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Sometimes You See It Coming: A Novel Paperback – June 3, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This uneven first novel about major-league baseball utilizes the sport as both a metaphor for real life and an escape from it. Hero John Barr, "the greatest if not the most beloved player in the game," is equal parts Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Roy Hobbs, a man with almost surreal natural ability, a deep secret and no friends. He plays for a New York Mets team composed of the sort of eccentrics who populate most serious baseball novels these days--a relief pitcher who attributes his success to the Cabala, and a half-Indian, half-Jewish, all-alcoholic hurler named Moses Yellowhorse being two of the more prominent examples. The book's point of view moves from that of Ricky Falls, the closest thing to a friend Barr has among his teammates, to those of other players and sportswriters and an awkwardly written third-person narration. Much of the material reads like half-digested reworkings of various as-told-to baseball autobios by stars of the late-1970s New York Yankees, including a crazy manager who bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Billy Martin. Baker displays flashes of genuine wit, as in his description of a slumping ballplayer who is "draggin' himself around like his shoes had concrete laces," and he has an undeniable feel for the way men interact with one another. In spite of its shortcomings, the novel acquires momentum and builds to a genuinely satisfying, if predictable, climax. 50,000 first printing, ad/promo.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

John Barr is the greatest ballplayer in history, winner of every possible award many times over, but nobody, not even his teammates, knows anything about this intensely private man. When the manager is busy messing up all the other players on the team, Barr is their only hope of repeating a world series win. So when Barr suddenly seems to forget how to play, a female sportswriter, along with one of his teammates, delves into his past to discover the trauma that has motivated him and now threatens to destroy him. The baseball action is knowledgeably handled, and the unbelievably perfect hero takes on depth and reality as we learn about his history. Recommended for general fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/92.
- Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, Ia.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060535970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060535971
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,202,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gregory L. Coleman on November 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I bought this for 2 bucks at an A&P checkout counter. It was worth 10 times that. Mr. Baker writes beautifully about the game. Our hero John Barr is more a Freddie Couples on spikes than Robert Redford, yet there are enough subplots to keep the reader curious....Contains one of the greatest descriptions of a perfect throw that you will ever read.
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By A Customer on August 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It is unfortunate that this book is out of print. In my mind, it is as stirring a book as "If I Never Get Back" or "The Natural" or practically any baseball book short of "Shoeless Joe." It's about a hybrid Dimaggio/Teddy Ballgame type player who is driven to excel by an almost psychotic urge to prevent things from happening before they happen. The book also includes a cast of memorable characters, from the Rickey Henderson-esque Old Swizzlehead to the shortstop Roberto Rodriguez, who knows two words on English, one of them being "you" and the other word being unprintable in a family website.
A great book; well worth reading if you can get your hands on it.
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Format: Paperback
I just don't have the heart to rate a work of fiction with baseball as the topic with just one star. Still...

Like a lot of writers who take on baseball, Baker just doesn't take the game all that seriously. How else to explain the caricatures disguised as characters in this tedious tome of a novel? The book has it's "good guys" who are all beyond reproach and it's "bad guys" led by a baseball manager who is so over-the-top foolish it's impossible to find him believable. Because the characters are caricatures, the book lacks credibility. And please, to all fiction writers who write about baseball: enough with the nicknames! Not everyone in baseball has one, particularly names like "Swizzle" and "The Big 'Un". Enough already.

Now, you can get away with thin characters in a novel if you've got a larger point or symbol... or something. Baker drops hints throughout that his book is really about tying in all the wonderful legends and myths surrounding some of the games greats (baseball fans will recognize the past of Cobb, Clemente, among others). His point being... well, I don't think there is one which is terribly disappointing because I've heard Baker is a pretty damn good writer. I think Baker fell into the same trap that other writers fall into when the they write about baseball--they're fascinated by the sport but not enough to take it seriously as a basis for art. I remember when Ken Burns was making his documentary on Jazz and he said it was refereshing to work on a serious subject because his last documentary was on baseball. I can't help but feel that after this effort, Baker is looking forward to his next effort.

If I were to summarize it one sentence, I'd say the book reads like an R-rated after-school special, with characters about as deep as what we grew up watching on ABC--predictable and forgettable.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a shame that this book is out of print. If you are into sports stories and want to try a new one, I'd recommend seeing if you can pick up a used copy. I liked it more than, say, the book of The Natural. I saw Field of Dreams, which is perhaps my favorite Baseball Movie, and I think this book is sort of in that league.
A small bit of plot: A tremendously good player, of Ted Williams Calibre, arises almost out of nowhere. His past is very mysterious, and the book presents several points of view in observing him.
There are several characters who are clearly composites of famous personalities, such as a bit of a Billy Martin character, a Mays-ish character and several others. So, it's a fun read for those who enjoyed following those personalities. The hero is, so far as I can see, a composite of a few as well, but I'll stop there.
jl
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Three stars because Baker is such an extraordinary writer that he deserves no less, but this baseball novel is a mostly hollow, unrealistic, and frankly, boring, walk through the (fictional, of course) career of the game's greatest player, who is also the game's least-known player. What?
Within the covers you'll find the fast-talking leadoff man, the hard-boiled plaid-jacket wearing old sports reporter, and the Kathryn Hepburn-like aging woman sportswriter (who is so sketchily presented it makes you wonder if Baker's ever met a woman!).
Allen Barra, formerly of Salon, recently named this the best baseball novel of all time. Yikes! Read "The Southpaw" by Mark Harris instead. It's cliched, it's hokey, but it is really about baseball. Baker's book, on the other hand, sounds like what a novelist thinks baseball should be. If you love the game, the incredulities of the last sections of this book will have you reaching for your scorecard and marking clearly in black pencil, "E-1."
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By A Customer on August 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
So often you hear the sports writers say "there's no such thing as a good baseball book or movie, just good baseball games." This is the exception. Real true to form. Deals with real life issues that even players deal with. There's just one thing that I find hard to believe and that is the way the Mets won game six. Other than that, this is a great baseball book.
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