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Hanging Curve - Troy Soos
In the novel "HANGING CURVE", we are reunited with the major league utility ballplayer Mickey Rawlings. It is the spring of 1922 and Rawlings is now playing for the St. Louis Browns of the American League (AL), a team that would be vying for the AL pennant that year. He's chafing over seeing so little playing time with the Browns that he accepts the invitation of a former major league teammate to play 1 game with a white semi-pro team against the East St. Louis Cubs, a Negro semi-pro team. (Rawlings, when he had played for the Detroit Tigers, had had the opportunity to see some of the other Negro baseball teams play and was deeply impressed by the quality of play these teams showed. Indeed, he wished he could play against them. But with the new baseball commissioner Kinnesaw Mountain Landis in firm charge of Major League Baseball, he generally forbade major league players playing against Negro baseball teams.)

Anyway, Rawlings accepted the offer and, under an assumed name, joined the Elcars in their game against the East St. Louis Cubs in East St. Louis, IL (just across the border from Missouri and very close to St. Louis). On the Cubs was a Negro pitcher by the name of 'Skip' Crawford who pitched brilliantly against the Elcars, striking out Rawlings in a dazzling display of pitching. The game was intense and tempers flared from the Elcars, who were outclassed by the Cubs. Subsequently, Crawford is found dead in the same ballpark several days later, apparently a victim of lynching.

Rawlings is deeply affected by Crawford's murder and takes it upon himself to investigate the murder. In the process, he learns first-hand about the darker side of America as it was in the 1920s when overt racism against Negroes (African Americans) was often condoned or generally accepted without demur by most Americans. Indeed, Rawlings is made painfully aware of the growing power and influence the Ku Klux Klan exerted in several state legislatures beyond the South (e.g. in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri) and in the local police department.

On the whole, "HANGING CURVE" is a fascinating novel that faithfully conveys the thrilling drama of professional baseball juxtaposed with Rawlings' sleuthing skills and the various personalities in his life whose relationships with Rawlings spice up the novel all the more.