Fantastic 10!

19-Jun-2015 There have been numerous books written about baseball cards. Most are mundane volumes about collecting and trading them, but there also is a series of juvenile adventures in which a boy is magically transported through his cards back to the eras of various famous players. Santa Barbara author Ken Berris puts another imaginative twist on the subject in his novel Wild Cards. It is about a boy who has 10 cards that miraculously materialize into legendary players, each at the peak of his career. They form a team, the Wild Cards, that will play the Major League All-Stars in a showdown between the beatified past and the complicated present.

Berris chooses an interesting assortment of players to bring back to life: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Christy Mathewson, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente, Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson, and Satchel Paige. Each of their stories, marked by a hardship of one sort or another, is retold in chapters throughout the book.

Wild Cards is drenched with ruminations about mortality, religion, spirituality, and the possibility of a bodily afterlife. In their temporary reincarnation, the baseball legends wax eloquent about the meaning of life. “The only real reason for living,” Robinson says, “is to help make the universe better.” Cobb, who had a reputation as a racist, has an initially brittle relationship with his black teammates and Thorpe, a Native American, but even he comes around. “We are now rebuilt from scratch for a higher purpose,” he says. There are some villains in the book, and Cobb’s bellicosity comes in handy as a way to deal with them.

Berris will appear at a book-signing at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24.

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