Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sophomore Campaign (A Mickey Tussler Novel)

Frank Nappi has followed up his coming-of-age novel The Legend of Mickey Tussler with a sequel, Sophomore Campaign. We return to Borchert Field for the second year in the young autistic pitcher's career:

It is 1949. Seventeen year old pitching phenom Mickey Tussler returns for a second season with the rejuvenated minor league Brewers. Despite Mickey’s proclamation that he will never play baseball again after last season’s violent conclusion, manager and now surrogate father Arthur Murphy, whose relationship with Mickey's mother has blossomed significantly, cajoles the emotionally fragile, socially awkward autistic boy into giving it another shot. Murph’s job is, once again, on the line. The owner’s edict is clear; win or you are gone.

The Brew Crew gets off to a fast start, with the Baby Bazooka once again electrifying the hometown fans with his incomparable pitching prowess. The Brewers seem primed to erase last year’s devastating loss to their Rival Rangers when Boxcar, the team’s starting catcher and one of the cornerstones of the club, falls ill and is replaced by Lester Sledge, a young African American ballplayer Murph pries away from a local Negro League team. Mickey has trouble dealing with loss for the first time, while Murph’s selection ignites a firestorm of controversy, beginning with the club owner who fears the public criticism. Despite Lester’s brilliance on the field, the entire team is subjected to racial threats and various episodes of violence, one (involving one of his teammates) which Mickey happens to witness. Struggling to understand the ugliness and hatred to which he has been exposed, and fearful of reprisal should he tell anyone about what he has seen, the boy’s performance on the field suffers. Mickey struggles with the weight of this dark secret, and Murph’s Brewers go into a mid-season slump; it appears as though they will finish behind the Rangers yet again, rendering Murph out of baseball forever. The only one who can save them now is their enigmatic fireballer, who must now deal with a side of human nature he scarcely understands.

Sophomore Campaign was released April 1, and is now available on

At the same time, The Legend of Mickey Tussler has also been published in paperback, with a new cover. Gone is the pile of Mickey baseball cards, replaced with an old leather glove against a solid red background and white sans-serif text.

As a rule, I prefer cleaner, simpler designs, and this one is striking. It also looks much better at reduced size, which means it will stand out better on your iBooks shelf.

That almost makes up for losing the period baseball card details on the hardcover; Owgust and the (mostly-accurate) Boston Braves-inspired uniform the Brewers wore in 1948.

Congratulations, Mr. Nappi, and continued success. I look forward to reading Sophomore Campaign.

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