25 July 2009

Jim Rice gets ready for the Hall--Gold Dust by Chris Lynch

In anticipation of Jim Rice's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame tomorrow (that's me and him on the right, circa 2004!) I've pulled Gold Dust, by Chris Lynch, out of my "to read" pile. The term 'Gold Dust' is a reference to Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, who were called up as rookies to the Red Sox in 1975 and were referred to as the "Gold Dust Twins" due to their remarkable, untouchable talent. I'm about half-way through, and so far Fred Lynn features much more, because Richard, the protagonist, aspires to be Fred Lynn. But my man Jim has received plenty of due deference, including this passage:

"It was true that Jim Rice had an ungodly beautiful stroke. It was as if he didn't even use his arms--great big arms, I might add--but just flicked his wrists. And still, his ball went a mile."

Since the book takes place during 1975, there is a fair amount of Boston history included in the story, most particularly the busing of children across the city in an attempt to desegregate the schools. Beside providing authentic local details, Lynch has also written with a real love for the craft of baseball, and fans of the game will find much to appreciate and enjoy. But history and baseball aside, at the center of the story is the budding friendship between Richard Riley Moncreif, a native of Boston, and Napoleon Charlie Ellis, fresh from Domencia with his father, who has accepted a teaching position at Northeasthern University. They are both strong willed boys, and at the half-way point I cannot predict which direction the story will ultimately take. However, I am guessing that this will be a story that benefits from having Boston as its backdrop (and not just because I am a biased Bostonian!) The history of race and the Boston Red Sox, for instance is well-documented for its early failings, as is the Boston busing controversy. Although cultural differences play a role in the story--Napoleon, for instance, is not prepared to chuck aside cricket for baseball, despite Richard's insistence of baseball's superiority--race is still the bubbling concern just beneath the surface. But most importantly, for a story that feature's a boy's desire to be the absolute best hitter ever, there is no better place for him to be in 1975 than Boston. I think it can be fairly said that never has there been, in the history of baseball, a pair of rookies on a single team who electrified a single season as Rice and Lynn did. With the passing of time is has been debated that career decision's on Lynn's part hampered his progress and ultimately kept him from fulfilling his potential. But Rice, who spent the entirety of his career in Boston, who was such a feared hitter that opposing managers were willing to walk him in a bases loaded situation rather than let him hit, who will have his number 14 retired at Fenway on Tuesday night--Jim Rice will be tracking that gold dust into Cooperstown tomorrow.

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