Rock ‘N Fire
Kaw Valley Books LLC (2020)
Reviewed by Mark Sneed for Reader Views (01/2021)
If you enjoy reading a sports book which is a little more than a sports book, take a look at “Rock ‘N Fire” by Mark Stallard.
The book starts out as a story about a girl trying to find out if the rumors of her biological father being a notable Negro League and eventual MLB professional left-handed pitcher are true. The girl writes to a Hall of Fame historian and asks him to help her research the possible connection between her and the pitcher. The premise of a child seeking her father held my attention. I’m a bit of a softie for that writing trope.
The baseball story morphs into a mystery novel and I was hooked from the beginning. Love the unwrapping of the details through Stallard’s writing. This first fiction effort reads like a newspaper article at times and that is not a bad thing. The writing plays with a turbulent time period in American history and Hall of Fame historian, Frank Aldridge, finds himself transformed into an amateur baseball detective. The joy of “Rock ‘N Fire” is the character growth of the historian who is trying to find the left-handed pitcher. The driving force of the story is the Hall of Fame Historian, Frank Aldridge. He drives the plot and is the glue which holds the story together. What is nice about “Rock ‘N Fire” is that Frank Aldridge grows and matures in the pursuit of the left-handed pitcher. The HOF historian goes on a journey of discovery as he scratches the surface looking for a left-handed pitcher from years past.
The lost baseball player, based on news clips from the 1940s, is not the best person as the hurler has a reputation for hitting batters. There are no interviews with the pitcher, but Stallard, and the historian launch several inquiries about him. It is telling of the bias of sports journalists in the post-World War II time period.
Simplistic in its delivery, the story holds as Stallard weaves a tale of discovery. It is an interesting story juxtaposed against the racism of MLB, some of the MLB greats and bad boys, a Negro League pitcher, and an MLB plinker who was seen as an intentional hitter, but it is way more than that. The treat of the story comes in one of the pivotal Hall of Fame moments, when Ted Williams is inducted in 1966. The Splendid Splinter’s HOF speech recognized the Negro League and the talent in the Negro League and continued to ask for Negro League players to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Rock ‘N Fire” by Mark Stallard begins one way and ends another. The ending is a bit predictable and very Hollywood, but it is still a good read.