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The Legend of Mickey Tussler by Frank Nappi
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The Legend of Mickey Tussler (edition 2008)

by Frank Nappi

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246443,774 (3.93)1
Member:bookwyrmm
Title:The Legend of Mickey Tussler
Authors:Frank Nappi
Info:St. Martin's Press (2008), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:review

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The Legend of Mickey Tussler by Frank Nappi

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While this book is well-written, I didn't like it at all. It just wasn't my type of book. I didn't like any of the characters. ( )
  eheinlen | Aug 12, 2012 |
What elevates “The Legend of Mickey Tussler” by Frank Nappi from the status of good baseball story to excellent work of fiction is the author’s use of baseball as a metaphor for human aspirations and relationships. Mr. Nappi’s story has its villains and its beloved, vulnerable characters and an assortment of individuals capable to displaying varied degrees of empathy when their individual needs and ambitions are not interfered with. Failure is determined sometimes -- like a broken-bat single or a homerun hooked suddenly foul -- by chance but more often by selfish, powerful people. Epitomized by baseball manager Arthur Murphy, an aspiring person struggles against adversity and endures setbacks but does not give up. He must find like-minded souls (Molly, Mickey Tussler’s mother) to sustain him and, possessing empathy, he looks beyond himself to shield the vulnerable (the Asperger’s Syndrome farm boy Mickey).

The baseball aspect of Mr. Nappi’s story is excellent. The lingo is familiar; the characters are believable; the pennant race is exciting; the author’s knowledge of the game is clear-cut. Readers are rewarded for this reason alone.

However, it is the author’s writing skills that mostly make this book special. Mr. Nappi has done everything I hope to see a talented writer utilize.

Sharp sensory detail that establishes character presence: “Clarence [Mickey’s abusive father] stood leaning against a gray stone mantel, adorned with a yellowing lace doily held in place by an old brass lantern. Next to that was a family portrait in a tarnished frame and a dusty clarinet. Arthur’s eyes hurt, as if something acerbic were in the air. It smelled like cat urine or perhaps it was just mold spores. Either way, he could not stop rubbing his eyes.”

Visual detail interspersed with economical, purposeful dialogue: “‘Baseball?’ he mocked. ‘You want Mickey to play baseball? Now, what in tarnation is a baseball team gonna do with a retard? Huh?’

‘I don’t understand.’

The farmer was scratching his head. His amusement brought forth a smile, foul and yellow.

‘What my husband meant to say, Mr. Murphy, is that Mickey is a little –‘

‘I said exactly what I meant to say, woman,’ Clarence barked, raising his hand in mock attack. ‘Don’t you be correcting me. He’s a retard.’”

Concise expressiveness: “Mickey glared at Lefty, his feelings sharp and bent in the intruder’s direction. He sat still now, Oscar [Mickey’s pet pig] by his side, left alone to face the wickedness of a world of which he understood so little.”

Back stories to add dimension to secondary characters: “McGinty [the shortstop] was definitely the best fit for Mickey. His dad had died when Elliot was just eleven years old. Consequently, young Elliot became responsible for looking out for his mom and his younger sister, Emily, who was born with a degenerative hearing condition that had rendered her deaf by age four. The little girl struggled, drifting through life diffidently, unable to keep pace in a world that moved too swiftly and carelessly to allow for her needs.”

Subjective narration that communicates abstractions: “She [Molly] had survived all these years by not focusing on the vast parameters of the world at large but on what was immediately around her. It usually worked. She could lose herself in the mixing of animal feed or the husking of corn. … But occasionally, this vapid existence preyed upon her more tender sensibilities, awakened now and again by glimpses of what could have been, and she cried out in painful protest for the life she really desired but had yet to cultivate.”

Theme: “‘And there’s always another at bat. A chance to redeem yourself. You could be washed-up one day, and a hero the next. Truly. Nobody is tied to their fate.’ … Once again, it appeared, time and events had conspired against him. He was being played with, manipulated by a capricious wind blowing him everywhere. … Murph shrugged his shoulders, as if to suggest that it didn’t really matter. But in the darkest, most remote corner of his soul, hanging restlessly from a single strand of sticky filament like an anxious spider, was the unmitigated, undeniable truth.”

Story, depth of character, social commentary, and writer skill justify this five-star rating. ( )
  HaroldTitus | Apr 29, 2012 |
An intriguing character study about Mickey Tussler, a 17 year old young man, trapped on a small farm with his mother and a very abusive father. Mickey exhibits what today would be called autism. Unfortunately, back in the 1940's when this story is set Mickey is viewed much differently.

Enter, completely by accident, Arthur Murphy, the manager of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers, a farm team of the Boston Braves. A baseball lifer, Murphy is on a scouting trip to see a young phenom he hopes will be the missing player to ignite his mediocre team.

After watching Mickey toss apples into a basket target, to get them ready for Oscar the pig to eat, Murphy decides to take Mickey back with him and try him out as a pitcher.

This is a fun read, full of old timey baseball cliches, several us vs them subplots and the excitement of a pennant race.

Unfortunately it pales by comparison to other period baseball books. It would be a great YA novel, but it contains some graphic sex and violence that make it inappropriate for younger teens. Some of the plot devices were passable at best, including Murph's ongoing relationships with Mickey's parents. I liked the ending (hokey though it was) mainly because by the time I read it I was expecting a written by the numbers outcome. It was not and provided a surprise twist that I didn't see coming.

So I liked it, but wished it could have been executed a little better. ( )
  iluvvideo | Sep 7, 2011 |
Book talk: not appropriate for middle school due to sexual references

I loved this book and could not wait to finish it! ( )
  lnommay | Aug 14, 2011 |
Reviewed by Cat for TeensReadToo.com

When his car breaks down in during a routine scouting trip, Milwaukee Brewer's coach Arthur Murphy never expected to stumble upon an autistic, seventeen-year-old pitching phoneme. Nor could "Murph" have imagined that introducing young Mickey Tussler to the world of minor league baseball would spur his losing team into a heated race for the playoffs against the Brewer's number one rival, the Spokane Rangers.

Despite his team's drive to glory, Mickey remains an outsider; a fragile soul, locked inside a world that most people can't even recognize, let alone understand. What price will Mickey have to pay in order to become a legend?

THE LEGEND OF MICKEY TUSSLER is an intense, complex, nuanced study of the post-WWII minor league microcosm. Frank Nappi does an excellent job delving inside his characters' heads, whether he's detailing Murphy's desolation, star pitcher George "Lefty" Rogers' arrogant bravado, catcher Raymond "Boxcar" Danvers' stoic endurance, or the unspeakable affliction and difficulty an autistic youth like Mickey must have faced.

A steadily paced, first-rate work of fiction, whether you're a baseball lover or not -- this is a novel you can't pass up. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 12, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312381093, Hardcover)

Seventeen-year-old Mickey Tussler is recruited to play for a minor league affiliate of the Boston Braves. Arthur Murphy swears Mickey has the greatest arm he has ever seen, that anybody has ever seen.  And it might be true.  But Mickey's autism is prohibitive.  It keeps him sealed off from a world he scarcely understands.  Lost both in the memory of his former life with an abusive father and the challenges of a new world filled with heckling teammates, opponents and fans, there's no way Mickey can succeed.  But his inimitable talent -- one of the most gifted arms in the history of baseball -- gives him a chance. Can he survive a real life dream?  Or are the harsh realities of life too much for him?  This is the powerful underdog story of how a young man with an extraordinary gift comes of age in a harsh and competitive world.  

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:03 -0400)

Seventeen-year-old Mickey Tussler is offered a job as pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1940s; in spite of Mickey's autism, coach Arthur Murphy is willing to take a chance on him.

(summary from another edition)

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