Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Throw Like A Woman" by Susan Petrone

Brenda Haversham is a forty year old, divorced mother of two adolescent boys.  She lives in an old house that has seen better days in a neighborhood in Cleveland, has a lout of an ex-husband, and she is scraping along paycheck-to-paycheck in a dead end job at a local insurance company.  One day, while chaperoning a group of kids at a Cleveland Indians game, on a whim, she picks up a baseball at a "How Fast Can You Throw" concession at Progressive Field and, to her surprise, she hits 72 MPH on the radar gun.  Somebody posts a cellphone video of Brenda's pitch on YouTube, and Brenda, to both her surprise and annoyance, becomes an overnight Internet sensation.

Thus begins an incredible summer for Brenda Haversham that will take her to a recreational wooden bat baseball league, and, eventually, to her being the first woman to play in the Major Leagues as she finds herself pitching for the Indians in the heat of a pennant race.

In reviewing this book, I must add the following in the interests of Full Disclosure.  I first got to know Susan Petrone when she served as am executive with the Society of American Baseball Research when that organization was based in Cleveland, I met her personally a few years back when I attended a SABR Chapter meeting in Cleveland, I friended her on Facebook, have read her blogs, and some of her short fiction, and I consider her a friend, so I was inclined to like this book from the outset.  Having said all that, I have to say that I truly did enjoy reading this book, and following Brenda's adventures as she becomes a somewhat reluctant pioneer breaking baseball's glass ceiling.

There is enough runs-hits-and-errors baseball stuff in here to satisfy baseball fans, but this is more of a story about a woman approaching middle age who is just doing what she can to support and keep her family together.  While Brenda loved baseball and playing baseball as a little girl, she never dreamed that she could actually ever make a living at it, and when the opportunity presents itself, it isn't necessarily what she thought it would be.  She meets resistance from teammates and fans, she faces loneliness on the road and in her own locker room, and her new found and instant fame brings about a whole new set of problems in her family relationships.  At one point, Brenda asked her agent (yes, she had to get an agent), "Why am I doing this?"  To which her agent replies, "You're doing this for the same reason as everybody else in this business - to make a buck."  

Yes, sports fans, baseball is a business, and that fact hits Brenda fairly hard, but she adapts to it well.  This came home to her shortly after her recall to the Indians, when Brenda receives a not so warm welcome from her new teammates when she thinks "It only then occurred to me that for me to get this job, somebody else had to lose his."

It is not all bad for Brenda, though, but I won't say anymore (although late in the book, there is a scene where she goes out to dinner with three of her teammates while on a road trip that is one of the highlights of the book to me), other than to recommend this book to anyone, and you don't really need to be a hardcore baseball fan to enjoy it.

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