Howard Frank Mosher puts a host of quirky characters, a dollop of magic realism, and a generous amount of faith in his creative blender and produces a rollicking, entirely original, implausible yet riveting yarn that New Englanders would embrace and take to their hearts. Waiting for Teddy Williams is a tale of The Curse broken, the hated Yankees slain and several decades of unrequited love of an entire community for a baseball team finally fulfilled.
Kingdom Common, in the northern part of Vermont close to the Canadian border, is a regular sort of New England town. Regular that is, in its undeniable obsession with the vicissitudes of their beloved Boston Red Sox. The entire town measures its cadences with the fortunes of the Red Sox and every boy yearns to help the Sox break The Curse of not winning the World Series since 1918. Ethan “E.A.” Allen, a diminutive eight-year old when the story opens, lives for baseball and conducts a desperate quest to determine which of the villagers is his father. His easygoing mother, Gypsy Lee, who runs an escort service and is an aspiring country music singer, is of no help to E.A. in his search for his father’s identity. Surrounded by a grandmother who is wheelchair-bound ever since Bucky Dent’s homerun quashed the Red Sox’s hopes in 1978, and an ornery neighbor who is determined to evict E.A.’s family from their farm, the homeschooled eight-year old pitches batting practice for the town’s team and seeks advice from the statue of his ancestor at the center of town.
When a stranger befriends young E.A. and teaches him the finer points of baseball, the young boy begins to learn about his mother’s past and the turn of events that led to their current predicament. Reversing the course taken by Roy Hobbs, the mythical ballplayer in Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, the stranger convinces E.A. to switch from hitting to pitching. E.A. develops a strong arm, and with the help of Stan The Baseball Man, a carnival impresario with an interesting baseball past, a good amount of the cunning and street smarts that separate great pitchers from the everyday tyros.
In an absorbing set piece that describes vividly, first the pivotal game of the regular season, then the final game of the World Series, Mosher unleashes one surprise after another to the reader. A broad gamut of idiosyncratic characters that includes a baseball manager with a talking macaw, a misguided team owner, and a swaggering slugger, all help the book to an incredible climax that is both laugh-out-loud funny yet bittersweet.
This is a tremendously enjoyable book about quest and redemption written by an author with an original voice and a vivid sense of humor that makes great use of everyday absurdities and the peccadilloes of man. Citizens of the great state of New York may not find it to their liking, though. Not only do their ballplaying heroes come out at the short end of the stick, also, much to the joy of much of New England, the owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner, ends up as a victim of a practical joke played by Stan The Baseball Man.