Saving Babe Ruth
Hillcrest House Publishing (2014)
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (5/14)
Article first published as Book Review: ‘Saving Babe Ruth’ by Tom Swyers on Blogcritics.
Tom Swyers’ novel “Saving Babe Ruth” inspires the reader to consider the question, “How far would I go for the love of the game?” Protagonist Attorney David Thompson “steps up to the plate” when he volunteers to become commissioner for Indigo Valley’s Babe Ruth League; a league with a 50 year history in the community; a community passionate about its sports.
Thompson soon realizes that he is up against Rob Barkus, promoter of an expensive for-profit summer travel league. Barkus has an agenda of his own, enticing parents in the community to sign contracts for their sons to play with his teams by using promises of college scholarships, insuring the boys of seeing fulfilled dreams of going on to play professional baseball.
Barkus was successful in getting the backing of the high school coaches and the confidence of the school’s board and administration. He set out to undermine Thompson’s credibility in order to access the Babe Ruth Field for his team’s practices and scheduled games. David’s opposition and refusal to cooperate creates a conflict that causes a rift in the community, tension in his marriage, a lost opportunity for his son Christy to participate in baseball, and the potential demise of the Babe Ruth League in Indigo Valley.
An alliance with Johnny McFadden, another Babe Ruth baseball enthusiast who is equally obsessed with saving the program, results in a complex plot that takes them behind the scenes of sports competition, exploitation and greed. Civil War buff David often finds a parallel battle from his heroes at Gettysburg that justify his actions or help him plan his battle strategies. Totally consumed by baseball, David’s obsession becomes a mission as he and McFadden undertake saving community sports for kids who can so easily slip through the cracks and be denied the benefits of participation in team sports at a critical stage in their development.
Swyers writes for a unique audience and clearly understands his potential reader. His writing style is engaging and his plot intriguing. Although his characters often take on the exaggerations of a caricature, they maintain a touch of reality. His dialog is sharp and intentional, consistent with the storyline. Hidden nuances add subtle humor as well as reveal sensitivity to the propensity of character flaws to produce obsessive behavior patterns. A cycle of conflict resolution only brings with it a new series of incredible hurdles.
“Saving Babe Ruth” is entertaining, informative, and memorable, likely gaining Tom Swyers a spot on 2014’s award-winning debut authors.