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Mighty Roman Shorts

By Jon Sindell

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The Mighty Roman is a baseball book for today, a funny, freewheeling novel about modern American manhood. It’s a modern Mutiny On The Bounty with baseball bats and pranks. Our Captain Bligh is Roman Meister, a blustery, insecure giant who manages an independent-league baseball team near the California-Mexico border. Commanding but confused, endearing but scary, Roman pushes his multicultural young players to win the championship he needs to advance in pro ball--and validate his very existence, it seems. Roman reveres the fading America of Ted Williams, struggles with the burden of inherited prejudices, and lives in terror of disappointing his ex-marine father. He is equally apt to straighten the pillow beneath a sleeping player's head or brutally bludgeon a still-breathing fish. Our Fletcher Christian is Rex Hirsch, an elfin eighteen year-old from Venice Beach who plays baseball with joyful abandon. He's a Hacky-Sacking free spirit with a taste for anarchy who loves animals, plays Native American flute to coyotes in the field, flows easily among his multicultural teammates, and reveres his graybeard hipster dad. He holds absolute views and tends to zealotry. Rex and Roman get along well at first when Rex's bold play helps the Coyotes win: Roman likes and admires the youth, and Rex defends Roman as "old school cool." But conflict builds when these seeming opposites push each other's hot buttons, and Rex instigates a rebellion that burns through all kinds of contemporary social divides. Will the wounded white male explode into violence? Will the neo-hippie succumb to his dark side and destroy the man? It's a wild trip around the bases with gobs of humor, colorful characters, spirited action, and dark overtones. Is Roman mighty? Was Gatsby great? A nice topic for discussion while watching a game.