Cover image for Slider
Robinson, Patrick.
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Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, 2002.
Physical Description:
404 pages ; 24 cm
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Each summer, on the fields of glorious Cape Marlin, off the New England coast, the nation's best college players gather to play the most important baseball of their lives.

Jack Faber is one of them. The son of a struggling Louisiana sugar farmer, Faber is a young hotshot pitcher with an unhittable slider and rocket for a fastball. He plays for the fabled Seapuit Seawolves and dreams of making the Big Show, like many of his teammates: the catcher, Tony Garcia, fast-talking, irreverent prelaw student from Northwestern; Doughnut Davis, the erratic pitching phenom from the University of Georgia, who can throw a heat-seeking 93-mph screamer over the edge of the plate, followed by a 93-mph screamer over the umpire's head; the Citadel's slick officer cadet infielders, Rick Adams and Bobby Madison; the steel-armed outfielder, Ray Sweeney, son of a Maine fisherman; and the Sooner's first baseman, Zac Colbert, from Mickey Mantle's hometown of Spavinaw, Oklahoma.

In the middle of it all, Jack's dad, Ben Faber, who can barely make ends meet on his bayou sugar farm, is falling in love with Garcia's mother, Natalie, the beautiful and penniless classical music teacher from the Chicago tenements. Their budding long-distance romance can hardly make it off the ground, as they can't travel and can't afford even a phone call. And their hopes for their sons are at odds: For Natalie, it is for Tony to get his act together-forget about this school yard game, go to law school and become a successful attorney. For Ben, it is for Jack to land a huge contract in the major leagues.

Jack triumphantly becomes the Cape's MVP, but disaster awaits him when he returns to school in Louisiana. A new coach, the scowling Bruno Riazzi, a former pro catcher, resents the kid's celebrity status and decides he needs to knock him down a peg or two. And he'll stop at nothing to make it happen.

Humiliated, Jack loses his lifelong art, and with it his passion for the game and, mysteriously, his ability to throw. His fastball has become tentative, his curve timid, and the beloved slider floats up to the plate like a volleyball. It has happened before to pros like Rick Ankiel and Mark Wohlers, brilliantly successful pitchers who suddenly lost it. A devastated Jack Faber is released from the St. Charles College roster.

But the Seawolves coaches won't give up on him. They bring Jack back to Cape Marlin, determined to help him rediscover his lost talent. He finds himself again under the summer sun, coaches and old friends standing by him. But in the end it will be up to Jack.

Based on a true story, Slider celebrates the national pastime, a game that can break grown men's hearts -- as well as make them whole again.

Author Notes

Patrick Robinson was a journalist for many years before becoming a full-time writer of books. His non-fiction books were bestsellers around the world and he was the co-author of Sandy Woodward's Falklands War memoir, One Hundred Days.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Robinson's baseball novel is constructed around one of the most vexing questions in sports: Why would a successful pitcher suddenly find himself bereft of the physical tools that made him a star? The book's hero, Jack Faber, is the reigning king of a prestigious collegiate league, but bad breaks and self-doubt have robbed him of his skills. Hamstrung from the start by a predictable plot and occasionally stilted dialogue, the novel still manages to offer up several characters worth worrying over. There is the introspective hurler who seems destined for pro ball, the conflicted mother who wants her son to quit the game and concentrate on his studies, and the frustrated ex-ballplayer who seems bent on derailing the career of every phenom. Robinson is a baseball traditionalist; in his world, there is still a team playing at Ebbets Field. With solid accounts of game action and salty ballpark language, this makes a passable addition to the literature of the game. Think Michael Shaara's For Love of the Game with less style but more guts. --Kevin Canfield

Publisher's Weekly Review

Known for writing submarine thrillers like The Shark Mutiny, Robinson demonstrates his knowledge and love of baseball in this tale of a Louisiana college student who opts to play summer ball in Maine for a league that has produced a number of major league players. Jack Faber's father, Ben, an impoverished sugar cane farmer, drives him up the coast, and on the way they pick up another outstanding prospect, Tony Garcia, accompanied by his mother, Natalie. Natalie is a struggling music teacher and adamantly opposed to Tony playing baseball. In spite of their differences, Natalie and Ben are attracted to each other. Jack has a terrific season with the Seapuit Seawolves, is named most valuable player and is offered a major league contract, which he turns down. When Jack returns to college, a tough new coach breaks his spirit in a matter of days with unwarranted criticism, and Jack ends up quitting baseball. But his coaches in Maine still believe in him and invite him back to the Cape Marlin Baseball Summer League, where they rebuild his confidence with infinite care. The story might have ended here, but Robinson heads off on a tangent in the final pages when a billionaire major league owner forces his underproducing team to play an exhibition game against the Seawolves, the catch being that if his team loses he will shut down the franchise. The ending defies credibility as does a deus ex machina discovery of natural gas on Ben Faber's property that makes him a multimillionaire and allows him and Natalie to get together. Plenty of baseball play-by-play provides fodder for fans, but scattered action distracts from the fun, and too many characters crowd the playing field. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Slider Chapter One June 3 At 5 A.M. the sun had not yet risen over the long winding Bayou Lafourche. But it was light, and two hundred yards from the house Jack could see the two great Southern oaks, draped in Spanish moss, guarding the western bank. The sun came up right between them at this time of year, and the square of sky, framed by the giant trees, was turning a deep ocher in color. It was already hot, and very still, here in the sullen morning twilight of the Louisiana marshes. Jack Faber was not altogether unhappy about his forthcoming journey to the cooler North. He had never left Louisiana before. Except to a half-dozen neighboring ballfields in Texas and Mississipi. In the distance, across the undulating land, he could hear a big flock of snow geese preparing for flight, and closer to home, there was the endless throb of the drilling rigs of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Corporation, driving deep below the brackish water, with its teeming wildlife, in search of natural gas. Modern man had not yet found the time to make a serious mess of the vast natural sweep of the silent marshes in this part of the Mississippi Delta, but right now, here in the sugarcane fields owned by the Fabers, he was doing his level best. Jack stood on the screened porch of the wooden farmhouse, drinking coffee, staring out toward the bayou. At his feet was the big white sports bag of St. Charles College, with its emblem of crossed baseball bats beneath a royal crown, set in dark red. Jack Faber was extremely proud of that bag. And in turn, St. Charles College was proud of him. He was the best right-handed pitcher they'd ever had. Which was a considerable achievement. There was a superb baseball program in place at St. Charles that, for a small, remote university of only six thousand students, punched out an annual record well beyond its weight. To baseball in the far South, St. Charles College was like Notre Dame to football in the Midwest -- ferociously competitive and nationally renowned. Jack Faber had been touted by all the good schools in the area, Louisiana State, Tulane, Southwest Louisiana, but in the end he had settled for the feisty, 180-year-old university, set just eight miles along the bayou from his home near Lockport. They awarded him a baseball scholarship, which saved the family a lot of money they did not have. And the short distance from Lockport meant he could get home often to help his dad out with the farm. Also his dad could come and watch him play. A distance much farther was always questionable for Ben Faber, because his battered blue 1981 Chevrolet might not make it. Despite his powerful build, on a six-foot two-inch frame, Jack Faber was a shy, introspective boy of twenty. He was deeply intimidated by people he did not know well, and it had taken him weeks to become accustomed to the grandeur of the stone-built halls of St. Charles. But no one who was at the Chevaliers field for the opening game against their arch rivals, ever forgot the first few minutes of his debut. Jack Faber sent down the first three Southwestern hitters with eleven pitches. A couple of foul-backs for an O-and-2 count was the closest the Ragin' Cajuns came to sniffing the ball in the first inning. In seven two-hit innings that day, Jack Faber produced a flamethrower of a fastball, a curve that drove the Cajuns mad with frustration, a change-up of baffling pace, and an occasional slider which was just about unhittable. Jack Faber walked to the mound that day as a soft-talking unknown freshman in a university founded on heroes. When he came off after seven he was greeted with a standing ovation. St. Charles College was built in 1824 by the French General Hugo de Fontainebleau, who had been wounded at the battle at the crossroads of Quatre Bras, then trampled in the final cavalry charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo the following day. The general, recovered from his wounds, but unable to face living in a France dominated by England, had packed his worldly goods and sailed for the Gulf of Mexico and the French-speaking part of south Louisiana. Those goods included a trunkload of gold ransacked from a Belgian duke, via his wife, whom the general had also ransacked. It was this plundered wealth which had purchased the land and built the school. A mark of the general's self-esteem was located right outside the main building of St. Charles College, where there was a life-size bronze statue of the great man on his battle charger, the two of them mounted on a massive granite plinth which bore the words GENERAL HUGO DE FONTAINEBLEAU, SOLDIER AND SCHOLAR, FOUNDER OF ST. CHARLES COLLEGE, CAST IN BRONZE AND ERECTED HERE 1821. The university itself was not completed until three years later. General Hugo had his priorities. One of the great traditions of the school, aside from its baseball, was an annual black-tie dinner, by invitation only, held on May 5 to honor the anniversary of the death of Napoleon in 1821. The new strikeout king from the bayous made the dinner in his first year, and they invited his father as well. Jack's first two seasons at St. Charles were of such impact he had been scouted by no fewer than six coaches from America's leading College Baseball League, the one on Cape Marlin off the coast of New England, where the best young ballplayers in the United States have spent their summers for more than fifty years. Which was why, broadly, the sophomore Jack Faber was now standing around drinking coffee in the dark green dawn of this hot, muggy June morning waiting for his father to fire up the... Slider . Copyright © by Patrick Robinson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Slider by Spike Bailey, Patrick Robinson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.