Cover image for Battle creek
Battle creek
Lasser, Scott.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Rob Weisbach Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
265 pages ; 25 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A man who has spent his adult life juggling the roles of coach to an amateur baseball team, father to his estranged son, and caretaker to his own disapproving father, finds his life coming apart at the seams when, during one single season, his pitcher loses his arm, his son drifts further away, and he learns his father is dying of cancer. NPR sponsorship.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The men in Lasser's salutary baseball novel all harbor deep regrets beneath the gleam of their spiffy team uniforms. Gil Davison has been coaching their amateur Michigan team, Koch and Sons (originally sponsored by a funeral home), for 30 years, always making it to the finals and never clinching it. This year he's determined to win. He's creeping up on retirement. His diffident father is wasting away in an old-folks' home, still stubbornly disapproving of his son's passion for the game, and Vince, Gil's assistant coach and close friend, who had his glory days on the mound long ago, is dying of emphysema. The championship, Gil has come to believe, is the only possible protection against impending grief. And it's in reach. The team has never been better. Gil's pitcher, Mercer, a stockbroker and ladies' man, played ever so briefly in the majors and still has a golden arm. And Gil's just signed a new kid, Luke James. Fresh out of prison after serving time for murder, he may be a risk, but he's a hitter of such power and precision that he's worth the gamble. And so the season begins, and Lasser glides lithely between high-energy scenes on the field and sensitive illuminations of the thoughts of his obsessive yet sweet-natured heroes. An accomplished first novelist, Lasser subtly connects the love of baseball to the love good men nurture shyly for women and children and for their friends, writing with all the finesse and conviction of the ballplayers he reveres. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Cigarettes and baseball. These are not unusual vices," thinks one of the middle American, late middle-aged characters in Lasser's powerful novel of thwarted lives. A bleak metaphor for middle-class dreams, the story imagines the defining effect one season of amateur baseball imposes upon the lives of a small group of players and their women. Now 60, Gil Davison gave up a promising baseball future three decades ago to placate his autocratic father, who considered his athletic achievements a waste of time. By way of vicarious engagement, and beginning with his own two sons, over the past 30 years Gil has become a coaching legend around the baseball fields of suburban Detroit. His star pitcher, 34-year-old stockbroker Ben Mercer, had two weeks in the big leagues with Baltimore. Nursing an arthritic elbow, the fastballing lady-killer has finally met a woman who is his match, and that's bad for his game. Vince Paklos, Gil's astute sidekick, had a meteoric month-long stint with a major league team. Chain-smoking his way through the final days of terminal emphysema, Vince needs money to keep his life insurance in force. Out on parole after serving five years for murder, at age 22 Luke James is a batting wonder who needs someone to find him a girl, pay his room and board and keep him out of jail. His team a perennial runner-up, idealistic Gil has always played by the rules in both life and ball, but he has never won the national championship held at Battle Creek. Luke's arrival comes at a critical time, and Gil's single-minded desire to earn the title becomes a matter of life or death when his 98-year-old father lies half-blind in a nursing home, sitting on money that's more than enough to make Gil's dream come true. First-time novelist Lasser's stark morality play is conveyed in undecorative prose. His language favors honesty over musicality but the narrative, with its poignant and disturbing insights into father-son relationships and its acceptance of the frailty of the human condition, is completely engrossing. Agent, Jennifer Walsh, Virginia Barber Agency. BOMC selection; film rights, Scott Rudin; author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This fine first novel deserves every bit of the excitement it is generating. Gil Davison, coach of an amateur baseball team that has always made it to the championship finals but never won, is resolved that this season they will win it all. A man who has always loved the purity of baseball, he finds that the thirst for winning leads him to compromises that are hard to live with. The book also explores the other key members of his teamÄthe aging pitcher who cannot admit to the pain his arm is giving him, the assistant coach who is dying of emphysema, the young phenom who would long since have been tearing up the major leagues if he hadn't been in prison for beating the brains out of his girl's other guy. The baseball is lovingly, truthfully described, as are the men's friendships and betrayals. All public libraries will want this. [BOMC selection.]ÄMarylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.