Title/Author: “A Pitch for Justice” by Harold Kasselman
Genre: Fiction, sports, baseball, courtroom, murder
Published: February 20, 2012
Length: 326 pages
Rating: 4 1/2 of 5 stars – very good
An intense rivalry between two Major League Baseball teams is boiling over. The action on the field is getting nastier as runners are sliding with their spikes up and pitchers are throwing closer to hitters. When one of these pitches strikes a batter in the head and the batter subsequently dies two days later, which laws should be enforced – the laws of baseball, that would state this is part of the game and it was a tragic accident, or the laws of the state, and this was a criminal act that resulted in the death of a human being?
That question is addressed in this novel that is one part baseball story, one part legal drama, a bit of gang crime and a sprinkling of romance as well. Harold Kasselman combined all of these elements to produce a very interesting and well-researched novel.
The baseball part is well-researched and written. The author shows his knowledge of not only baseball history, but also of the strategy, the dynamics of teams when placed in tough spots, and also the workings of the front office. There are the fictional players on the current Phillies and Mets teams (“current” means 2015, when the story takes place), but they are interwoven well with real baseball personnel. An example is when the current Phillies manager replaced the retired Charlie Manuel.
There is precedence to this, as one player, Ray Chapman, was killed as a result of action on the field in 1920. There is an extensive section describing this event as part of the build-up to charge Phillies pitcher Tim Charles with murder when Ken Leyton of the Mets suffers a brain hemorrhage and subsequently passes away after being hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Charles. The bad feelings and brawls that led to the incident are wonderfully painted by Kasselman. The reader will feel like he or she is on the field, in the dugout and in the clubhouse during these scenes.
The legal parts of the story are written just as well. Kasselman’s experience in the courtroom is evident in the excellent writing here. Details of the judicial events are described in a manner that the reader will understand and enjoy. These include a grand jury trial, a surprise switch of prosecutors for the trial and the reasons why, and the interactions that take place in these proceedings. The reader also is a part of the conversations that take place between clients and lawyers.
A lot of the actions on the part of the prosecuter are not pleasing the widow of the deceased player. Theresa Leyton’s character is a fascinating person to follow in this book as she gradually becomes more unstable in her quest to secure justice for her husband’s death. Equally compelling is the character of Tim Charles, who at 20 is seeing his world crumbling before him.
I will not spoil the story and give away any results, but I can say that both sides of this issue were presented in a balanced way. It was so balanced that I never was leaning one way or the other how the story would end. For a book like this, that was perfect. It was a very good read.
Did I skim?
Did I feel connected to the characters?
Yes. The character to whom I was most connected was Tim Charles. His overwhelming sadness when Ken Leyton was taken off the field and his fear during the arraignment and trial was described vividly. All the other characters were portrayed realistically as well. There were only two characters who seemed to be overly dramatic. These were Meyer, the rogue grand jury member who was living a life of crime, and Theresa Leyton, who went from grieving widow to a very angry woman bent on revenge as the book progressed. Even with these two characters, however, I could understand their gradual changes, especially Mrs. Leyton.
Pace of the story:
Excellent – even during the pre-trial and grand jury proceedings, the reader is engrossed in the dialogue and characters.
There were many, as described in the review. I enjoyed the three game series between the Phillies and the Mets as not only was the baseball action exciting, I felt like I was in the Phillies clubhouse as they were planning how they were going to even the score with the Mets – and it had nothing to do with how many runs were scored.
Personally, I felt that the romance between the district attorney Jamie and Barbara, a member of the grand jury who had to be excused because she didn’t live in the district, was not really necessary. I understand why it was included, and it may appeal to many readers. I just felt it was simply included for a diversion. It was a typical romance that many books include, however, and was tastefully written.
Do I recommend? Yes. Not only will sports fans enjoy this book, readers who like legal stories will be engrossed as well.
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