by Eliot Asinof
Eliot Asinof's newest baseball hero left tiny Gandee, Missouri, as John Clyde Cagle Jr., a hard-throwing lefthander who had pitched a perfect game in ... Show synopsis Eliot Asinof's newest baseball hero left tiny Gandee, Missouri, as John Clyde Cagle Jr., a hard-throwing lefthander who had pitched a perfect game in high school. Now he returns in triumph as the legendary "Black Jack," superstar of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a stoic, menacing mound demon with a Fu Manchu moustache and a 106-mile-per-hour fastball. In a nationally televised event that, like everything else in his life, is precisely orchestrated by agent and money manager Gordon Stanley, Jack's return is to dedicate Black Jack Field, the two-million-dollar ballpark he has donated to his hometown. He arrives in a white stretch limo, glamorous girlfriend at his side and the world at his feet, but he is stung by a spate of bad memories of his boyhood, most pungent of which is that of Cyrus Coles, his fat black battery mate who had quietly taught Jack the disciplined pitching that had made him great. Typically now, when Jack throws out the ceremonial first pitch to his father, Vietnam war hero, spit-and-polish sheriff of Gandee, everyone believes the father to be the reason for the son's success. Then Jack confronts Cyrus's murdered body, blown away by a shotgun blast. He has to face the fury of Cyrus's widow, Ruby, and, most provocative of all, an outspoken woman named Foxx, who makes him aware that he's been living a lie. Jack flees this unsettling scene with his girlfriend for the pleasures of New York City--until he learns that, back in Gandee, his father has arrested Ruby for the murder of her husband. To everyone's astonishment, Jack returns to Gandee to help her. With Foxx now an ally, he sees his hometown for its corrupt racist traditions, bringing on a new understanding of himself that leads him to risk everything to probe an intolerable truth.