The Might Have Been by Joseph Schuster | Book review
Baseball returns to its literary roots.
Major League Baseball’s lyricism jig is up. You can’t really make $25-million-per-year contracts an industry standard and expect fans to wax poetic about the grimy beauty of the game. What passes for underdogs now are the drunks running onto the field, trying not to get Tasered.
But the minors—largely stripped of high salaries, amenities and photo shoots—still retain some of that pathos with which we imagine the game was once resplendent. Schuster has wisely employed that canvas—of frequent failure and long-shot odds—as the setting for his debut novel, about Edward Everett, a minor-league also-ran who is in an even less hopeful spot, managing a minor team for some 30 years.
The Might Have Been is a story about what happens to a man’s obsession when it quietly persists into his middle years. Edward made it to the majors as a player, but a freak injury ended his career before it began. And instead of settling down with his family as a salesman, he doggedly pursued baseball through a lackluster career as a minor-league manager.
Schuster writes with care and beauty about Edward’s remorse. Perhaps the most stirring of passages deal with Edward’s broken promises to himself, regrets when he hits ignominious milestones that he swore he’d never reach (spending his 30th birthday in a minor-league town). Though baseball fans will love the richly textured descriptions of minor-league parks and life, the larger human story here is universal.