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Rosen_DeadBall-copyThe germ of the plot for Dead Ball was a horrifying exhibit at the New York Historical Society in the late 1990s of black-and-white photographs of lynchings. Just as frightening as the images of racist brutality were the self-satisfied faces of white onlookers, some of whom smiled for the camera while the mutilated victims dangled from tree branches in the background. Out of those disturbing pictures, and the notion of a contemporary black baseball player closing in on Joe DiMaggio’s “unbreakable” record hitting streak in 1941, I fashioned a story of modern-day racism that would reunite Harvey with his old team and reacquaint him with the underside of the national pastime.
     Here’s a synopsis:     

Fifteen years after retiring from baseball, Harvey Blissberg is suffering a bad case of what his girl friend Mickey Slavin calls “sad man-ism” when the owner of his former team, the Providence Jewels, tracks him down. The team’s star Moss Cooley, on the verge of breaking Joe DiMaggio’s “unbreakable” 56-game hitting streak, has been the target of racist threats—the latest one taking the form of a decapitated Negro lawn jockey. Would Harvey mind playing bodyguard for a while?

However, when Cooley’s streak ends shy of DiMaggio’s record, the threats continue, suggesting that there’s more at stake than preserving a white man’s supreme achievement. Blissberg feels he has no choice now but to follow the trail of clues back into the past, where recently discovered photographs of a Southern lynching point him to the case’s bloody resolution.  

 

 

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