by Frank Nappi
published by Sky Horse
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: Historical Fiction, A to Z, 100 Books in a Year
The Legend of Mickey Tussler is at heart a baseball book. However, Frank Nappi weaves many tough themes throughout, which makes it so much more.
Arthur Murphy is the manager of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers. Murph keeps hoping that each season, will be their season, but 1948 is definitely not shaping up to be a winning one. His luck changes, though, when his car breaks down on a scouting trip and he stumbles across seventeen-year-old Mickey Tussler throwing apples with perfect aim into a barrel. Murph talks to Mickey’s parents, but his father, Clarence, tells Murph he is just wasting his time as his mother, Molly, explains that Mickey has autism. Murph is undeterred and wins Carl over with money. With some creative coaching, Mickey is soon the start pitcher of the Brewers, but some of his teammates cannot accept him, alienating and taunting him at every turn. When the bullying turns nasty, Mickey is hurt, possibly ending his budding career for good.
The Legend of Mickey Tussler heavily relies on baseball, so those with no understanding of the game may be lost. However, for those who can at least follow a ball game, there is a story much deeper than a simple fictional Cinderella sporting legend. Nappi deals with some deep issues that were not really talked about in the mid-20th century: autism, bullying, and spousal abuse. Nappi handles these elements so naturally, that the book easily flows from the public life of the team on the field to their private lives at home. This adds an amazing richness to this historical fiction sports story. The ending is rather sudden, though, leaving the reader feeling a little let down.
While The Legend of Mickey Tussler may be listed as Young Adult, it actually falls into the category of New Adult and runs over into just plain Adult. Deep at is core, Frank Nappi has penned a story as exciting as an actual baseball game.