In the fictional village of Cottage Park, Iowa, time is best measured not by the hands of a clock but by the innings in a baseball game. In this quiet, northwestern Iowa community where businesses are shuttered and economic stability is scarce, two institutions flourish: the Holy Trinity Church – as spectacular as any Roman cathedral – and the local, dusty baseball diamond.
Set within a single baseball season in 1974, Tommy Murray’s debut novel, Fathers, Sons, and the Holy Ghosts of Baseball, follows 14-year-old T.J., along with a band of misbehaving teens and three cantankerous old coaches, as the high school baseball team makes a concerted push for the championship – a summit never yet reached by the team from Holy Trinity High School.
For the coaches, the elusive championship looms large as they enter their final baseball season before retirement. For the players, the road to the finals is a confirmation by fire – a rite of passage they must navigate before facing the realities of adulthood.
Along this entertaining, coming-of-age journey, young and old alike ultimately learn that you must sacrifice before you can gain and sometimes lose before you can win.
Author Tommy Murray is a retired teacher from the Minneapolis Public Schools. He is also the author of the forthcoming novel, The Empty Set. Murray is married to Mary Ann, and they reside in Shoreview, Minnesota. In Fathers, Sons, and the Holy Ghosts of Baseball, Murray pays homage to his uncle, who led his high school team to its first state championship back in 1943. His uncle went on to enlist in the army and lost his life when his tank unit was ambushed in the Philippines in 1945.
In Murray’s world, where his father, uncles and grandfathers shared their legacies of devotion to church, patriotism and baseball, baseball is life and death. It’s much more than a sport. Baseball is a religion.
Fathers, Sons, and the Holy Ghosts of Baseball
Beaver’s Pond Press
Release date: October 3, 2017
Available from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Jim Swearingen, National Book Review: “The Hawkeye State is the setting once again for a captivating baseball novel by Tommy Murray. Murray writes with the perceptiveness of one who has spent decades working with teenagers, tolerating their immaturity while refining their mettle. And he shares their precocious insight into the authenticity of the adults around them.
“Murray’s novel mixes Pete Hamill’s pacing and characters with a touch of Mitch Albom’s mysticism. It combines the down-home folksiness of W.P. Kinsella with the throw-at-their-heads combativeness of Leo Durocher. Cottage Park is still a hard-drinking, quick-tempered world where men wear a sense of justice on their sleeve and never duck a fight over principle.
“Such small town virtues seem a distant, nostalgic memory in these disturbing times. If literature – or baseball for that matter – has anything to teach us in this frenetic, impatient age of ours, it might be the rediscovery of restraint and humility, dedication and hard work – virtues that ‘the olds’ instill in all the boys of Tommy Murray’s summer.”
Rob Cline, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids): “Fathers, Sons, and the Holy Ghosts of Baseball is a well-executed story of boys, old men and the power of the game to shape community and individual lives. Iowa native Tommy Murray has penned a solid novel set in small-town Iowa in 1974.
“As with many a baseball book, Fathers, Sons, and the Holy Ghosts of Baseball uses the game as a jumping off point to consider other themes, including issues of faith, the relationships between fathers (and father figures) and sons, the nature of community, and the inevitability of change – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The friendship of the three coaches and their individual relationships with young men in need of guidance are at the heart of the story. Murray crafts these affiliations with care, tracing the ups and downs of vulnerable people forging strong bonds.”
The Catholic Globe: “The action in Murray’s novel isn’t limited to the diamond and its pop-up flies, bunts and double-plays. Murray leaves nobody on base or safe at home as the reader is enlightened about the private lives of high school players struggling with egos, angst, misbehavior, teen pregnancy, abuse and death.”
Mary Ann Grossmann, St. Paul Pioneer Press: “There are plenty of characters with interesting stories in this book, descriptions of baseball games and underlying meditation on aging as well as how important it is for boys to have older men as mentors.”