Thursday, February 13, 2014

It Happened in Wisconsin by Ken Moraff

Ken Moraff's depression era tale of a Racine baseball team won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and with Wisconsin in the title, I simply had to find the book.  Our library system came through again and soon I had the title in hand.  Old time baseball teams and Wisconsin have strong connections- Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Racine all fielded professional girls teams in the 1940s, and there remain semi-pro teams littered all over Wisconsin.  Why Hank Aaron even played on one.  So I imagined that I would be reading a tale of country fields, small town competition, and the love of the cracking bat.

That isn't what Moraff has written.  His tale is an interesting one, a tale of men who have labored hard in the industrial world, but see no chance for opportunity and view the world of the bosses and owners as the enemy.  These baseball players become the poster boys for the growing socialist movement and its affiliation with the labor unions.  Wherever the team plays, the guys also speak out about workers rights and the changing world.  The Racine Robins are a rag tag group of idealists who just happen to have a couple really strong ball players.  One of them is the unnamed narrator of the book and the other is his best friend.  When a freak snow storm forces the players to abandon their ramshackle bus for the safety of a hotel far too luxurious for their wallets.  An unknown traveler offers them dinner and conversation.  As the snow drifts deepen, it appears that romance and money may one player's devotion to the worker's way and the team's unity.

I remain disappointed that this wasn't the story that I expected.  Usually I appreciate a historical fiction story that enlightens me about the time period, its politics, social changes, and such.  This one seemed a little too heavy handed, especially as the narrator, now an old man, seems to still maintain the same views as he did when a member of the basebell team.  I do believe Moraff has a writer's talent, especially for slowly revealing his characters and his story.  I am sure others will find the book more satisfactory than I did.

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1 comment:

  1. Wisconsin in the title would have had me too. I've been picking up a lot of new authors through my Kindle which has provided some interesting reads. We had a nice visit with mom and dad but they did seem to bring the cold with them. I was disappointed they didn't get to enjoy are standard sun and warmth. We will reach 80 this weekend! Happy they were able to make it home through all of the snow. Stay warm up there!