It’s a known fact that Stephen King is a big baseball fan, and possibly one of the biggest Red Sox fans (if you doubt this, just read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon). After the mighty tome of Under the Dome and with a four-novella book called Full Dark, No Stars due out in November, there’s another little story King is releasing to keep fans occupied. Blockade Billy is a short, little book – just over a hundred pages – about baseball that is a perfect read for the start of summer and America’s favorite sport.
Way back when, in the early days of baseball when the players weren’t making much money and it was all about the rule and the game and the sport, the Titans of New Jersey had a bad start to the new season. Their everyday catcher, while driving drunk, killed a woman and is in prison, while their scrawny beanpole of a backup catcher is mowed down in a play at the plate and ends up in the hospital. Then the Titans find a young rookie from Iowa, William Blakely.
Blakely is strange character – in that great Stephen King way – who does an impressive job catching and hitting to boot. At his first big play at the plate, Billy tags the runner out as the man flies over the catcher and is left with a sliced Achilles heel, never play properly again. But Blakely wins the team and the fans over in that first game, as well as others to come. He starts hitting balls out of the park, doing a great job of catching, and making some great plays at the plate. The nickname – Blockade Billy – sticks and a legend is born.
The season continues and while the Titans don’t win every game, they do well and Blockade Billy continues to wow the crowds and the team. Then a terrible secret is discovered. About Blakely. His career is over; the Titan’s games are stricken from the record, and every effort is made to eradicate the name of William Blakely from history.
The story is told in third person to King from the former third-base coach, now in his old age, who remembers this high time of baseball and the infamous memory that was Blockade Billy. King writes it in his colloquial, easy to read style, slowly giving out the details and keeping the reader completely hooked, needing to know what the story is behind Blockade Billy. But I’m not going to give that away here; you’ll have to read the book to find out.
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Originally written on May 18 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.
Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.