Most baseball stories end in triumph. Joe Schuster's debut novel, The Might Have Been, is too smart, and too rooted in reality, to condemn its protagonist, Edward Everett Yates, to a clichéd happy ending. Edward Everett, who spent a month with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976 before his career was wrecked by a cataclysmic knee injury in the middle of the Best Game of His Life, knows disappointment. (To add insult to injury, that game was called on account of rain one out before the end of the fifth inning, meaning it didn't even count in the record books.) But for Edward Everett, even a disappointing life in baseball is better than modest success out in "the World." Flash-forward thirtysome years, and Edward Everett is still there, managing a moribund minor-league team in a dying Iowa town. In baseball terms, The Might Have Been is not a home-run derby; its pleasures are more akin to those of a pitchers' duel. With precise, carefully chosen details and a sly sense of humor, Schuster, a communications professor at Webster University (and a former Riverfront Times contributor), offers up a close examination of Edward Everett's life: his dealings with his team and its exasperating owner, and his many, many regrets, chief among them the son he may have fathered during a fleeting romance in the summer of '76. In this portrait of a man who manages to hold onto his faith in baseball despite its many disappointments, Schuster has hit a dinger.
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