball dramatizes the struggles of two ambitious sisters against the backdrops of immigration, global conflict, and the nation's pastime.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.52(d)|
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LET'S PLAY BALL
By Linda Gould
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Linda Gould
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHere's the story of how I got mixed up in a major crime and became a well-known heroine, when I could have been branded an outcast. I never dreamed I was the type to embroil myself in a police investigation, especially one with the potential to affect both national and international affairs and almost get me killed. But it turned out I was.
The melodrama began to unfold at a baseball game-fittingly, because the sport has always been our family pastime. My parents, my fraternal twin sister, my husband, and I were privileged to watch this crucial, sold- out game from one of the owner's boxes. It was practically the greatest experience of my life-or at least, it should have been. I sensed right away that this was a political setting, where private battles could become mingled with world events.
While I grappled with personal demons, our hometown Washington Filibusters were playing the Florida Keys for the National League championship. The Busters were in desperate straits on that bright October Sunday, down three games to two in the series and facing elimination. It was shaping up to be the kind of game that packs in drama at every turn, confirming the adage that sports are a microcosm of life. And the gamesmanship in the luxury suites, high above home plate, competed with events on the field.
I should have felt like a big shot, sitting with my husband, Tommy, at our own table, nursing a gin and tonic and sampling exotic appetizers while the game unfolded almost directly below me. At times when the alcohol penetrated my nervous system, I imagined myself above the fray in the suite, as well. The close, gripping game and the jarring personalities who were sharing our space each looked like a story cooked up for my amusement. I half listened to a debate between two particularly vocal city councilmen among the several local politicians who slipped in and out of the suite all day. A few years ago these two had fought pitched battles over the question of whether this spanking-new stadium we were sitting in should be built at all.
What brought me down to earth was the sight of my parents and sister, seated at tables of their own, and Tommy, sitting across from me, oblivious to everything except the notebook computer in front of him.
"Tommy?" I said tentatively.
"Hmm?" he answered, not looking up.
"A Martian spaceship just landed on third base, and the aliens have already taken half of the Busters hostage." I kept my voice conversational.
"Great," he said without so much as a pause in the clacking of keys.
I sighed and looked at my parents, who'd been married for thirty-five mostly tranquil years. It reminded me that these exceptional seats weren't my doing. All day I had watched Mom and Dad exchange smug smiles and sometimes grasp each other's hands excitedly. "Isn't this amazing?" had been Mom's first observation on entering the suite.
"I've been watching baseball all my life," responded Dad, "and I've never had a seat like this in any ballpark."
I looked at my twin, Jessica, who was occupying another table and pounding her own notebook computer. It was hard to believe that Mom and Dad had once agonized over her refusal to take a conventional career path. They had even pointed to me as an example of a responsible person. "Hey, Jessie," I said, "if Martians were really invading the ballpark, wouldn't that make a bigger story than whatever you're writing?"
Jessie glanced up, frowned at me as if annoyed to be distracted for even a second, and returned to her typing. Well excuse me, I thought, for trying to introduce some levity.
Thanks to the combined efforts of Tommy and Jessie, the beeps and clicks of productivity were bombarding me in stereo. For a moment I wondered if they were in cahoots to make me feel as insignificant as possible. But no, that would require one or both of them to be aware of my existence. I sat back in my seat with arms crossed and tried to focus on the game, a tense but fast-moving pitchers' duel. Both teams' aces were mowing down batters, allowing no walks and only a few singles.
I knew Jessie was recording impressions of the game for an online sports magazine that she had helped found. But maintaining journalistic objectivity would be a special challenge for Jessie today-her fiancé, Manuel Chavez, was in right field for the Busters. She was about to become, at twenty-nine, the second wife of the foreign-born ballplayer, whose future might be riding on this game.
If Jessie ever felt jealousy toward me, her three-years-married sister, she didn't show it. Nor did she envy my relatively comfortable federal government career as a budget analyst. The tables had really turned for both of us since Jessie returned from the University of Florida seven years ago in despair. Manny had just broken up with her to marry a beauty pageant winner who, like he, had emigrated from Cuba as a child. Back then my sister had reason to be jealous of me.
Happy as she was now, she did look nervous about today's game. Her Manny was on the brink of free agency. Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the game was still scoreless, and Manny was due up third. He was hitless so far today and had struggled throughout the series, a disappointment after his fine regular season. His chances of signing a big contract during the upcoming off-season might depend on his ability to handle this kind of playoff pressure. No wonder Jessie kept interrupting her typing to wring her hands and wipe sweat off her face.
She was not only nervous, but also a tad paranoid. Hours earlier when we'd picked up our special passes at the will-call window, she had warned us to be careful about what we said in the suite today. Although she couldn't prove it, she suspected the place would be bugged. "Call me crazy," she'd said, "but I just don't trust the people running this ball club." Mom and Dad tried to laugh this off, but I noticed Tommy did not. Still, we kept our voices fairly low. The councilmen drowned us out, anyway.
Bugged or not, our suite was equipped with a high-definition TV monitor. This allowed us to catch nuances of the game that only a network broadcast could provide while continuing to watch the live action. Bob Erickson, the regular play-by-play announcer for the Filibusters, was working this national game with his usual boyish charm and relaxed style, which sometimes cushioned what he was saying.
"The Filibusters are in a rather unique position right now," he told his partner. "There are an unusual number of prominent players looking for new contracts at the end of this season or next. Naturally, management won't be addressing those issues until the team is done playing for the season. But there have been hints that they'll be looking to reduce payroll, whether the Busters win this championship series or not."
"I would think Busters management would be looking to keep a solid team like this one intact," remarked the other announcer.
"Most team owners would," replied Erickson. "But Mr. Carter's philosophy is that solid isn't good enough. He wants that, of course, but he also believes in youth and economy."
The commentators went on to mention the bad blood that had existed all season between the Busters and the Keys-the usual beanball battles and bench-clearing incidents. "But the feud doesn't seem to have done any lasting damage," added Erickson. "Today's game has been intense, but clean. Not a single hit batsman so far, knock on wood."
As an ardent fan of this relatively new DC franchise, I had expected to be excited to see the two combative teams play for such high stakes. What I didn't expect was to have the breath knocked out of me when the door to the suite burst open and both team owners entered. It was suddenly as if they commanded all the oxygen in the room. The two debating city councilmen fell silent. Both Tommy and Jessie stopped typing. Mom dropped Dad's hand as if it were a hot potato.
The new arrivals made quite a contrast physically; one was ruddy, medium height, and balding, while the other was tall and slim, with abundant, dark hair and a full mustache. The former's name was Johnson "Johnny" Carter. The majority owner of the Filibusters, Carter was around sixty-five and a weekend athlete with large gestures. His counterpart from the Keys, Javier "Javy" Castilla, was younger and more reserved, but almost as friendly as Carter. Both of them looked us over with evident interest. We were strangers to them; even Jessie, who had spent time in the press box, had not met them face-to-face.
You would have thought the Austen family was a big deal. Sidestepping the quarrelsome politicians, Mr. Carter made a beeline for me and introduced himself and his fellow owner. I rose halfway from my seat, extended a hand to each in turn, and stammered, "I'm Miranda Stone, and this is my husband, Thomas Stone." I hoped they didn't notice my flushed face and sweaty palm. They looked slightly perplexed, which compelled me to add, "I'm Jessica Austen's twin sister."
"Ah, Jessica Austen's twin sister," exclaimed Johnson Carter, his eyebrows shooting up. His gaze slipped from my dark brown shoulder- length hair and rather flat chest to Jessie's blue-eyed visage and voluptuous presence. Jessie was twirling one golden lock around a manicured finger as if she were oblivious to Carter's attention. Finally, he glanced back at me. "Fraternal, I assume?" I nodded, surprised to find myself seething inside.
But determined to overcome my tongue-tied state, I sparred with Mr. Carter as best I could about the family's interest in baseball and the lack of obvious resemblance between Jessica and me. Still, my internal distress did not subside. I guess I hadn't realized, until that moment, how much I craved recognition for myself.
Even more disturbing was the contempt I felt for my husband, who now came out of his funk and started playing up to these rich and powerful men. "What's that you're working on, Thomas?" asked Carter, glancing at the legal brief or whatever it was that had absorbed Tommy all afternoon.
"Oh, I don't think he's at liberty to say-" I jumped in, before Tommy brushed me off with a wave of his hand.
"Honestly, Randi," he said, "you act like I'm a CIA agent or something." He exchanged an amused glance with Carter, as if to say, aren't women overly dramatic at times? He spilled a few details about the case, and Carter reminisced about a deal or two that Tommy's firm had negotiated on his behalf. Tommy nodded knowingly, as if he had been personally involved in that work.
The pair of owners moved on to my parents, charming them, and then to the politicians, neutralizing them. All this time, my sister had been silently taking in their moves. When they approached her, she met their gazes head-on. "I already know quite a bit about you gentlemen," she said in a mild tone, "and I suspect you know me by reputation." No wonder I admired her more than I resented her.
After exchanging pleasantries with Mr. Castilla and thanking Mr. Carter for his hospitality toward her family, Jessie slipped almost imperceptibly into journalist mode. "I thought I might be privileged to encounter one of you today, but certainly not both of you. You're not in the habit of attending games together, are you?"
"It's a pretty small club we belong to," said Carter, smiling. "It's hardly surprising that we would run into each other at a game."
"Our friendship goes back a long way," added Castilla in a calm voice that displayed only a slight accent.
"I didn't know the two of you were particular friends." Jessie spoke as if she had certain knowledge that they were not. "And isn't this an unusual time to be hanging out together?"
Carter and Castilla offered further explanations that I knew my sister would recognize as glib. Having grown up in the post-Watergate era, she considered every official statement a potential cover-up. She was always "following the money" and cultivating her own modern-day Deep Throats. She defined her journalism as an ongoing battle against new and evolving forms of Fascism.
I thought this was pretty ambitious for a mere sportswriter, but Jessie always had aspired to be greater than her current career. I often warned her not to alienate too many high-level sources, as she had been known to do before. I feared it might happen again as she zeroed in on the surprising fellowship between these two team owners. Luckily, her pursuit of this possible story was overtaken by events on the field. The Busters' three best hitters were coming to bat against the Keys' formidable pitcher, Ron Olgesby, in the sixth inning. The ace had scattered only five singles so far and had throttled the third, fourth, and fifth batters in the lineup. The two owners departed, presumably to watch this critical half-inning from a more private vantage point.
"Those two are definitely up to something," Jessie declared. "It smells like collusion. I'm going to track them down and ask a few questions before this day is over."
"I'd be careful with those guys if I were you," I said. "Do I need to remind you about the biggest source you ever blew? Deirdre Smith is at the game today, in case you've forgotten. Upstairs in the presidential suite. But have we been invited there to see her? You'll never get near her again, since you saw fit to insult her."
Jessie winced at my mention of the daughter of the president of the United States. We had first gotten to know Deirdre during our high school summers when we'd attended an arts camp. Her father had been a Virginia congressman who was eventually elected governor. We'd kept in touch with Deirdre during our college years and managed to get ourselves invited to a weekend retreat for young women at the governor's mansion in Richmond.
"Are you ever going to stop bringing that up, Randi? We were college kids then, for God's sake."
"Well, how can I forget it, Jessie? It's not every day that I get to hear my sister refer to a roomful of prominent Virginia society women as sheep."
"How many female anti-feminist speakers did they expect me to endure?" returned Jessie. "All of them telling us that the heights of our ambition should be to marry prominent men and be stay-at-home mothers. They're lucky they didn't get a worse jibe than that from me."
"Actually, they did," I replied. "Remember when you proceeded to accuse Governor Smith himself of ignoring or succumbing to numerous examples of encroaching Fascism? If you didn't shock the gathering before, you did then."
"Well I'm sorry, Randi, if I spoiled it for you. I had no idea keeping Deirdre's friendship was that important to you."
"It wasn't," I said, "but you could have salvaged something from it yourself. She was perfectly sweet to us as long as that weekend lasted. She would have been willing to keep up appearances if you had met her halfway. And now that she's not only the president's daughter, but the wife of a Florida congressman, she could have been a fount of information."
"Well," snorted Jessie, "not all is lost. At least we've been on the White House holiday card list every year."
It was time to turn our full attention to the field. Jessie's sports writing had always focused on personalities and backstories rather than the technical aspects of games, and something told me that this would be the inning when those subplots emerged. Busters center fielder Petie Jansen was digging in at the plate. Following him would be first baseman Wilson Boyd, and then Manny, the right fielder. Jansen and Boyd were known to be best buddies, country boys who referred to themselves proudly as rednecks and who didn't hide their frequent irritation with the "immigrant" contingent in their sport.
"Watch Petie," I said. "He's overdue for some flaky behavior."
Jessie glanced at me with raised brows, no doubt wondering how well I knew Jansen. She had always grappled with the fact that Tommy and I had met both him and Boyd at a shooting range and had struck up an acquaintance while indulging in target practice together.
Besides that, I suspected she still resented Jansen for an incident this past May, when he and Manny had collided in the outfield while chasing a fly ball. Petie had walked away almost unscathed, while Manny spent a week in the hospital, undergoing tests to make sure the initial temporary paralysis he'd suffered was unlikely to recur. Petie paid him a visit, which happened to coincide with one of Jessie's sojourns in his room. She claimed that Petie had sneered to find her nursing Manny back to health by reading to him from her archive of articles. That day, Manny had requested to hear the one that had brought them back together a year earlier. Jessie had chronicled his ultimately successful battle to retrieve his son from his ex-wife, who had snatched the three-year-old after their divorce and fled with him to their native Cuba. (Continues...)
Excerpted from LET'S PLAY BALL by Linda Gould Copyright © 2010 by Linda Gould. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Let's Play Ball opens high above a baseball field, in a luxury suite where Miranda Stone, her husband Thomas, her parents and her twin sister Jessica are among the guests gathered to watch a National League championship game between the hometown Washington Filibusters and the Florida Keys. While the various conversations taking place within the suite among the rich and powerful are heated and loud, Miranda is more interested in her husband Thomas and his annoying way of ignoring her. Meanwhile, Jessica is fixated on her fiancé, Manny Chavez, a rising star on the hometown team, who is down on the field, ready to play. From the outside, Miranda's life seems pretty nice - with a good job and a handsome lawyer for a husband but in truth, her three-year marriage to Thomas is faltering. Looking at her sister Jessica, she can't help but feel a little bit of jealousy. Jessica has sacrificed much over the years to build a magazine and now that hard work is paying off. To top it off, Jessica is engaged to a hunky baseball star who is deeply in love with her. Miranda's jealousy is quickly changed to concern when Manny disappears after the game. What happened to him? Did he go out with some friends and forget to tell Jessica? Or is something more sinister involved? Miranda comes to her sister's aid and together they work to solve the mystery. But there is far more going on both on and off the ball field so once the mystery of Manny's disappearance is solved, the story is just getting started. Before long, Miranda is dragged into a plot that involves a Cuban-US confrontation and a southern militia group that could lead all the way to the White House. Without giving too much of the story away, the plot entwines numerous greedy and self-centered characters into its pages. With so many people working to best their own interests, there are many possible theories to what might be going on. This in turn keeps the reader guessing as to the true culprit(s). Several strong female characters kept the story moving briskly - Guadalupe Ramirez was my absolute favorite. The first wife of Manny Chavez, she was once a beautiful model who never cared for anybody but herself; even the couple's adorable son Bobby was ignored by Guadalupe until she had a use for him. She's a character you're going to love to hate. When a catfight breaks out between her and two other characters, the claws come out in force and it's anybody's guess who will win. When I first received Let's Play Ball for review, I wasn't sure if I was the right person for the assignment. After all, while I enjoy baseball, I'm not obsessed with the game and this book centered around the sport. But boy was I wrong and if you're not sure if a book featuring baseball will be interesting, take my advice and start reading! You'll quickly be drawn into a world of intrigue and won't be able to put the book down until you turn the last page. Quill says: Mystery, suspense, several very strong female characters and a looming Cuban-US crisis make Let's Play Ball a great read for both fans of baseball and lovers of a good, smart read.
This powerful storyline holds your attention telling the personal side of characters involved in an international, major crime. The title 'Let's Play Ball' may throw you off at first but the game, however exciting as a national family pastime, is just a part of the background. By page 12, your adrenaline will be pumping. Miranda has a prestigious job as a budget analyst for the federal government. She and her husband Tommy, a well established lawyer, are in the depths of marital problems; well before the kidnapping of baseball star, Manny Chavez. Manny is engaged to Miranda's fraternal twin sister, Jessica. She is a journalist, who devoted many years to establish her own magazine. The two sisters are close and have always considered any competition between them to be a healthy inspiration to achieve higher goals. As the drama of marital affairs, racism, kidnapping, corrupt political agendas and bargaining escalates; fear and suspicions are cast everywhere; even between sisters. As the situation draws to an end, the surprising results of too much stress are revealed. The author, Linda Gould has your undivided attention. In fact, at times the reader may momentarily forget it is fiction and begin to judge or theorize. I would like to Highly Recommend reading this novel, and her previous writings.
I wanted to read this book because I love baseball. It is the story of two sisters, who are both ambitious but quite different. Miranda has a government job and is married to a lawyer. Her sister, Jessica is a sportswriter who is engaged to Manny Chavez who plays ball for the Washington Filibusters. These two sisters love each other and the national pastime, but they are thrown into international politics which threatens to damage their relationship. In addition, Miranda has been involved with a ballplayer which threatens her marriage. Gould uses the backdrop of baseball as these two sisters realize more deeply what they value most. Jessica is willing to stand by her man as he is kidnapped to Cuba and she follows him there and marries him. Miranda suddenly finds out she is pregnant by her ballplayer friend but realizes she wants to make things work with her husband who has had his own affair. This book at times reads like a thriller with issues of immigration, threats of global conflict and the world of international politics. The characters are real and the sisters likeable. Baseball is the backdrop for the novel but you will enjoy this book even if you are not a fan of the game.
Reviewed by: Gary Sorkin, Pacific Book Review Title: Let's Play Ball Linda Gould covered her bases for excitement, international intrigue, and fraternal jealousy in her novel, "Let's Play Ball." Superbly written with a friendly voice combined with many intuitive observations of people's behavior, Linda Gould fills "her ball pen" with a cast of characters ideally stereotyped for her clever plot. She uses Miranda and Jessica, two fraternal twins as reflective protagonists. By doing this she enabled her narration to be voiced through the intimate knowledge of a twin sister, a person that has lived each moment of her sister's past in a mirror image of life impressions. They have an understanding of each other only a twin can understand, and their relationship is brilliantly challenged, analogous to sports competition, such as baseball teams. Whereas Miranda has taken a course of choosing a conservative family life with security and routine, Jessica has sought the limelight of high profile sports. She has, what she believes, a predictable and loving relationship with a highly celebrated baseball player when all of a sudden he disappears. The circumstances of his evanescence stirs immediate speculation as a matrix of explanations are pondered by friends, teammates, family and the police. As a baseball game can be elucidated as being a long, seamlessly uneventful game separated by moments of sheer excitement, so characterizes her book. Linda Gould does retain the reader's interest and knowledge base of events as she doles out background information unfolding her story in an artful manner. "Let's Play Ball" combines the edgy feelings of an ominous police investigation, the intrigue of a missing person of high profile and the cerebral international politics of US-Cuban relationships. Her book scores "runs" during each chapter, and her suspense hits a "home run." Combining spirited debates on social issues in her book, "Let's Play Ball" is on deck for the intellectual reader that enjoys the Sunday morning editorial news circuit, or perhaps better stated as the intellectual that would rather be at the ball game. Her award winning book, receiving iUniverse Editor's Choice, is masterfully set with an impeccable galley clad in original cover art of a baseball player swinging in motion. But if you look closely at the uniform, can you identify the team? Perhaps it's one you never heard of, until now.
Political scandal wrapped up in a nations past time, Let's Play Ball is an intriguing story of sisterhood; friendship and scandal that will make you doubt every relationship. Miranda and Jessica are ambitious, successful sisters that have grown up loving baseball. Miranda, who is married, has an important government job with homeland security, a nice home and a prominent lawyer husband. Her sister Jessica is outspoken, unconventional and a sports writer, who has built her career based on her instincts and investigative journalism. She owns her own publication "Let's Play Ball". Her first renowned article was about her soon to be husband Manny Chavez. Manny is a baseball star that traveled to Cuba to retrieve his abducted son and bring him home. When Jessica invites her family to join her in the luxury suite to watch Manny's championship game, no one is prepared for the events about to transpire. Manny is abducted after the game and held hostage in Cuba. Jessie trusts no one. While struggling with her own marriage and issues, corporate greed and international politics throw Miranda into a world unlike any she has ever known. The book highlights the sisters relationship along with their ambitions in the midst of international conflict, immigration issues and a nations past time. Let's Play ball will keep you wondering who can be trusted and will justice prevail? I enjoyed this book; however I felt parts of it were a little slow, especially in the middle. It was easy to be wrapped up in the book while major events were taking place. It wasn't as easy to keep interested during the moments of speculation, where the characters were trying to figure out what exactly had happened, along with who let it happen, with nothing but gut and speculation. I feel this book is very similar to what takes place in most of today's political scenes. The author did a great job with the story and its "likeness" to real life. I would classify this book as political fiction and recommend it to anyone who likes politics and sports. If you're not into politics, the book is still a good read; you will just enjoy it differently.