The Might Have Been

The Might Have Been

by Joseph M. Schuster


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345530264
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/20/2012
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Joseph M. Schuster lives near St. Louis, Missouri, and teaches at Webster University. His short fiction has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, and The Missouri Review, among others. He is married and the father of five children.

Read an Excerpt

The Might Have Been

A Novel
By Joe Schuster

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2012 Joe Schuster
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345530264

Chapter One

A long while later-after the accident that would shape his life in ways he wouldn't understand for decades-Edward Everett Yates would feel sorry for the naïve young man he was then, the one who mistook that summer as the reward for so many years of faith and perseverance.

He turned twenty-seven and was lean and fast, in his tenth year of professional ball, playing left field for the Cardinals' triple-A team in Springfield, Illinois-well past the age of many of his teammates, who were not much more than boys, twenty, twenty-one, with acne on their chins, two years removed from borrowing their daddy's car for the prom. One-a nineteen-year-old, rail-thin left-hander with a wicked slider-still had a voice that broke an octave higher when he talked.

Nearly everyone he had begun with a decade earlier had moved on, up and out of the minors or out of the game itself. His roommate from rookie ball, Danny Matthias-a weak-hitting catcher-was in his fourth year with the Milwaukee Brewers, despite averages near .200. But catchers who had the confidence of a pitching staff were rare; singles- hitting outfielders like Edward Everett were not. The previous December, when Danny and his wife sent him a Christmas card, Danny had enclosed one of his baseball cards and written, "The best-looking backup catcher in America." He'd meant it as a joke, but Edward Everett was envious nonetheless, imagining boys throughout America opening a pack of Topps and finding Danny's glossy face dusted with sugar from the gum, along with Reggie Jackson and Hank Aaron.

The others-those who had lost patience and faith-had been back in the World for years, selling real estate or tires, finishing college, starting families. One enlisted after his brother died in Vietnam and came back minus a leg, long-haired and strident, on the evening news in his wheelchair, burning a flag.

He woke up that season, found some capacity he hadn't in previous years when he'd played well enough to stick but not enough to push past the wall that separated the minor leagues from the majors. In the first game, he had four hits in five at-bats against Tuscaloosa, two doubles, a triple and a bunt single in the ninth when he noticed the third baseman playing back on the outfield grass. From then on, he played what the sports columnist in the State Journal Register termed "inspired ball," with a sureness that surprised him, settling in to what they all called a "zone" at the plate, see the ball, hit the ball, seeing nuances in a pitcher's motion he hadn't noticed before, often having a sense of exactly where a pitch would go and how it would move-up, in, down, out-seeming to see it even before the pitcher released it as surely as if he were living a fifth of a second ahead of everyone else on the field.

He was dating a girl named Julie, a twenty-year-old sophomore at Springfield College, who talked to him about auras, ideas he listened to because he knew if he seemed to pay attention he'd get her into bed. But as the season progressed, he wondered if he'd been wrong to dismiss her notions, because once in a while, standing at the plate, digging his spikes into the Midwestern soil and settling into his stance, he felt that in some way the entire ballpark was an extension of himself.

By the end of June, he was batting .409, forty-five points higher than the next best average, and on the third of July, after a five-four victory in Omaha, in which he caught the final out by leaping against the fence and extending his glove a good foot above the top of the wall to bring back what would have been a three-run home run, his manager called him into his office.

Three decades into his future, after he came to understand the full meaning of that moment, Edward Everett would remember it with rare clarity. And why not? He had imagined it ever since he was a boy, imagined it before falling to sleep while he listened to Bob Prince and Jim Woods calling Pirates games on his transistor radio, imagined it as he knelt at Mass when he should have concentrated on the sufferings of Christ on the cross, even imagined it once while he was making out with a girl at a bonfire the October he was sixteen: noticing the shedding poplars silhouetted by the fire, he remembered that the Dodgers were playing the Twins in the Series that night, and wondered, as the girl nuzzled his neck, what the score was, and then saw himself in another October not too far off, in the on-deck circle, in the still point before coming to the plate, while around him the crowd flickered in an anxious and hopeful roar. He had imagined his being called up so often that his imagining seemed more a memory than a desire.

On that day more than half his life ago, Edward Everett sat in his manager's office-it was Pete Hoppel then-waiting while Hoppel finished a tired conversation with his wife on the phone. He had a practice, Hoppel did, of stripping off his uniform and leaving it crumpled on the floor for the equipment man to pick up and then sitting, his ankles crossed on his desktop, wearing nothing but a red Cardinals logo towel around his waist. Because he was a large man, the towel did not adequately cover him and so, sitting across from him, Edward Everett tried not to notice that his genitals were exposed, but this was difficult since he kept hefting himself in his chair to scratch his hip. In that state, he seemed to Edward Everett, for the first time, shockingly old-the giddy man who had sailed his ball cap into the crowd after Edward Everett's catch to end the game-that man was in his fifties, Edward Everett realized. In his uniform, Hoppel seemed substantial but, naked, he just looked fat, with folds of flesh cutting across his hairy chest and belly. His legs seemed like kindling that shouldn't be able to support his bulk and he picked at scaly patches of hard yellowed skin on the balls of his feet while he talked to his wife about whether they could afford a mason to repair their patio. Thirty years earlier, he had been as lithe as Edward Everett was in that moment. On the wall behind his desk hung a picture from when he was with Boston for two seasons, Hoppel's long arm draped over Ted Williams' shoulder, two skinny young men in dusty jerseys grinning for the photographer after they each stole home on successive pitches in a game against the Yankees.

"Babe, I gotta go," he said finally, giving Edward Everett a wink, and hanging up the phone. He took his feet off the desk and pushed himself until he was sitting upright, letting out a groan from the effort. "Don't never get old, Double E."

"Yes, sir," Edward Everett said, not certain it was the right answer.

"Look," Hoppel said, "you done good. Last year, I would've said you was going nowhere. You got the body, but your brains was for shit. This year_._._." Hoppel shrugged. "Long story short. You're going to St. Louis."

Edward Everett felt his heart leap in his chest. "I_._._." he started to say, but couldn't think of any words. Today he had been playing a road game in Omaha, sleeping four to a room at the Travelodge, and tomorrow he'd be in St. Louis, where Musial, Hornsby and Gibson had played and where he'd step onto a field with Lou Brock as his teammate. "Called up"-the words seemed in some way holy.

"It's maybe just for a month," Hoppel said. "Perry tore up his ankle going into the stands for a pop fly. But here's a word of advice. Don't fuck up. Make it tough for them to send you back. Do what you been doing here, and you got a chance to stick. Now get the fuck out of here."

"I won't-" Edward Everett said, but Hoppel picked up the phone and waved him out of the office. "Hey, Benny," he said, without even saying hello. "You still have that concrete connection? That guy, what's-his-name-he played at Altoona that one year?"

By the time Edward Everett got to the ballpark in St. Louis for the one p.m. holiday afternoon game against Pittsburgh the next day, the team had already finished batting practice and was in the dugout. From down a long concrete corridor that led to the field, he could hear the stadium announcer introducing a woman who would sing the national anthem. The clubhouse was nearly empty. Beside the door, a guard sat on a folding chair, a short and thin man who tugged on his sideburns as he worked a crossword puzzle. A clubhouse assistant laid folded towels on a shelf in each of the lockers, while another set bottles of soft drinks into a cooler in a back corner. A player hobbled out of the training room, his thigh wrapped in an ice pack.

"You Yates?" asked the equipment man distributing towels. "That's you." He pointed at the back corner to a locker nearly blocked by a stack of cases of Coke. A white home jersey hung there, his name sewn across the yoke in all capitals; number 66. Edward Everett felt suddenly dizzy and sat down hard on a bench in the middle of the room to keep from passing out.

"A fainter," the equipment man said, laughing. "You're not the first."

Dressed, he rushed down the tunnel to the dugout but hesitated at the entrance. Beyond, the stadium blazed with color-the patriotic bunting draped against the blue outfield walls, the green of the artificial turf, the red and white shirts of the fans rustling in their seats. On the field, the Cardinals worked through their pre-inning warm-ups, outfielders throwing high arching balls that spun against a nearly cloudless sky, infielders taking ground balls.

"No tourists," snapped a player on the bench, someone Edward

Everett recognized as a relief pitcher, a squat man tightening an ace bandage around his left knee. Edward Everett was going to say he belonged, but the pitcher laughed. "Hey, Skip," he called. "New blood."

The manager glanced briefly at him and mumbled something he couldn't make out but which he took to mean that it wasn't the time for formal introductions to a rookie.

Not certain of the etiquette, Edward Everett sat at the edge of the bench beside the water cooler and bat rack, trying to form his face into a mask that didn't reveal his absolute awe at finally being here, his sense that someone was, at any moment, going to tell him it was all an elaborate joke; but once the game began, he might as well have been invisible. Time after time, not paying attention, the other players-my teammates, he thought-tromped on his spikes as they fetched a bat for their turns at the plate. Once, getting something to drink, one of them, distracted by another player whistling and pointing to a blond woman leaning over the railing of the box seats to peer into the dugout, fell over Edward Everett's feet, landing half in his lap. "Mother fuck," the player snapped, "watch out," as if Edward Everett had been the one tripping and falling and not sitting as he was on the bench, squeezed into the corner, trying to take up as little room as possible, his feet trod upon, players not paying attention when they tossed aside their paper drink cups, flinging them at his shoulder, his lap and once his face instead of the trash can.

The game, as some did, became contagiously static, neither team hitting much at all, through three innings, four, five, easy ground balls, shallow flies, players on the bench seeming to sag as the innings passed, eight, nine, ten, fans growing bored, the crowd shrinking, inning by inning, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, fans pushing their way out of the ballpark for their barbecues, family dinners, horseshoes and backyard sparklers. In the top of the seventeenth, however, the Pirates threatened to score, putting two runners on with only one out. The next hitter stroked a line drive to deep left field, where Lou Brock was playing. He dashed across the turf and, just as the drive seemed destined to fall in, leaped for it, his body parallel to the earth, snagging the ball in the webbing of the glove, and then slammed to the hard ground, bouncing slightly but holding on. So quickly that Edward Everett didn't see him get up, he was on his feet and throwing a strike to the second baseman standing on the bag, doubling off the runner who'd left too soon.

When Brock reached the dugout, his teammates clapped him on the shoulder but he was hurt-his slide on the turf had ripped his uniform pants at the left knee, raising a strawberry that oozed blood, and he limped to the bench, grimacing.

"You, Whosis," the manager said, pointing to Edward Everett. "You're hitting for Lou. Get out on deck."

He didn't move at first, unsure the manager meant him, but the player beside him elbowed him. "I wanna get home before my boy starts shaving. And he just turned one."

Edward Everett realized he'd left his bats in Omaha and searched the rack for one to hit with. He found one engraved "Dan Vandiveer," a catcher Edward Everett had played with at Grand Rapids five years earlier and who'd spent ten days with the Cardinals the previous season, someone who was out of baseball already, thirty-four and doing God only knew what. When he stepped onto the field, the heat assaulted him. In the shade of the dugout, he hadn't realized how warm the day was, but in the open, under the late afternoon sun on a cloudless day, the temperature attacked him with a force that made him gasp. That evening, watching the news in his hotel room, he saw that it had been 99 degrees during the day; by the time he went to the plate, it was still near 90, but the radiant effect of the Astroturf and the concrete beneath it must have added another twenty degrees.

The stadium came into his consciousness slowly: bending to pick up the weighted donut for his bat, he became aware of the washed-out green of the turf; on television, it appeared a seamless piece but, bending there, he noticed the warp and woof of the thick fabric. He saw, too, the scaling white paint that described the on-deck circle and noticed his red cleats, which, although they had been freshly polished when the equipment man had given them to him, were scuffed and gouged from being stepped on.


Excerpted from The Might Have Been by Joe Schuster Copyright © 2012 by Joe Schuster. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
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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The Might-Have-Been: A Novel 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
michigantrumpet on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I've loved baseball ever since my father taught me to keep score in the upper deck bleachers of Tiger Stadium. I love it in all of its forms from the World Series to MLB Spring Training to the Minor Leagues to college ball and the Cap Cod League down to Little League. I've been there for it all but, as a little girl in the 1960's, never played an inning of organized ball. I can't imagine if the game were taken away. Joe Schuster's "The Might Have Been" imagines far worse for his main character, Edward Everett Yates - a single hitting, hungry outfielder, who is irreparably injured during his proverbial month-long 'cup of coffee' in the majors. After following his youthful struggles to deal (or not) with his foreshortened dreams, the story picks up some 33 years, 1000s of games and two marriages later, to find an aging minor league coach, still clutching mightily to his connection with The Game.You don't really care for baseball, you say? Oh, but this is so much more! Like the best of stories, "The Might Have Been" transcends its diamond-shaped backdrop to reflect on universal themes of dedication (misplaced or not) to one's dreams, regret, ambition, and the helplessness of the little guy in the face of Big Business. Who hasn't faced disappointment and frustration at some point? As by necessity must, the numbers who excel at the highest level of any 'game' are tiny microcosm of the whole. What happens to the ones that can move on, and to those who cannot? Schuster answers with major and minor characters remrkably portrayed with the beautiful details that tell all with economy of descriptive space. Schuster teaches writing at Webster University, has written many magazine articles (including on baseball) and multiple short stories. His facility with shorter fiction tells in his delightful set pieces throughout his book. To say this is a 'debut' novel in light of this body of work may be a misnomer. Schuster has certainly proven he can write well and entertainingly in the longer form.
Mike_Buckley on LibraryThing 24 days ago
"The Might-Have Been" is a book about minor-league baseball. Or is it? Joe Schuster's first novel is set in the world of baseball, but it could have just as well been set in any number of professions. As the title suggests, it's a book about what might have been. While baseball is the backdrop, it's a story that many readers (if not most) can relate to.Like every young man who dreams of a big league career, Edward Everett Yates has his sights set very high. But like most who actually pursue their dream, Yates finds success out of his reach, through no fault of his own. This is a book about fate, about choices, about what a man is to do when circumstances don't go his way.For a first effort, I found this book to be difficult to put down. I don't want to play spoiler so I'll not give away any of the surprises that run throughout the book, but it has a number of twists and turns that will surprise and intrigue you. Even though sports are an important part of the book, it's the relationships that keep the story interesting. Shuster knows how to create interesting characters and intricate relationships between them. There were some parts of the book, like Yeats's involvement with a stranger he meets in a hotel, that are brilliant. Even if you're not a baseball fan, I think you'll enjoy this book. Anyone who's ever worked for a living, anyone who's ever lost a job, or worried that they might, will find something to relate to. There is one minor complaint, though. The protagonist's name is Edward Everett Yates. Throughout the book Shuster refers to him as Edward Everett. I found this slightly annoying, especially when it appears several times on a page. As I said, it's a minor complaint. It's certainly not a deal killer.I'm looking for more from Joe Schuster. (Full disclosure. Schuster teaches at Webster University in Saint Louis, a school my daughter attended. That fact, plus multiple references to Saint Louis in the book, made it especially enjoyable for me. But, I think you'll enjoy it, no matter where you're from.)
lacenaire on LibraryThing 24 days ago
The release of the Might-Have-Been is timed to coincide with the opening of the 2012 MLB season. It is not about the big leagues. It is about life in the dozens of small towns that support professional baseball known as the minor leagues. Young men, locals and outsiders, descend upon these towns to show the world that they have what it takes to be heroes. And while it is about the game, Joseph Schuster's debut novel explores the bewildering, sometimes pitiless consequences of chance and the choices we make.The central character, Edward Everett Yates, was made to be a baseball player. He has the right size and power to succeed but speed makes him exceptional. He can beat difficult throws to first, making them singles. He can steal bases. He can rundown balls in the outfield that seem destined to be hits. He was made to be a baseball player but he might have been other things, a loving husband, a doting father, a natural salesman, a success. But Yates abandons his best opportunities for these other roles to become a major leaguer.Yates¿ draw to baseball is compulsive. His inability to leave the game is almost a phobia. He is paralyzed, petrified in his resolve to make himself a success in the game. Others are able to move on when they fail to break through. Yates packs his bags for the next minor league town. He is frozen within an insular world populated mostly by young men who hardly are more than boys. Can a man progress, having committed himself to a child¿s dream of being a hero? It seems unlikely without life affording some grace to those so afflicted.Schuster¿s connection between this kind of baseball mania and mental illness is overt and we see what can happen to men weaker than Yates. The game is cruel to anyone with less than extraordinary ability, extraordinary good fortune and a strong character. Most must find a way to live outside of sport after failing to grasp their dream. Some cannot accept being turned away by the thing they love.All of his characters are flawed, yet, Schuster treats most of them quietly and with an esteem that makes even some of the more implausible events and coincidences seem real. Life is like that, filled with the mundane, the fantastical moments of chance, brutal punishments and even sublimity. The Might Have Been is written by a mature writer who loves his chosen world and should win a faithful audience of mature readers.
DMO on LibraryThing 24 days ago
There are many books about baseball that convey the magic of the game, the feeling of being suspended in a moment when you are either playing or watching and nothing else seems to matter. Parts of this book did indeed convey those magical moments, but even more than that the book showed the unforgiving side of the game. Baseball is like a drug that might seduce a man, but it is still a business that is driven by numbers and youth, and it does not forgive either mistakes or injuries. The main character in this book, Edward Everett Yates, is a man who has experienced the disappointments (and thrills) of baseball and is now at the point where he thinks more frequently about mistakes and lost opportunities than he does about the future. Still, this is not a depressing book at all. While Yates is not one who wears rose-colored glasses, he remains a man who believes that magic on a baseball diamond still matters.This book is a great addition to the canon of baseball books out there. I hope to hear more from Schuster in the future.
Rbeelee on LibraryThing 24 days ago
This was a well written book from a construct perspective. The story line was a bit depressing though. Edward Everett saw himself as a victim of circumstances, and only escaped from that victim mode when someone accidently tripped across his numbers. He spent his life riding events, and didn't ever come across as taking charge of things. He did get back into baseball, but later seems to view that as a poor choice when the truth of the matter was he couldn't live without it and was very good at coaching. His numbers in the end prove out his capability, but there was no fire in the character. Probably matches some people in the real world, but to read about it in a book came across as depressing to me. The storyline did match the title. The author did hold my interest in the world of baseball.
MsNick on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Joe Schuster's The Might Have Been chronicles the adult life of Edward Everett Yates, a flawed but likable man who has literally lived for the Great American Pastime. Edward Everett's relationships, some rather fleeting, were what held my interest the most. While I do enjoy baseball, and, yes, I realize that the book is more about life's journey and how we don't always end up where we would have imagined, I would have preferred a little less about the sport and more in regards to his personal life. So, while the novel was a little sports-heavy for my taste, I did find Schuster's writing style appealing and I expect this book will be quite well-received.
dallenbaugh on LibraryThing 24 days ago
The Might-Have-Been is a book with two main characters. One of them is Edward Everett Yates, a minor league baseball player, and the other is minor league baseball itself. The plot revolves around Yates, a man with a dream and an extremely strong drive to play professional baseball. He almost gets his chance when the "accident" happens, early in the book. What he chooses to do about the accident and his continued love of baseball defines Yates as a man, first as a player and then as a coachThe author did a good job of keeping my interest in minor league baseball even though some of the terms and descriptions were lost on someone like me who is not familiar with the game. In this environment character and drive have almost as much to do with success as does talent. If not good enough then you are kicked out and a new crop of "wanna be's" begins the process. Most former players eventually adjust and get on with their lives. Some, like Yates, do not. Yates is not sympathetically drawn at first, especially in his dealings with women, but eventually he is portrayed as a flawed man with a sense of honor trying to do his best for those around him. The book is character driven rather than plot driven, but held my interest well enough for me to want to know what happens to Yates. The minor characters are well drawn and contributed to my interest in the game and in Yates development, although some of the scenes involving them such as the airplane incident and the interaction with Nelson felt contrived. But overall the author did a good job of fleshing out this story of what "might-have-been."
burnit99 on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Edward Everett Yates, after a decade playing baseball in the minors, is called up to the majors. He has the game of his life, but maims his knee going for a ball over the fence, and the game is rained out before it's official. For the next several years, he is torn between committing to a "normal" life, with a steady job, salary, benefits, wife, family, and the siren call of baseball. Baseball wins out, and by the last part of the book he is pushing 60, never having made it back to the Show, and is managing a minor-league team. It's hard to feel a lot of compassion for Edward Everett; he frequently allows his loneliness and his self-doubts about his future to impel him to impulsively commit to women, only to be pulled away shortly after by that siren call again. I think I counted two engagements and two failed marriages, and a son he never gets to meet. But there is some redemption in the conclusion for him, and the hope that he can finally make his baseball life and his personal life work together compatibly.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Baseball might be America's game but it has always struck me as about as exciting as watching the grass grow. So it might seem odd that I do, in fact, cheerfully read books set in the baseball world. I don't think the game is a metaphor for life or anything so deep like others before me do. I am just fascinated by the fact that so many young boys will spend countless years of their lives chasing the dream of professional baseball, weathering disappointment after disappointment, coming close but missing that brass ring time after time. And baseball seems a crueler mistress than other professional sports, at least from my outsider's perspective with all the farm teams and different levels. Yet these boys (and they generally are boys)persevere.Edward Everett Yates, the main character in Joseph Schuster's debut novel is one such boy. He has dreamed all his life of playing in The Show and he has the talent to keep plugging along through the minors, waiting for his moment, that moment when he gets the call. And unlike for so many, it does eventually come. He gets called up to play for the St. Louis Cardinals. And it seems that his brass ring is well in hand. His first game he hits a sacrifice bunt to advance runners. But in his second game, he is having the game of his life despite terrible weather threatening to end the game when in one split second, his decision to climb the fence to catch a ball tears asunder everything for which he's worked so hard. Edward Everett destroys his knee and his future in the big leagues. But he can't quite let go of the game that was to have determined the arc of his entire life even though no team is interested in him anymore. And really, even though 30 years on he is a minor league manager rather than a player retired from the majors, baseball has in fact defined his lonely life.Told from three very different times in Edward Everett's life, this novel highlights the role that chance and luck play in everyone's life. But it also shows the ways in which our own choices play every bit as big a role. Edward Everett allows his dream to overshadow everything else in his life. His relationships with women, up to an including marriage, have all failed. He has no family beyond his epileptic dog. He not only had no career as a major league ball player, but even as a coach/manager, he is languishing in the minors, Single A even, trying to groom kids who have some talent but are unlikable or kids who are nice in every way but fall short talent-wise, to succeed in the game that has caused Edward Everett himself to turn away from anyone or anything that might have offered him another path or a different, perhaps more fulfilling and certainly less lonely, life.The lack of connection between Edward Everett and any of the other characters is actually rather sad. His character in his later years is a portrait of a pitiful, might-have-been, just as the title suggests. He is so overwhelmed with regret for the life that he never had a chance to live that he hasn't bothered to live the life he has either. While the tone throughout the novel is melancholic thanks to Edward Everett's numerous lost opportunities, there's also a stultifying air that slows the book down. This stultifying sense is apropos given Edward Everett's downward life trajectory but it can bog the reader down as well. For a reader uninterested or unfamiliar with baseball, there are also quite a few game and player statistics thrown into the novel too. While these numbers are certainly important for a manager looking to keep working at his career, they can overwhelm the point those numbers are intended to make in the text.As a cautionary tale about the importance of human connection and the need to sometimes temper dreams, this novel works. It is depressing and slow and makes me glad that my boys have never much liked baseball, not to play and not to watch. As a late middle-aged failure, there's not much to root for in Edward Everett who has thoughtless
walterqchocobo on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Like many other reviewers, I am typically not a fan of baseball themed books (I think The Natural ruined my taste for these). This was a well-written but mostly depressing story about a minor league baseball player, Edward Everett, who gets his chance to play in the big leagues for a couple weeks. In one of these games, a knee injury sidelines him and ends his chances for a major league career. Fast forward 30 years and Edward is still in baseball--now as a manager of a small minor league team. The story bounces around a little bit between current day and catching us up with what happened to Edward between the injury and now. The characters were well written and the story didn't get too bogged down in baseball details until the last quarter. I didn't really care for Edward since I felt that he wasn't a very nice guy in the first part of the book, terrible at relationships all the way through (except with his players) and a depressing guy to watch going through life, hanging on to "the might have been". On the bright side, the ending wasn't a complete downer. Good debut and I would probably read another book from this author (please don't make it about basketball though).
aimless22 on LibraryThing 24 days ago
The Might-Have-Been is Edward Everett Yates who is called Edward Everett. Not Ed, Eddie, Ward or any variation. Perhaps it's the inherent superstitions of baseball people. Always put the left sock on first. Always walk to the plate with the bat in the right hand. Never walk on the chalk line. Never let 'em call you Eddie.Split into three parts, Joseph Schuster's novel is Edward Everett's story. The first part, shaded by the elder Edward Everett's memory of the year 1976, is about his three weeks in the show. His call up at age twenty seven seems to him a reward for his perseverance in the minor leagues. His first at bat is as a pinch hitter for Lou Brock. Illusions of fame dance through his head as he dreams of winning the game on his debut hit. But his baseball mind takes over and he knows he must sacrifice the runner over in order to gain the respect and opportunities that he seeks. He is rewarded with three weeks on the bench, but with the big club - the St. Louis Cardinals.His next entry into the lineup is as a starter in a game in Montreal. The weather threatens throughout the opening innings. He was a star that day! He was the perfect ball player; the perfect hitter. Until . . . The second part of the novel focuses on his attempt at a normal life outside baseball during the year 1977. Edward Everett tries to be a salesman - he knows he could make more money at it. He tries to be a loyal partner to a woman and her son. He tries to be a good guy by bringing them to a ballgame. There at the ballpark, Edward Everett's dormant dreams are reawakened. The third part is the meat of the novel. Set in 2009, this is the story of Edward Everett - the man he became. As a reader, I am unsure if the split into parts was really needed. The first two parts begin with sentences that acknowledge that the following story is in the past. It seems the same events, relationships and changes could have been contained in one single part. I loved the everyday life of minor league baseball that plays a huge role in the story and in Edward Everett's life. The built in drama of baseball plays well in this novel. I loved the dog, Grizzly. I loved the young ball players itching to get to the show; their egos and insecurities getting in their way. As we read about Edward Everett's loves, losses, regrets, and worries, we get to know him. We begin to like him. We fall in love with him. The periodic questions that Edward Everett asks himself enforce the title of the book.The best is from the end of Chapter eighteen - "How, he wondered, had he ended up celebrating his sixtieth birthday with an epileptic Pomeranian as his only companion, standing in the kitchen, watching a Lean Cuisine lasagna, a frozen meal Renee had left behind, rotating in a microwave in a house with a leaky basement in a town where he managed a team that played its games in an honest-to-God cesspool?"Who among those of us over forty has not asked ourselves some variation of that very question?
SamSattler on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Baseball is special. The number of novels about the game, both in quality - and certainly in quantity - probably exceeds that of all other sports combined. The length of the baseball season, the pace of an individual game, and the potential for any player (regardless of size, position, or past performance) to be a hero for at least one day all lend themselves to good storytelling. And, because good storytellers seem particularly drawn to the sport, baseball fans who read novels are a lucky bunch.Joseph M. Schuster is one of those good storytellers, and the good news is that he has chosen organized baseball as the centerpiece of his debut novel, What Might Have Been. As the book¿s title implies, the hero of this story, however, is only a baseball hero if one considers perseverance to be the stuff from which heroes are made. At age 27, Edward Everett Yates (who prefers being called by both his first and middle names) does make it all the way to the show with the St. Louis Cardinals, but what happens to him there is the very definition of tragedy. He experiences the kind of nightmare in Montreal that often crosses the mind of anyone who sees getting his name in the baseball record books as his only chance of making a mark on the world before he leaves it. No one, though, will ever be able to call Edward Everett a quitter. Now, fast approaching 60 years of age, he is managing a team barely perched on baseball¿s bottom rung, A-ball in the middle of nowhere. What Might Have Been is the story of how he ended up there despite all the baseball promise he showed as a young man. But it is also the story of countless other young men that Edward Everett coached and managed over a lifetime in the game ¿ all of them, just like him, the best athletes to come out of their high schools and little towns in a decade and considered to be sure things when they left home. Way too soon, they all learn that everyone in A-Ball left home with the same reputation and high expectations, that suddenly they are competing against equals and the game has become a whole lot tougher than it has ever been.What Might Have Been is a book about choices made and not made. It is about lost dreams, the story of one man¿s regrets and disappointment as he looks back at his life, wondering how he ended up where he did, but coming to the realization that a series of little spur-of-the-moment decisions combined to make him who he is today. As in the tradition of the best baseball novels, this one is about the game of life as much as it is about the game of baseball. Baseball fans will certainly be intrigued by this frank look at life in the minor leagues, but even non-fans can appreciate this one as the excellently written dramatic novel it is.Rated at: 5.0
KatharineClifton on LibraryThing 24 days ago
As far as writing goes, this author has the gift. His writing style is descriptive, but not flowery. You really get a feel for the characters. And Edward Everett may be one of the most flawed characters to come along in quite some time. He's a bit of a sad sack, his big chances having passed him by. Some taken from him in the blink of an eye. Some lost by his own stupidity or poor decisions. I'm a baseball fan, and I enjoyed that aspect of the book. It might be a bit heavy for those who aren't fans of the game, but overall this book is about relationships. How twisted and entwined they can be. How they have the power to make or break your self-perception and life expectations. I found the ending to be a bit odd - perhaps excessive is more to the point. I enjoyed the story line involving Nelson. And I presume that he was meant as an alternative path that EE's life could have taken. But it all seemed a bit excessive, with EE's reaction to the drama being too underplayed for my taste. But as unsatisfying as it can be, I liked that some of the ends were left untied. A bit like life in general...
fugitive on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Anyone who says that this novel isn't really about baseball is being a bit disingenuous. Sure, someone who doesn't know baseball can (and many will) enjoy this great novel with an incredibly well developed protagonist. But if you live in St. Louis, and today is opening day (as I write this, today is opening day and, yep, I'm wearing my Ozzie Smith number 1 jersey, the powder blue vintage one) and you DO understand baseball, then this will be a very special work for you. The worst case scenario for everyone else is that this will merely be an excellent read.Three books came to mind while I was reading this: A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood for the attention to detail in the day to day world of Edward Everett Yates; The Natural by Bernard Malamud for the bittersweet tragedy of youthful potential stolen; and the relatively unknown book, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc. J. Henry Waugh, Prop.: A Novel by Robert Coover for the unabashed love of the game of baseball, and its potential for human tragedy and triumph.Webster University professor Joseph M. Schuster debuts with a novel that is full of melancholy, loss, wrong turns, and boyish stupidity. And baseball. I was listening to the Angels game the night of May 17, 1973 when an up and coming young player named Bobby Valentine suffered the same injury as Yates. I remember my English teacher talking about all the years he wasted in the minor leagues until finally realizing he just wasn't good enough for a career in baseball. I remember a little league coach teaching a bunch of 7 year olds, including myself, to use Willie Mays basket catch - after an hour of having baseballs bounce off of our faces, half the kids quit, I'm sure, never to play baseball again. Schuster's exquisite book brought back all of these memories.Note: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes via the Amazon Vine Program.
Embrown2 More than 1 year ago
Absolutely wonderful. It's beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Read this book!
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LaPapster More than 1 year ago
This curiously detailed book had me impatient just past the midway point--a general lack of character development juxtaposed against details and vignettes in sometimes the very precise details defining their lives--but I stayed with it and was rewarded. The "baseball" in the book is above average--Schuster had done his homework and does have some feel for the game, life in the minors, the changing knowledge bases in the game, and the feel of of a baseball stadium and locker room, however meager they were in his story. Occasional breaks with realty, such as a franchises' very quick abandonment of a young, recently drafted prospect, and the relative dearth of Hispanic players given their predominance in today's minor, are easy to forgive. Schuster's success in showing just how baseball can really get to you in a consuming way more than compensates. The drama, resolutions, and trajectory of the much more rapidly paced final third of this book make it one I have already recommended to several friends I know will enjoy it as I did...
SoCal_Reader More than 1 year ago
This was a bittersweet story about the choices we make and the rewards and sorrows those choices bring us. I loved the character, Edward Everett, and felt his pain and bewilderment. He helped us see that by late middle age we should be able to put aside regret and loss and learn to accept ourselves and enjoy the richness of our particular life lived. He was powerless to have lived differently. Try as he might, this game was his vocation and destiny. We were also made to look hard at professional baseball as an industry. We usually only see the major league players in all their glory and forget how they got there. There are hard decisions and missed opportunities for thousands of young men playing in the minors. It can be a wonderful experience or a perilous waste of youth, depending on the individual and his fall-back plan. Altogether, a wonderful read for me.
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KenCady More than 1 year ago
Last year's The Art of Fielding set the standard for a modern baseball novel. This novel, while interesting to a point, is not in the same league. For one, it is about a loser, and why do I need to read about a loser when winners are usually more interesting? We learn from the start what a heel the main character is with women, and it doesn't get much better for him as he cannot give up baseball and stays at a very low level position long after his relevance. So, I did read it, but I would like it to have been more upbeat. Couldn't something good have happened to him?
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a great read. You don't have to be a fan of baseball to enjoy the story.