Written by Darryl Brock
Published by Plume Books
Review by Paula Day
I am a lifelong baseball fan. Growing up in southern California, some of my fondest memories of childhood was laying on the carpeting in the living room listening with my father to the Los Angeles Dodger baseball games as they were being called by Vin Scully. I have never left my love of baseball behind, and I was thrilled to discover the baseball historical novel If I Never Get Back and its sequel, Two in the Field.
If I Never Get Back is set during the post-Civil War era, the baby days of baseball. Samuel Clemens Fowler (named for Mark Twain) steps off a train and discovers that he has left the twentieth century behind and arrived in 1869. Sam soon finds himself joined with the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team. As Sam joins his new teammates on their first cross-country tour, he meets his namesake Twain and inadvertantly invents the bunt.
Darryl Brock does a fine job creating the same fish-out-of-water feeling we find in Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. We have a strong sense of Sam’s outsidedness as he mingles with men with different opinions and different wordviews and even different rules for baseball. During the early development of baseball there were few, if any, rules to the game. It was each man for his own as the men played without gloves and the catcher wore no protective gear.
Fans of baseball will enjoy Brock’s realistic baseball scenes. You can feel yourself at the ballgames, watching the balls whiz by overhead, hearing the snap of the bats and the cheers of the crowd. Learning little-known details about the beginnings of baseball is a good thing for any baseball fan since baseball fans like to out-do each other in their knowledge of the game. If I Never Get Back is a great read for baseball fans as well as for those with an interest in post-Civil War America.
Paula Day is the Review Editor of The Copperfield Review and the Managing Editor of Copperfield Press. She lives in Los Angeles, California.