by Roger Zotti
Some readers may think Drew Golden’s novel, Stealing First (Legacy Publishing), was written by a man. “A surprise, maybe for you and your readers,” is Drew’s response, “but I am a woman, and my name is one of those gender neutral things, isn’t it?” As for her novel, it’s “about baseball but is also a historical story and that’s what I write—historical fiction that I’m pleased to say is often on best-seller lists.”
Drew continues: “Based on a true story,” the book, “which was fun to write, is the tale of nine rag-tag young white men who form an American Legion baseball team, the Nina Redbirds, in rural Louisiana.” The year is 1957 and when the Redbirds’ coach quits, “the only man who’ll help them is former Negro League pitcher Scoot Groshon,” a World War II veteran and former pitcher for the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs whose promising career was curtailed by an injury.
Though Jackie Robinson of the National League Brooklyn Dodgers and Larry Doby of the American League Cleveland Indians broke the color line in 1947, Drew explains, “Integration still wasn’t part of the lineup in small-town southern baseball in 1957. Groshon isn’t even allowed on the field.” Near the end of the book there occurs what Drew calls “a twist of luck.” The Redbirds “make it to the championship—only to….” Sorry, readers, no spoilers here!
Interestingly, Drew knew little about baseball and had to rely on other people for information—“such as former minor league players here in Asheville and in southern Louisiana.” Also, her sister Joan Golden became involved with the project. A playwright and screenwriter, Joan adapted the book into an award winning screenplay, which “is currently under consideration by two Hollywood producers.”
Never overstated, the book’s big themes are racial segregation, family and friends, sportsmanship (and the lack thereof), loyalty, and dreams. The dream motif reaches its culmination when Ronnie LeBlanc, the main character, who hopes someday “to play big league ball,” says to his father, Guy, “[It’s the] dream that I could have as a memory when I get older.”
Ronnie’s more immediate dream is, however, to pitch for the Redbirds and defeat the Braves in the upcoming regional championship game. After the game, he tells his father, he’ll quit high school and work full time to help support the family. But that’s not enough for Guy, who says, “…sometimes it’s harder to quit dreaming something than it is to keep on dreaming it. Giving up your dream is the mark of an adult, Ron.” Babette, Ronnie’s mother—who once dreamed of becoming a movie star—counters, “…our son should have a chance to do something he wants before he gets to where he does what he has to do and nothing else.”
One of the most memorable ideas in Drew’s fully realized novel is that the final score of a sporting event—in this case an important baseball game—doesn’t always reflect who wins the game. Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites, and in various bookstores, “Stealing First” is written for adults of any age.