Monday, October 1, 2018

Post # 29

Quote for the day: "Detroit is the city of problems. If they exist, we've probably got them. We may not have them exclusively, that's for sure. But we probably had them first." Lawerence M. Carino, Chairman of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce. 1972.


Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and Our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series                  
by Mickey Lolich and Tom Gage

There have been more than a few books written about the Detroit Tigers winning the 1968 World Series and helping to bring together a city torn apart by one of America's worst urban riots the previous year. Hard to believe, but this year marks the 50th anniversary of that World Series win and if you get the itch to read about the Tigers in the World Series this fall you're going to have to do it in a book. What sets this book apart from the others on the 1968 series is the author pitched three winning games for the Tigers and was the series MVP.

Mickey Lolich was a member of the Air National Guard and the book opens with the author's unit being called up and his experiences in uniform on Detroit's streets watching the city burn. The next two chapters are brief accounts of the Tigers just missing the playoffs in 1967 and winning the pennant the next year. Succeeding chapters alternate between detailed descriptions of each game in the '68 World Series and Lolich reminiscing about his long, colorful, and extraordinary career. The book is effortlessly readable, filled with great stories, and makes for a revealing self-portrait of a life in baseball.

Mickey was right-handed but was a South Paw pitcher. As Lolich tells it, this singular physical attribute occurred as a result of him breaking his left collarbone in two places as a young boy. His left arm was put in a sling for weeks and his arm atrophied. He underwent extensive physical therapy on his left arm and one of the motions in therapy had him rotate his left arm up over his head. It was a perfect pitching motion. To make sure the left arm grew stronger his parents actually tied his right arm behind his back. As a kid, Mickey loved to throw things including rocks, dirt clumps, balls, and even figs. His grandfather had a fig tree and one of Mickey's favorite pastimes was to get on his grandfather's garage roof  (apparently with his right arm tied behind his back) and throw figs at Portland's city buses with his left arm. It was a good 150 feet throw in order to hit a bus. Doing this day in and out developed tremendous strength in his left arm and when he started Little League ball he naturally threw left-handed. Years later a bus driver told Lolich he liked it when the figs ripened because they didn't dent the bus and could be easily washed off.

In his entire career, Lolich had one stolen base and one home run. The latter occurred in the 68 World Series. The book is filled with great stories about the game, including the stolen base and home run, and his teammates. He tells why he refused to throw at opposing batters and a hilarious story of the time Lolich went shopping in Macy's with Bill Freehan, the Tiger's catcher, who walked into the lingerie department and asked the stunned and outraged clerk if he could buy some "falsies."

When you went to Tiger's Stadium and Mickey Lolich was on the mound the experience was always worth every dime you paid for the ticket. The same can be said for this book.

Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and Our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series, by Mickey Lolich with Tom Gage. Triumph Books, 2018, $19.95

The Coroner
by Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

Usually what keeps one reading to the last page of a mystery novel is the solving of the crime. But in this book, it was the resolution of two other mysteries or issues that dogged the main character throughout the novel that kept me turning the pages. 

Emily Hartford left home to live with an aunt in Chicago at age 15 after her mother died in a single car accident that left the young girl with some troubling questions. Emily feels there were facts left uncovered in her mother's death. Her father served as the county coroner, he performed the autopsy on his wife and refused to talk to his daughter about his findings, or answer any of her questions. This is doubly surprising because he allowed Emily to watch and assist in autopsies starting at the age of thirteen. 

Emily has lived in Chicago for a decade and hasn't spoken with her father since leaving home. She is in her third year of a surgical residency when a friend reaches her with news her father has had a heart attack. Emily rushes back to her small hometown in Michigan, and just before boarding the plane her boyfriend presents her with an engagement ring which she accepts. Back in her hometown her gravely ill father has remarried, (the town undertaker no less) and refuses to consider a heart transplant even though he will die without one. Emily's ex-boyfriend is still in love with her and is now the county sheriff. And finally, a young girl has died while horseback riding and because dad's too sick to perform the autopsy Emily volunteers. What looked be an accident is a homicide. So Emily and her high school boyfriend team up to solve the mystery.

The reader doesn't have to be a fortune teller to know Emily will soon be torn between the two men.  Emily and her dad argue but grow closer even though her father will still not let Emily see the autopsy report on her mother. Emily finds the pace of life in small-town Michigan is much more appealing than the grind of big city life and enjoys reconnecting with old friends. The murder mystery slowly unfolds but it's Emily's growing inner struggle over choosing between her hometown and Chicago, her ex-boyfriend or her self-centered fiance, and her growing relationship with her estranged father is what, I think, will keep readers turning the pages. The author is especially good at portraying what makes small-town life rewarding and enriching. And if the reader begins to think of the characters as real people it speaks of the author's ability to draw convincing fictional characters.   

This reviewer was surprised by the total absence of swearing, vulgarity, or even the hint of sex, let alone sexual tension. Some readers, I am sure, will appreciate the absence of all the above. For a murder mystery, the book is even light on violence of which there is one brief scene. With all the missed typos and the jarringly inadvertent dropping of articles preceding a word, the book could have used a more thorough proofreader. 

Admittedly, this is not my favorite mystery sub-genre. The murder of the dead equestrian is satisfactorily solved while the question of which man Emily will choose is obvious from the first fluttering heartbeat. Those elements of the plotline were, for me, always secondary to the description of life in a Michigan small town, the rebuilding of Emily's relationship with her father, and the questions concerning her mother's death. This is an involving mystery that's short on violence and long on character development and setting.

The Coroner by Jennifer Graeser Dornbush. Crooked Lane, 2018, $26.99

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