About the Author
Frank Deford is a six-time National Sportswriter of the Year, Senior Contributing Editor at Sports Illustrated, commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and a correspondent on the HBO show RealSports with Bryant Gumbel. In addition to being the author of more than a dozen books, he has been elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters and has been awarded both an Emmy and a Peabody. Two of his books, Everybody’s All-American and Alex: The Life of a Child, a memoir about his daughter who died of cystic fibrosis, have been made into movies. Sporting News describes Deford as “the most influential sports voice among members of the print media” and GQ simply calls him “the world’s greatest sportswriter.” Deford resides in Connecticut with his wife, Carol.
Reading Group Guide
1. What parallels are drawn between the game of baseball and the game of life in this book? What parallels are there for Jay Alcazar specifically? For Howie?
2. Lindsay is the one who ultimately convinces Howie not to tell the police what he saw. Why do you think she does not want Howie to go to the police? Is it a personal motivation, or is it motivation for Howie’s career?
3. Jay says “Believe it or not, in a way, Howie’s a lot like me.” Would Howie agree with this sentiment? Do you agree that Howie and Jay are similar? In what ways?
4. The reader does not see much of Jay’s relationships with women until the end of the story. How does Jay’s interaction with his mother change your perception of him? How does his interaction with his sister change your perception of him?
5. Several times throughout the book someone will call Jay “entitled.” Do you think that Jay feels as entitled to the things he has as other people make him out to be? What specific scenes make you feel that way?
6. Jay is very easily offended whenever anyone mentions race or anything that could be construed as a racial comment. Howie even tells Moncrief not to hire a Latino manager because it will anger Jay. Why is Jay so touchy about this topic?
7. When asked about injured players, ‘I don’t deal with the dead,’ Howie would reply. That concluded the discussion. ‘Ask me about the guys who can play.’” Howie believes himself to be one of the dead, but comes back to life at the end. What event makes this possible? Discuss the ethics surrounding that situation. What are the implications?
8. Early on in the book Howie claims that he is not a racist, though he does exhibit some racist behavior. What racist behaviors does he exhibit? How do some of his views about different races help him in his career as a manager?
9. On page 27 we learn “when it came to the game of baseball, Howie was a connoisseur as much as he was a competitor.” How does this differ from Jay’s attitude?
10. We found out that Jay’s “parents” are actually his aunt and uncle and that he was taken from his birth mother at his uncle’s orders. His uncle believed that growing up in America would be what was best for Jay. Jay rebels against this idea, but eventually capitulates. Was Victor right or wrong to take Jay from his mother when she would not leave Cuba with the rest of the Alcazar family? What would you have wanted if it were your child?
11. After Jay has come all the way to Cuba to find his mother and bring her to the United States, she refuses and in fact spends very little time with Jay. What are her motivations? Who do you sympathize with in this situation?
12.What was Jay’s attitude on the way to find his mother? How did his meeting with her and his trip to Cuba change his views about living in Cuba and what his uncle did when Jay was a baby?
13. The reader hears Jay’s side of the story as he tells it to Lindsay and the story of Trish, the woman accusing him of rape, as she tells it to Howie. After hearing both of their explanations, who do you believe, Jay or his accuser? Who do you want to believe? Why?
14. Howie quotes Casey Stengal to Moncrief saying “The secret to managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the five who haven’t made up their minds.” He goes on to explain that, “you don’t spend the bulk of your time with your stars because they will play well regardless, but with the guys who don’t play regularly because you want them to come through when they play for you.” What does this say about the dynamic of a baseball team? Of any team?
15. Howie witnesses a woman apparently trying to escape from Jay’s hotel room. When confronted by the authorities, Howie tells them that he saw nothing. Why does he lie to the detectives? Given the possible repercussions for Howie’s career, what would you have done in the same situation?