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Squeeze Play: A Novel Paperback – August 14, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leavy's hilarious debut about a female sportswriter's tribulations covering an expansion baseball team's first year is a strong early candidate for MVP of the 1990 sports novel season. A. B. (Ariadne Bloom) Berkowitz's troubles begin with a fundamental crisis ("alone with a locker room full of naked men I did not know") and get rapidly worse. The team, the Washington Senators, is horrible, and while its corrupt televangelist owner soon forbids the players to talk to A.B., they continue to attempt to gross her out at every opportunity. Her editor demands headlines, no matter at whose cost, her boyfriend finds solace in the arms of a young copy aide, and her best source on the team--an aging All-Star catcher--is becoming romantically interested. As raunchy as stories by Dan Jenkins and Peter Gent, as authentic as exposes by Jim Bouton and Jim Brosnin, this tale by a former sportswriter for the Washington Post will delight readers willing to accept a healthy dose of vulgarity with their humor, especially those who know and love the rhythms and complexities of the national pastime.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

This autobiographical first novel by Leavy, a former sportswriter for the Washington Post , is in the form of a baseball diary kept by A.B. Berkowitz, the female reporter covering the newly reborn Washington Senators, a team owned by a TV evangelist. The team breaks all previous records for ineptitude, but when A.B. persists in pointing this out, the team refuses to talk to her. She covers them nonetheless, breaking an occasional story, though torn between professsional obligations and dislike of violating the private confidences of players. There is a lot of foul locker room language and bawdiness, which may trouble some readers, but this is a funny, tender, true-to-life story of baseball, journalism, and war between the sexes. Recommended for your baseball lovers.
- Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ., Davenport, Ia.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060567740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060567743
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,285,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Leavy is the author of the New York Times bestseller Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy and the comic novel Squeeze Play, which Entertainment Weekly called "the best novel ever written about baseball." She was a staff writer at The Washington Post from 1979 to1988, first in the sports section, then writing for the style section. She covered baseball, tennis, and the Olympics for the paper. She wrote features for the style section about sports, politics, and pop culture, including, most memorably, a profile of Mugsy Bogues, the 5'3" guard for the Washington Wizards, which was longer than he is tall.

Before joining the The Washington Post, she was a staff writer at womenSports and Self magazines. She has written for many publications, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, The Village Voice, and The New York Daily News. Leavy's work has been anthologized in many collections, including Best Sportswriting, Coach: 25 Writers Reflect on People Who Made a Difference, Child of Mine: Essays on Becoming a Mother, Nike Is a Goddess: The History of Women in Sports, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend: Women Writers on Baseball, A Kind of Grace: A Treasury of Sportswriting by Women, and Making Words Dance: Reflections on Red Smith, Journalism and Writing.

She grew up on Long Island where she pitched briefly and poorly for the Blue Jays of the Roslyn Long Island Little League. On her parents' first date, her father, a water boy for the 1927 New York football Giants, took her mother to a Brooklyn College football game. She retaliated by taking him to Loehmann's after the final whistle. It was a template for their 63-year union. As a child, Jane Leavy worshipped Mickey Mantle from the second-floor ballroom in the Concourse Plaza Hotel where her grandmother's synagogue held services on the High Holidays.

Jane Leavy attended Barnard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she wrote her master's essay (later published in The Village Voice) on Red Smith, the late sports columnist for The New York Times, who was her other childhood hero.

She has two adult children, Nick and Emma Isakoff, and she lives in Washington, DC, and Truro, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on December 19, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most baseball fans with an interest in the game's history will remember that for the first 70 years of the twentieth century, the nation's capitol was represented by two American League clubs known as the Washington Senators. (Their moments of glory were few. The famous cry was: "Washington. First in War, First in Peace and Last in the American League.) But what about the third Senators franchise, born in 1989? You don't remember them? That's because, sadly, they only existed in the imagination of Jane Leavy and between the covers of this book.

"Squeeze Play" is a wild, bawdy, funny, true-to-life account of life in a big league clubhouse and in the sports department of a daily newspaper. Leavy, a former sportswriter and more recently the biographer of Sandy Koufax, draws on her own experiences, a passionate love of the game and a wild imagination to create one of the most entertaining baseball novels I've ever read.

I suppose I should add a cautionary note: "Squeeze Play" is not for the prudish. Sex and crude behavior are often on display (just as they are in the real world.) The book is told in the form of a diary of the Senators' first season, as chronicled by Leavy's alter-ego, A.B. Berkowitz. Berkowitz, who grew up worshipping Yankee Joey Proud (a fictional re-creation of Mickey Mantle) is about to find out if her love of the game will withstand close daily exposure to it...in particular, as practiced by this group of has-beens and never-weres. The team starts out the season challenging the record for most losses to begin a campaign and comes to the wire shadowing the 1962 Mets for the title of worst team of the modern era.

But this book is about a lot more than wins and losses on the field. Leavy has a lot to say about life, love, friendship, moral values and all the things that really matter....and she does it with an abundance of wit, style and humor.--William C. Hall
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By K. Wilcox on September 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was awesome, simply awesome. As a female baseball fan, it was great to get a glimpse of these fictionalized baseball players through a fellow woman's perspective. It's one of those books that I couldn't put down, didn't want to finish, but had to finish because it was so GOOD. It has a little bit of everything - love, sex, sarcasm, slapstick, raunch, baseball, hilarity, thoughtfulness...
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Format: Paperback
To use a word in this book, "Squeeze Play" is unbe-#*%(^#-lievably bad. Even for what's supposed to be a farce, it's stupidly crude page after page. Plus, presents some of the most preposterous situations that could be imagined --- and while I understand that's sort of the point, Jane Leavy is hardly a capable satirist. This ain't Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut.

I managed to get through about 130 pages (1/3 of the book and the baseball season that it chronicles) before I realized I was just wasting my time.

The premise is that an attractive, single, 29-year-old woman sportswriter is assigned to cover the new Washington Senators when they become the first team in Washington, DC, since the 1970s. She works for a tabloid-ish newspaper that sensationalizes even her regular stories, but since the team is a terrible (on the field) agglomeration of has-beens and never-will-be's, she has more than enough bad stuff to write about in reality. And since she's a woman, the narrator has license to spend a lot of time talking about looking at naked men, not looking at naked men, talking with men about looking at them naked, talking with women about looking at naked men, etc. You get the idea. The book starts out with a statement that the only question she ever gets about doing her job is what it's like to see a bunch of naked men, and then quickly moves to an anecdote with a player coming out of the shower and the U.S. President. And it goes downhill from there.

I guess a person could find that material to be edgy, in the way of a raunchy comedian or comedienne. But I find it to be boring, especially when it's the majority of the book. I've worked in locker rooms as a reporter, and it's just not the way the author describes.
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By Tim Williams on October 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sophomoric, salacious, scatological, stereotypical, sacrilegious, stale and snobbish.
After reading the author’s “A Lefty’s Legacy”, I had high hopes for “Squeeze Play”. Alas, my hopes were dashed, partly because the author seems to have gone to the Howard Stern School of novel writing. After the text of the novel, the author includes an “Author’s Note”, which amounts to a kind of apologia for the novel. In this apologia, the author condescendingly criticizes George Herbert Walker Bush for not understanding that the “whole point” of the novel is to disgust and appall. Yet, if to disgust and appall is really the whole point of the novel, then it is a failure. To be sure, the novel does often disgust and appall, but it also bores. There is a lack of restraint that soon produces numbness rather than shock or disgust. There is a lack of focus that produces sympathy for filth, instead of revulsion. Indeed, the only thing that the author’s alter-ego, A.B. Berkowitz, seems consistently disgusted by is anything remotely connected to Christianity. Throughout the book, Berkowitz vents her spleen with sweeping generalizations about the failings of “most accomplished preachers” and how “the entire Christian community” is against her. Virtually every Christian character in the novel is an unnuanced caricature. This disgust results in a lack of balance and close observation. We have King James versions where Saint Joseph versions should be and crucifixes appearing where they wouldn’t be in real life. We have stereotypes, instead of authenticity. In addition, the best parts of the book sound way too much like what I’ve read from Jim Bouton or Roger Angell. At one of these points, the narrator tells us “These guys are so bad, they can’t even be original about it.” I could say the same thing about many parts of this book.
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