1) Plot (4 stars) – A boy from Cape Cod comes of age through climbing the ranks of baseball umpiring, along the way learning about love and loyalty and oppression and hatred.So, yes, it’s a sports book.And on top of that, what I just wrote down doesn’t make it sound like it has a whole lot of plot (there certainly wasn’t any big reveal or amusement park surprises) but man oh man was it gripping in its realness and micro tensions.And that, folks, was enough to keep me turning the pages.
2) Characters (4 stars) – Lee Malcom is the lead who gets his morals constantly poked and prodded at every turn.He is strong and kind and innocent and loyal, but also can’t resist certain vices, especially of the female and alcohol kind.In short, he was a great guy to tag along with for 300 pages.On top of that, the secondary characters were detailed and fun.For instance, the two girl interests—one a spunky tomboy, the other a sophisticated seductress—were both so appealing and opposite that it was delightfully hard to choose a side to root for.
3) Theme (5 stars) – I might be reading too much into the title of the book, but perhaps “conduct of the game” wasn’t referring to umpires enforcing a set of rules to keep the honor of a sport, but instead about someone trying to enforce a set of rules to keep the honor of his life. Maybe?I don’t know.But Hough certainly spends a lot of time having his characters wrestle with how they treat those who are oppressed around them—from the dorky kid in school, to the too small ump, to the man of a different race or sexual preference, to the girl they just wronged.Do you stay in the safe majority, or do you reach down to help the oppressed and risk losing your dreams?No matter how many Sunday school sermons have traveled down this road, it’s still a heartwarming and good moral to hear.
4) Voice (5 stars) – There was something about the writing.It was simple, nothing fancy.But it rang with an authority, a genuineness.It was like being talked to by your no-nonsense, good hearted, kind of quite grandpa.Not the flashy one who tries to make you smile, but the honest, frank one.
5) Setting (5 stars) – I suppose the major setting was the ballpark—the grass, the fans, the ballplayers—and that was all done quite well.But what really struck me were the descriptions of growing up in a small town, of that first shy exploration with the opposite sex, of setting off on an adventure, of coming back to that small town after the adventure.That little slice of life, the late teens / early 20’s one, was captured beautifully here.
6) Overall (5 stars) – I read three chapters of this book for some high school class 15 years ago, and something from it stuck with me all these years until I finally picked it up again and read the whole book.I expected it fall, for me to see through the nostalgia and notice all the silliness and flaws, like most things from the past when re-examined.But it didn’t.This random little high school book not only held up, it shone.Why has this treasure been forgotten?Why did I have to buy some ancient copy from a dude in Florida to experience it again?I don’t know.I just hope there’s more buried treasures like this out there in the vast heaps of dead books.
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