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Steve Hermanos
Going, Going, Gone!

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

The quest: write the most exciting baseball novel ever.

Description: An earthquake decimates San Francisco’s baseball stadium. Two players and their manager are trapped. With water rising, the trio crawls through a gash in the wall. Naked and penniless, they climb through the muck onto shore. Downtown San Francisco is on fire. They can not find their stadium, or any new buildings, or the parking lot with their fancy cars. No one has a cell phone to call for help. André Velez, the self-absorbed superstar; Johnny Blent, the faithful-to-his-wife rookie infielder; and their baseball-is-life manager, Bucky Martin, have been transported through time into the 1906 earthquake. Can they figure out what happened? Or how to get back to their 21st-century lives? In a world without television cameras, social media, or Sabermetrics, the players make money the only way they know how. But the 1906 they’re inhabiting isn’t one from our history books. Soon, the three find themselves part of an international baseball challenge against the rump remnant of the Confederacy and its all-star team, featuring Walter Johnson, Martín Dihigo, Ty Cobb, and Ty’s murderous, menacing baseball brothers.

In this charming swing for the fences, Hermanos explores the ultimate fantasy-league puzzler: how would today’s highly professionalized baseball stars fare against the game’s scrappy earlier players? And what could they learn from each other? Going, Going, Gone opens with rousing recounts of a pair of (fictional) Giants/Yankees World Series games, with Hermanos nailing, in crackling prose, the action on the field and in the locker rooms as Giants players Johnny Blent, a rookie, clashes with star first baseman André Velez, a prima donna who, rather than fly with the team, favors a private jet, complete with masseuse. A post-game San Francisco earthquake upends everything, though, somehow flinging Blent, Velez, and manager Bucky Martin back to the era of another epochal S.F. catastrophe: 1906.

After failing to dig up the “wormhole” the trio believes they fell through, Martin gets the players to get back to what they do best: playing ball, in the “dead-ball” era, first for the St. Louis Cardinals and then for other, increasingly unexpected teams, as the novel playfully establishes witty alt-history surprises. Hermanos contrasts present and past in lively, exciting scenes. The novel’s heart—it’s got heaps—is in how the game changes these men, and how they change the game, as they subsist on meager wages, and face spitballs, scratchy underpants, and Ty Cobb himself. The history is rich and the pacing quick, with scenes driven by sharp dialogue that blends contemporary profanity with old-time decorum—and occasional reminders of the past's racial viciousness.

Hermanos wisely doesn’t shy away from issues of race—the mixed-race Velez pretends to be Native American to play—but the novel, as it charts the men’s new careers and relationships, tends toward the upbeat, the love of the game, and the learning of lessons about past and present, our ancestors and ourselves. The baseball action is clear enough for casual fans but sufficiently detailed to appeal to the Bill James set.

Takeaway: Today’s MLB players strive to make it in 1906 in this rousing sports time-travel epic.

Great for fans of: Michael Shaara’s For Love of the Game, Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2022

Going, Going, Gone! was annointed one of the Best Books of 2022 by Kirkus Reviews.