Friday, September 1, 2017

Review of "The Call"

This request for a review came as a surprise - the author found my profile on Facebook and then we talked about this book.  It certainly sounded interesting and it did not disappoint. The subject matter was as interesting as I hoped it would be.  Here is my review of the fictional baseball novel "The Call."

The Call: A Baseball Novel” by Laurie Boris

Baseball, fiction, drama, umpires, women

Publish date:
August  21, 2017

300 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)

Margie Oblonsky has dreams of following her father and twin brother into a baseball career.  However, she is going in a different direction and goes to umpire school.  She graduates second in her class and works in the minor leagues.  What she encounters in these games and the situations she faces are told in this entertaining novel by Laurie Boris.

Margie and her twin brother Tim, a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization, both begin their trek toward the majors around the same time, but Tim, as a third round draft choice, gets called to the show much quicker than Margie. She had encountered hostile umpiring partners; including one who helped instigate a brawl in a game that they worked.  The brawl was part of a cover-up for something even darker, in which Margie and a reporter who was writing about her had to look out for their safety.

Set in the early 1980’s, the novel read a bit choppy for me, but the stories of Margie, Tim and his best friend Dan are easy to follow and engrossing.  There is a love interest in the book as after Margie ejects Dan from a game, he asks her to dinner afterward and from there they start a slow but steady romance.  Unlike some romances in otherwise “straight” sports fiction, this one becomes a key part of the story instead of a distraction. 

The baseball scenes are well-written and realistic – everything from Margie’s experience in school to Tim’s pitching in the major leagues.  The reader will feel like he or she is either behind the plate or working with Margie on the bases with the details.  The less glamorous parts of the job, such as the long travel, “crappy motels”, and monotonous paperwork when players are ejected, are covered as well.  In the acknowledgments, Boris thanks Perry Barber, one of the first female umpires in professional baseball, for her assistance. That kind of information proved to be very valuable for this book as it made the story much more realistic.

Many topics about the sport of baseball are covered – the drug abuse that was prevalent in that time period, the use of performance-enhancing drugs, the atmosphere in the locker rooms of both players and umpires and bureaucracy that both players and umpires face in order to advance are all illustrated throughout the story.  The evaluations that umpires must have in order to move up to higher leagues is very well covered and makes the reader relate to Margie’s struggles to advance.  Even scenes with fans are written well, such as the cute scene when two little girls ask Margie for her autograph because they recognize her as an umpire.  It is made even better when she tells the girls to keep the thumb inside the fist when making an “out” call, one of Margie’s early lessons.  This is an entertaining novel in which all of the main characters are realistic and easy to cheer for and is recommended reading for all baseball fans.

I wish to thank the Ms. Boris for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (EPUB)

Buying Links: