“The Legend of Mickey Tussler” by Frank Nappi
Baseball, fiction, Young Adult (YA)
April 1, 2012
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Autism wasn’t diagnosed or understood in 1948 as well as it is today, and the main character of this interesting novel by Frank Nappi has that condition as he is dealing with how to use his tremendous talent to pitch a baseball.
Mickey Tussler is a 17 year old pitching phenom who was discovered by scout and manager Arthur Murphy. Murphy is the manager of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers and when he sees the youngster fire apples into a barrel from 100 feet away, he thinks he can make Mickey into a pitcher for his struggling team.
Mickey does indeed become a pitcher for the team, where he has to learn to adapt to not only a new lifestyle away from his parents Clarence and Molly, but he also has to play a game in which the rules and nuances are completely unknown. This is where I felt the character of Mickey was a little unrealistic, as how can he field and hit (no DH in 1948) to play in these games? The baseball scenes don’t talk about Mickey doing anything other than pitching, so these left me wondering.
I also noted one other puzzling baseball scenario, but that is mainly because of the year the story is set. Since this is 1948, when Mickey gets to meet Warren Spahn, the latter hasn’t reached his legendary status he eventually would attain during his pitching career for the Milwaukee Braves. Had Mr. Spahn been simply introduced as a major league pitcher to Mickey, that would have been a little more plausible.
But this book is much more than just a baseball book. It illustrates how an autistic child (and yes, at 17 I will call Mickey a child) affects everyone around him. How his teammates accept him (like Pee Wee and his catcher Boxcar) or don’t accept him (like fellow pitcher Lefty) make for good reading. Passages that are set on the farm where Mickey grew up will address other topics such as domestic abuse.
One other note about the baseball scenes – it is a wild ride for the Brewers during the 1948 season as they soar to first place after Mickey gets in a groove. Then he disappears after a night at the bar with teammates when he leaves with a mystery woman – and the team promptly has a lengthy slump. When Mickey returns, the team picks it back up again. I won’t give away any more about the season or the story – but I will say that it wasn’t what I expected at all.
Baseball fans, readers who enjoy young adult novels and anyone who just wants to read a feel-good story with some twists will enjoy this novel.
I wish to thank Mr. Nappi for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Did I skim?
No as I needed to read each chapter carefully to fully understand the situation and characters.
Did I feel connected to the characters?
Yes - some of them. I could relate to Arthur Murphy’s struggles to help Mickey adapt to the life of minor league baseball. Molly was also a woman who the reader will cheer for. However, I couldn’t quite connect with Mickey because I can’t imagine being afflicted with that condition, and I also thought Clarence was a despicable character. That says more about Mr. Nappi’s development to make him someone so easy to dislike.
Pace of the story:
Overall it reads fairly quickly. I felt it was a little slow at the start as Nappi was building his characters, especially Mickey. Once Mickey started pitching for the Brewers, I felt the pace of the book was much faster.
Do I recommend?
Yes – for readers who enjoy good baseball sequences as well as a moving story about a teenager afflicted with a condition that wasn’t clearly understood at the time the story is set.