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Castro's Curveball Paperback – September 1, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Everybody has a past; some are more intriguing than others. When retired schoolteacher Billy Bryan's daughter begins cleaning his house a few days after his wife's death, she finds in the forgotten pages of his dusty scrapbook part of a past she's never known. The memories they invoke send the grieving Billy--"I think God has fed me a breaking ball to keep me off balance"--and his daughter on a remarkable journey back to his youth, where, as a major-league hopeful, he played winter baseball in Cuba half a century ago. It was there that his life changed when he crossed paths with a young student radical with a dynamite curve and a revolutionary's fire named Fidel Castro.

Wendel's lustrous prose and imaginative storytelling paint a vivid portrait of a life not just lived, but inhaled against a backdrop of a nation mad for baseball and not far from political and social upheaval. Having caught Castro's extraordinarily feathery curveball in an exhibition, Billy befriends the future leader, falling under his charismatic spell and enormous dreams for a new nation. Billy also falls, deeply, for a beautiful Cuban photographer who is so caught by Castro's visions that destiny deems the strands of their lives can never twine. "Castro was a hurricane unto himself," Billy recalls. "When I first met him, that side of him seemed refreshing, almost funny in a strange way." But the closer he got to Cuba's future leader, the more that would change. Just how much--and at what personal cost--is the secret that Billy, now an old man on a return trip to his past, must confront as if it were a fastball down the heart of his life, and make his peace with it at last. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a touch of iconoclastic ingenuity, Wendel builds on evidence of the youthful Fidel Castro's athletic prowess and pitching ability to construct an outstanding sports novel that also closely observes Cuban society and politics. In fact, he casts the Cuban dictator in what American sports lovers consider a heroic role: baseball player. The account opens in the present with septuagenarian Billy Bryan and his daughter, Cassy, arriving surreptitiously on the island. The trip is inspired by Cassy's discovery of a 1947 photo that shows her father, then an aging winter leaguer, in a friendly pose with a youthful Fidel. Flashbacks return Billy to the halcyon days of prerevolutionary Havana, when nightclubs, casinos, mobsters, prostitutes, secret police and baseball thrived in a nation on the brink of upheaval. Billy recalls his last season with the Havana Lions, and also his love affair with the beautiful Malena Fonseca, photographer of the revolution and friend to Castro. In possession of a phenomenal bender that flummoxes the best hitters, Castro has a future in the game that Billy himself, sadly, does not, and Billy is commissioned to sign and seal the promising star for the Washington Senators. Wendel's knowledge of baseball?the jargon, the players?enlivens the novel with some of the best game-action sequences in fiction. (The players' conversation, alas, lacks the casual profanity endemic to the sport, and thus is less credible than it might be.) Wendel also has a demonstrable feeling for Havana, then and now, and an understanding of the revolution and what it meant to both its leaders and its once hopeful, now hapless adherents. The love story, however, is a little too pat, focusing more on steamy looks, silly spats and lightweight sex than on powerful emotion. Castro comes off as an egocentric but not entirely bad fellow. But USA Today Baseball Weekly journalist Wendel (Going for the Gold) writes smooth, sometimes elegant prose, and his portrait of Cuba is multifaceted and intriguing. (Feb.) FYI: In an author's note, Wendel provides background about the youthful Castro's athletic prowess and his pitching ability.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803259573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803259577
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,333,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tim Wendel is an excellent writer. I am not a baseball fanatic, but I certainly had more of an appreciation for the game after reading this well written, intriguing book. The writer's passion for baseball oozes out of every page. He also gives the reader an interesting tour of Cuba --its culture, history, politics, landscape and love of baseball. The whole premise of the book is creative and imaginative. Wendel is successful in making the reader believe that Fidel Castro really did had a wicked curveball that could have landed him in a major league baseball career if he hadn't been such a die-hard revolutionary. It was interesting to see an author tackle the challenge of writing a book of fiction about a current political figure like Fidel Castro. I will closely follow Tim Wendel's writing career and will be eager to read his next book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An interesting story about Cuba in the days just before the revolution when Fidel Castro had to choose between a career in baseball or a revolution. There's a lot more than just that. It takes place in the present day with flashbacks to those days.

When I first heard what the story was about I thought it was too bizarre an idea to be interesting until I found out it was probably true. Castro, according to a lot of USA baseball players playing off-season in Cuba, was the best pitcher they ever saw. He was hired by an American team but things began to happen before the winter was over and he made other career choices. Castro denied that he had played baseball in his youth but it's remembered by too many people to not be at least likely.

I have little interest in sports and wouldn't have read a baseball book if that's what it was. However, that's just the focus of the one of the threads in this story. This is an intriguing novel about fascinating people in strange situations that goes far beyond baseball. It's a love story and a story about politics and a carefully researched historical novel as well as a very good present day story. There is much to enjoy here.

I'm describing this from memory, having listened to it in an audiobook when it was first published. I was in an internet listserve at that time in which the book's narrator was also a participant. We had had a number of discussions about books and he had just finished narrating this one and he thought it might suit me even though I had initially reject it as a "sports book", which it actually isn't. So I took his word and read it and he was right.

I recently bought the Kindle version and I plan to re-read it soon.

Barry
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Format: Hardcover
Wendel weaves a wonderful baseball love story, as magical in its own way as W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe. For years, I've admired Wendel's pieces in national publications. This debut novel shows him to be a versatile, deft writer. Castro's Curveball pulls you in and holds you until the last page. This work will resonate with anyone who's ever looked deep into his own heart and revisited his past. I look forward to his next book.
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Format: Hardcover
Wendel captures Cuba at its crossroads - the Carribean Las Vegas about to become a third world nation, frozen in time.
The story line is one of hope - the hope of a career minor leaguer trying to make it to the bigs, as well as the hope of a revolutionary trying to change a country. Both characters brought together by the love of the game of baseball.
Wendel captures the struggle of each, complete in the knowledge that a price has to be paid before the goal is ever, if ever, attained. The minor leaguer paying the price of having to play winter ball to improve; the revolutionary paying the price of having to gain momemtum from true grass roots politics.
Wendel is masterful at showing how the love of baseball can bring together radically different people in a peaceful setting, and afterwards, just as at games today, everyone goes their own ways, each with a different opinion of what was the best thing about what happened that day at the ballpark.
A great book that showed me why a person like Castro, so villified today, could reach out and gain the love and trust of his fellow countrymen.
I recommend the book highly.
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Format: Paperback
If you enjoy baseball, history, and like good writing, you will enjoy reading Castro's Curveball. It is set in Cuba during the 1950's, tells the story of a U.S. ballplayer who plays winter ball in Cuba and meets a young Cuban, Fidel Castro, who is a would-be pitcher. It is a well written and intersting story about baseball, about the players, about the Cuban people, and about Cuba in the 1950s.
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Format: Paperback
This well-written book examines the question of whether Fidel Castro ever signed a contract to pitch in the major leages. Of course, it's a fiction book, but seemingly based on some facts. The author concludes that Fidel did sign such a contract, but you must read the book to get all the details, and how and why it happened.

Reading this book is almost like having a tour of Havana in the late 1940s.with all its glitter, glamour, and sinfullness. It's almost as if the author had been there during that time, and visited the places about which he writes. Of course, he was too young to have done that, so his imagination and research appears quite excellent.

We have a story of an early 30s (in years) American ball player working in the winter league in Cuba, who happens upon an interesting young college student who has an excellent curveball. That student is Castro, before he became the leader of the revolution that brought him to power in the late 1950s. In this book he is just beginning his anti-government journey, and it shows him in a somewhat human way, with both virtues and vices.

There is a love story, and a nostalgic journey back to Cuba by the now much older player, which takes place in the late 1990s. It's a bittersweet story of love, longing., loneliness and revolution. It's well worth reading, if only for the views of old Havana, and the idea of what might have been if Fidel's contract had actually existed, and he came to America to play basll.
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