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August 30 , 2009

Brittle Innings


For seventeen-year-old Danny Boles, a 5' 5" shortstop out of Tenkiller, Oklahoma, the summer of 1943 would be a season to remember. The country's at war, and professional baseball needs able-bodied men. Danny's headed for Highbridge, Georgia - home of the Goober Pride peanut butter factory and the Highbridge Hellbenders, a Class C farm club in the Chattahoochee Valley League. He's a scrappy player with one minor quirk: a violent encounter on the train to Georgia has rendered him mute, his vocal cords tied up in knots.

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Danny's idiosyncrasy, however, is nothing compared to that of his new Hellbender roommate, an erudite seven-foot giant by the name of Jumbo Hank Clerval. With his yellow eyes, strangely scarred face, and sausage-sized fingers, Hanks seems to have been put together in a meat-packing plant. But he plays a mean first base and can hit the ball a mile. With the Hellbenders in a pennant race as hot as the relentless Georgia sun, the eloquent Clerval forms a special kinship with the speechless kid from Oklahoma. Danny soon realizes that Hank is not an ordinary man but something more complex . . . more mysterious than he'd imagined.

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