||Blue Trolley Press
||September 6, 2005
Curled Up With a Good Kid's Book
The premise seems preposterous at first. The Los Angeles Dodgers are for sale, and media tycoon Roland Green is making a bid for the team. Not if Andy Bennett can help it, though. Bennett, a reporter, wants his town of Bloomington, Indiana, to buy the Dodgers, with everybody pitching in financially, much like the city of Green Bay did to own the Packers. And so begins Jeff Stanger’s enjoyable yarn about a small town and the big time world of Major League Baseball.
Stanger knows the rhythms and cadences of small-town life, and he sets the scenes perfectly. At first, many of the rural townspeople are reluctant to embrace the idea of the Dodgers in Bloomington because of their fear of losing their land. Bloomington being a progressive college town, there are myriad activists for the various causes. In a laugh-out-loud set piece, Stanger describes a clash between small-town America and its love of pageantry and the zeal of committed activists that renders the Fourth of July parade into a food fight.
The characters in this novel are clearly etched with at least one idiosyncrasy per person. There is the Wolf, a hard-charging lawyer opposed to Bennett and his group. There is Maple the activist, who undergoes a metamorphosis when she encounters a Mary Kay Cosmetics saleswoman. And then there is Frank Lopilato - “Klondike” to his friends - the hapless husband of the intrepid Bonnie and owner of a motel. Stanger brings these characters together in a number of funny incidents that keep the story moving and the reader engrossed.
As the townspeople buy into Bennett’s idea, the book’s premise does not seem so preposterous any more. Stanger makes a convincing case for Major League Baseball to consider Bloomington's bid seriously, and the quest gathers steam in every chapter. The climax is both satisfying and believable, and we are left with a bucolic scene of good friends watching a baseball game in a scenic ballpark. Stanger weaves an engrossing tale that is equal parts dreamy and plausible.
Ram Subramanian/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book
It all started out as a joke. A local sports columnist in Bloomington, Indiana had hoped to get people amped up about bringing a minor-league baseball team to town someday. But that joke turned into a very real effort by the residents to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers and transplant them to this small Midwestern town.
Crazy idea? Definitely. But that didn’t stop the people of Bloomington in this debut novel by a former sports and humor columnist (his column, “Instant Replay,” appeared in BC Magazine). He brings together a hodge-podge cast of characters typical of any middle-America town and makes jabs at most of them—the local environmental group, the liberals, the conservatives, everybody—with humor that should crack a smile at the very least.
They were twelve-year-old pals when Andy and Darryl wished on a couple of shooting stars one night while playing baseball. Andy pinned his hopes on a baseball team in Bloomington, but he could have never imagined what would happen many years later. When the story begins, Andy, Darryl and two of their buddies are all grown up, but that doesn’t keep them from chasing that childhood dream, far-fetched as it is.
With a summer to raise $250 million, the four friends hire Kate Ketner as the would-be first female general manager in baseball and the dollars begin to pour in. Each chapter starts with a running tally of money raised, building the suspense of the story. Will this small town pull it off? Will all the silly antics during a Fourth of July parade, in which a food fight ensues between grown adults, be the undoing of this dream? Despite the obstacles, the friends persist; in the words of Andy’s wise and spirited grandmother, “Sometimes a dream is too big not to go after.”
Jeff Stanger lives and writes in Indianapolis. He is a grant consultant for nonprofits in the Midwest and serves on the board of directors for Play Ball Indiana, an organization committed to providing inner-city youth with opportunities to play baseball. He also operates a popular online blog, “Jeffreaux’s World.”
Trolley Dodgers is a story in which readers can’t help but root for the underdog, and it’s that quality that will keep them engaged. Some of the humor may be inappropriate for less mature readers, and the author includes some subtle right-wing ideology. However, Stanger’s writing style will still appeal to most of his young-adult target audience. (September)
The Martini Shot -Chris Cavallari
“Trolley Dodgers was a great read. What makes it so enjoyable is that I can identify with the characters. They’re loveable, regular guys who share a dream that most of us would love to do. I’ve been a baseball fan all my life, so any book having to do with the game intrigues me. This work of fiction almost seems real…quite a feat for a work of fiction. Kudos to the author.”
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