Perfect, Once Removed — by Phillip Hoose

It’s the winter of 1955, and 9-year old Phillip Hoose (pronounced “hose”) moves to a new town in Indiana. Discovering that baseball is the path to social acceptance, he struggles to learn the game, trying to overcome his awkwardness that was on display every time he stepped to the plate or picked up a ball.

In the midst of his frustration, his parents suggest he call up one of his dad’s cousins – who just happens to be Don Larsen, and during the next season will become the only pitcher to hurl a no-hitter in a World Series history.

Such is the story of Perfect, Once Removed, by Phillip Hoose. Upon learning of his famous relative, Hoose becomes enamored with baseball as so many children do. He reads about it, listens to it on the radio, and tries to mimic his favorite stars.

While the title would suggest the book being a chronicle of Larsen’s perfect game, it is really about a young boy falling in love with the game of baseball, and continuing to be a fan of it as his own children grow up. It’s a touching story, and while I can’t relate to being related to a pro ball player, it did make me remember the ways I came to love baseball.

But as with any book, I always ask myself if I’m really a better person for reading it, and I can’t say I’m that much better off after reading Hoose’s book. This isn’t to take away from the story or the warm feelings you may get from reading it, but it just didn’t leave an impression on me the way other books have. It’s a personal narrative that doesn’t try and make an argument or open your eyes to some overlooked pieces of history, which are the books I tend to enjoy reading more than others.

I will give Hoose a lot of credit for really telling a great story — the details of the school bully, the teacher he irritated, the principal he befriended because of his relation to Larsen — it’s all there in great detail. The book kept me engaged the whole way through — and at just 160 pages or so, you don’t have to invest a lot of time to get through it. You could easily read this in less than a week.

A good read – yes. An addition to the bookshelf? No.

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