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The Outfielder by H. R. Coursen
The novel about a young baseball player classified 4-F during World War II

"The front cover of the novel shows a nondescript right-hand hitter named 'Bucky' Rodgers; the back cover identified him as George Deane Rogers, Jr., baseball card #44, Born: Newark, NJ, March 27, 1920.

"Between covers you'll find a masterful weaving of fact and fiction during the years of World War II. It's a man's love story for his sweetheart, passionate romance with which only youthful love glows. And a man's love for his country.

" 'Bucky' is a Princeton graduate who destroyed ligaments in his right knee on the Tigers' football field. Despite his maneuvers to enlist in the service of his country, his draft board status remains 4-F. He hears 'slacker' and 'draft dodger' often.

"In 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt pronounced: 'I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.' Bucky gets a job loading steel for ammunition ... but he can still play baseball.

"Interspersed are actual newspaper headlines (we didn't watch our wars on TV then). Two hundred major league baseball players are on active duty.

"We do get pictures of the author's collection: Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Babe Ruth, Luke Appling, Bob Feller. We go along with Bucky and his friend Joe Bucknell as they show up to join a semi-pro league on Cape Cod. They are disappointed to find gasoline rationing for the buses has cancelled the deal.

"However, a scout for the great New York Yankees offers the boys a tryout for the Eastern League at Binghampton. The scout says: 'You guys are 4-F and likely to remain so. Show up at the ballpark next Tuesday at 10:00. We'll pay you $3.50 a day for meals and, if we decide to sign you, $120 a month."

"By 1944, the ranks of the majors are so decimated that Bucky is called up to the Newark Bears (you read about them in the Star-Ledger). Ultimately, Bucky becomes a Yankee! And makes good!

"You walk along with Bucky from the Hoboken railroad station across the Hudson on the ferry. "I enjoy the city," he writes in his journal. 'I like the details of it, as Whitman did. No war exists in the Washington Market ... with fish staring from beds of ice, and great rounds of cheese awaiting the sharp division of the knife.'

"He is on his way to meet brunette beauty Millicent, with whom he falls deeply in love, whom he describes as a 'cut above Hedy Lamarr.'

"Bucky and Millicent listen to cast album of 'Oklahoma' (50 years ago debut). They go to Paper Mill Playhouse (remember Frank Carington's star-studded musicals?)

" 'Millie's love for me had only spurred my desire to be the man I wanted to be,' our protagonist says. Bucky removes his leg brace, grimaces with pain and lines up again in Irvington to submit to doctors' arguments and medical advice. Does Bucky get reclassified 1-A? What does Mille think?

"Author H. R. Coursen is a Shakespearean scholar, retired Bowdoin College professor and published poet. As a novelist, he has probably written a very good nostalgic movie. Especially for us in New Jersey." --Betty Mount, Summit Independent

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"... H. R. Coursen examines how players who otherwise wouldn't make the majors replaces the DiMaggios and other stars called to wartime duty. ...

"... In this patriotic time, every man expects to do his duty, and Rogers does not want to sit out the war. He played collegiate baseball, though, and he was good. When a New York Yankees scout invited him in 1942 to try out for that team's Binghamton franchise, Rogers accepted the challenge; now, as World War II grinds to its conclusion, Rogers will don Yankee pinstripes for his first season in the majors.

"...Coursen interspersed The Outfielder with actual headlines published by national newspapers. The headlines remind readers what was happening overseas as well as to baseball. Some well-known names from the sport pop into the pages, too, leading the novel a realistic touch that says, 'Yes, Coursen did his research well.' " --Brian Swartz, Bangor Daily News

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"... Coursen, a distinguished literary scholar, combines his devotion to Shakespeare with his love of baseball to create a hero who recalls several of Shakespeare's young men. ... Hotspur ... Hal and Falstaff ... One thinks too of Hamlet, who abandons Ophelia in his singular pursuit of revenge. Bucky Rogers' vision of himself returning to Millie after the war recalls the victorious Henry V, who woos Princess Katherine after conquering France; and especially the young men who return so joyously to Messina after the wars in the opening scene of Much Ado About Nothing.

 The electrifying interpretation of that scene in Kenneth Branagh's current film version is infused with sexual energy that intensifies an appreciation of the poignancy of Coursen's final chapters, and the book's implied tragic question: Why must men do such things, especially when women such as Coursen's sensitively drawn Millie offer such appealing alternatives? Why, indeed, must young men leave love for war, from which so few return?

"... For a culture as obsessed with sports and violence as ours, Herb Coursen's book is a frightening and necessary parable; like the players in Hamlet, it holds a mirror up to our nature." --Michael Shurgot, Elysians Fields Quarterly

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"The tapestry that George ["Bucky"] weaves quickly becomes a beauty to behold. He captures the wartime era and attitudes without trying to explain everything -- or needing to -- and creates a setting in which the characters move convincingly. Without that setting, the urgency and intensity of the characters would be diminished, and the novel not succeed.

"The events and the characters evoke strong emotions, and the relationship between George and Millicent holds the reader's interest. This piece rings with a true tone: it is not a smooth, syrupy, sappy romance or a one-dimensional sports story, but the convincing tale of a bumpy relationship in turbulent times relayed by a character who's trying to sort out what he thinks and feels. ... Doing what needs to be done is what wins ballgames, and this novel succeeds by doing just that." --Doug Battema, Amherst

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"... A feature of the book is an excellent introduction by Robert W. Creamer, former senior editor of Sports Illustrated and the author of such books as Babe: The Legend Comes to Life and Baseball in '41. He writes: 'Coursen does an extraordinary job of catching the essence of what is was like in wartime for people like his baseball player -- those not actively engaged in fighting or prosecuting the war.'

"The Outfielder is an evocative novel for all those who lived through the '40s.For those who were born in the post-war era when the big bands gave way to rock 'n' roll and baseball players became millionaires, Coursen's novel is a valuable piece of Americana that will give them a deep insight into an earthshaking period of American history. ..." --Jack C. Barnes, Journal Tribune and Maine Sunday Telegram

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The Outfielder, ISBN 0-918606-10-1, $19.95

Order The Outfielder by H. R. Coursen

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