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Photograph by Frank Ockenfels/AMC; cover art by Christopher Brand, courtesy of Random House
Having covered St. Louis sports for years, Joseph Schuster realizes not every story ends like the Cardinals’ storybook 2011 season. Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that Schuster’s new novel, The Might Have Been, centers around a one-time Redbird who becomes a minor-league manager after his career is derailed. It’s a book that Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Richard Russo has said is “destined to join the ranks of transcendent baseball novels.” Yet Schuster believes it’s about far more than a game.
What spurred you to write about the minors? In 2001, a sentence occurred to me, something like: “The year everything came together for him, he was 24.” I thought, “What kind of person might that be?” … Eventually, I envisioned this guy in the minor leagues.
What’s the typical player’s reaction after only a short stint in the majors? A lot of them have a healthy response…but there are some who really get caught… I thought there was something sad and tragic about that inability to let go when the game is telling you that you need to let go.
The book seems to be as much about missed opportunities as baseball. I don’t think of it as a baseball novel. It’s about a guy who makes choices in his life, and those choices just happen to center around the world of baseball.
Schuster visits Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid, on March 20 at 7 p.m.