A former star player slowly passing his prime. A young and energetic front office employee. A chance late night encounter in the stadium parking lot. A lost diary note found in the asphalt. An attraction, a discovery, and a search for truth. Forces conspire to make Dodger third baseman, Joe Shapiro, and team marketing assistant, Liz Reyes, embark on a fictionalized journey through the harsh economic realities of major league baseball, a past hidden underneath the soil of Dodger Stadium, and a quest to maximize their talents and desire for one another.
This is the essence of Ken Aven’s hard hitting novel, Chavez Ravine Echoes. Those interested in baseball will be confronted with the strain of a pennant race, a look at the game’s salary structure, and the desire of management to squeeze every cent out of baseball’s various revenue streams. For the historically inclined, the book looks at the little known Mexican-American community that once thrived on the hills of Chavez Ravine and was wiped away in the hysteria of Mccarthyism in the early 1950’s. Finally, people who just like a good read, will enjoy the twists and turns in Joe and Liz’s adventure and their increasing reliance upon each other to combat greed and dishonesty.
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Autographed Copies - Free Postage Send $17 (check payable to Ken Aven) Ken Aven P.O. Box 4445 Ontario, Calif. 91761 Professional Reviews "...Aven's love for the sport was apparent as well as the desire to preserve the memory of Chavez Ravine. A good story of sport as being redemptive." Shaun Cronin - Larvatusprodeo.net "Aven pens a delight of a read. A powder-keg of a secret, romance, and baseball-what more could readers want?" Connie Vines - Whisper upon the Water
Starting from page 19
Joe thought that it was a bit strange that the team seemed to be willing to spend money on outside projects but claimed poverty when it came to meeting the demands of it's most important employees-the ball players. Joe remembered how the club jettisoned Willie Montoya over a $4 million a year difference. Joe was in his walk year and Eddie Sanchez would become a free agent in two more seasons. What hope was there for the two of them to remain Dodgers?
As Joe's mind got more deeply involved with the Dodger financial situation he began to fixate on why the Dodgers brought in GM hatchet man, Alex Manson. Ever since Manson had come to the team, his friends were being let go and the face of the team was becoming younger and more unfamiliar to him.
The phone rang and brought his thoughts back to the kitchen, the cereal he had just eaten, and the two dogs that began to bark. He picked up the phone and the call was from Diego. The car would be ready by 2 pm. Joe asked Diego to have a reliable driver bring the car up to Liz's apartment in Alhambra at 7 pm. He thought it would be a nicer gesture if Liz could be home when the car arrived. She had told him that she was leaving work at 5. Not sure about how Liz would get home after work, he thought that the extra half-hour would guarantee her presence when the car came.
It was a little after noon when Joe decided to take the paper and bring it outside to his pool side lounge chair. He put on his sunglasses and a Stanford baseball cap as he finally decided that he would take a closer look at his little souvenir. As he held the paper, he felt that in some strange way it might connect him with Liz. Despite what she had told him, maybe the paper had fallen out of her car. Anyway, Joe thought that there was something about her calm demeanor and straightforward style that attracted him.
Too many of the girls Joe had met over the past few years seemed to have a facade to them. Maybe it was due to the fact that many of them were involved in careers that forced them to act that way. Models, TV newswomen, and actresses were people who looked good. More often than not, they were intelligent and quite aware of things around them. Most of these women seemed to always want to move beyond their current professional level and want more than even a Joe Shapiro could give them.
Once again Joe looked at the paper and took his thoughts back to it. He noticed that the paper had a yellow tint and had words written across that covered three-fourths of the paper. The words were written in black ink. The letters were printed. Although neat, some words began in lower case and others in capitals. As he stared at the words, it dawned on him that he might be looking at a child or young person's handwriting. Somehow this made the paper more of a curiosity. Finally he began to read the words:
Today would have been a nice day to play baseball. It was sunny and there was not much wind. Mom told me to stay close to home today. Some strange men had been around the house yesterday. Anyway who heard of playing baseball with only five boys. Alex, Joe, Ricardo, Manuel, and the Chacon twins have all moved away. I miss my friends. They are gone from our neighborhood. They are gone from school.
"When I asked Mom why she seemed so sad, she said she wasn't. I know she was lying to me. Maybe tomorrow...”
Joe read the paper a second time. The last few lines had been ripped off so he could not read the conclusion. It sounded like a boy had written these words. Joe was not sure what the boy was trying to convey. Why were all the boy's friends moving away? Who were the strangers who were talking to his mother? Someone or something seemed to have come and disrupted this person/boy's life. How mean could that be? This boy seemed to have such a love for baseball.
Baseball. The two of them had that in common. If things were not going to change soon, Joe would be packing his suitcases and heading for a new place to play the game he loved so much. The boy claimed that his mother was lying to him about the disappearance of his friends. Joe equated the mother's lack of honesty with that shown by Alex Manson towards his contract. It hurt that the team was ready to make a break from him.
Joe began to think of even more questions. Could there be more pages besides the one he held in his hand? Was this a diary entry? When was the paper written? The yellow tint was more pronounced around the paper's edges. Perhaps the paper was quite old. Was the paper part of a book? The only way to get answers would be to go back to the asphalt crack and search for more papers.
Starting from page 64
It was past 7:30 when Dr. Rivera and his wife finished cleaning the dinner dishes. Dr. Rivera had given a short but poignant talk to Joe and Liz as they looked at the various items in the Chicano Studies Museum. One of the recurring themes that resonated with the two of them was the horrific struggle that Mexcian-Americans faced and still faced in earning a fair wage for their hard work. Yet the hardships were tempered with the grace and pride reflected in the faces of these workers and in some of the artwork that Dr. Rivera had collected.
Joe and Liz sat together in a love seat. He had his arm around her. Dr. Rivera's wife sat at one end of a couch while the Doctor sat in a recliner.
The Doctor spoke first. "Okay. I'm still not really sure why you have this interest in this house? Now I've been a man of my word. I took you through our little museum, got you over to my house, let you meet my beautiful wife, and fed you enough food to last you all week. Not just you. Both of you. So what is the story?"
Joe realized that Dr. Rivera was a man he could trust. He had given much of his life to the study of his people. He was so balanced. He knew that many of his kinsmen had been given a raw deal in the United States. Yet he seemed levelheaded without much anger coming through his words.
As he relaxed in this trust, Joe went ahead and told Dr. Rivera about the car accident, how Liz and himself had met, and how two diary letters had been uncovered in the cracked surface. He explained about the cookie tin cover and how the letters must have been protected in the tin for over fifty years. Liz spoke about her Grandmother and how she connected the diary with the lost community of Chavez Ravine and her own childhood there. Finally, Joe explained how he persuaded Mr. Whitecap to fund the dig at the parking lot site.
Now Dr. Rivera could see the full picture. He understood that any caring, thinking individual would pause to wonder where those letters came from and what motivated the boy to write what he did. The baseball connection would be particularly strong for a professional ball player.
"So Liz, until your Grandma told you her recollections, you did not know about Los Desterrados. Joe, that's 'The Displaced Ones'. Your Grandmother is one of those people. Her memory is very keen. It was not a perfect life that these people once lived in Chavez Ravine. Some were drifters and gang members. Parts of the Ravine hosted undesirables who dwelled in wooden shacks.
"But beyond the outward appearance there was a community. Glued together by a common background, religion, and language these Mexican people found a place where they could live in a relative peace. After a hard day of working in the world of the white man, these folks scraped together to hold on to their dignity and their culture.
"And then it was all taken away. Through lies and deceit, they were coerced to sell their small homes and became scattered throughout Southern California and God knows where else. As your Grandma has told you, a few held on until the coming of the Dodgers. Those last folks were publicly humiliated and then forgotten.
"And then the construction people came. They didn't just smash the rest of the homes and other structures in the Ravine. They moved and leveled entire hills. They piled the dirt throughout the Ravine. They paved over everything. For what? A baseball stadium! But you know, if that was all they built, they could have preserved part of that community. But, the greatest humiliation was the trading of their lives for the soulless parking lot that encircles Dodger Stadium. Acre upon acre of a useless asphalt emptiness.
"Excuse me but for this I am bitter. And you, Joe Shapiro, the star of the Dodgers, you are the one who has stumbled upon the truth of what happened. A chance encounter with Liz. A letter from a long, lost young man. And now, we have the physical evidence of what was once alive under the Dodgers' complex. Lambert has shared with me some of the broken dishes, religious artifacts, and other few remains he has uncovered.
"The question now is what do we do with our find? You and the Dodgers own this place but now we can't turn back. Joe, I am asking you to preserve your archaeological site. I would love to help you. A small fraction of the lot. Can they let that go? Can people be allowed to see the history of the Ravine?"