September 10, 1979 12:00 PM

by Paul Hemphill

In the days before free agents, bonus babies and “personal management representatives,” baseball had an extensive system of minor leagues that reached into the sleepiest towns in America. Most of the dreams that were born there were hopeless—some died hard, drawn-out deaths. But at least there were dreams. Hemphill, whose nonaction has included a well-regarded book on country music, The Nashville Sound, lasted five days in a 1954 spring training tryout with Graceville, Fla. in the Class D (or lowest) Alabama-Florida League. A second baseman, he estimates his lifetime batting average—from sandlot through semipro—was .210 (“skinny wrists,” he explains). This first novel about a marginal player and the resigned 39-year-old manager of his team shows that Hemphill hasn’t forgotten what it felt like to hope against hope. The book is slight but gracefully written and so atmospheric you can taste the hot dogs, dust and disappointment. (Viking, $8.95)

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