In Smackover, young Fielder learns a unique sidearm delivery, later called the Gooseball, from his beloved older brother, Jugs. Fielder, the epitome of the simple country boy, wants nothing more than to pitch in the major leagues. Called up by the Browns to help during the 1941 pennant drive, he is terrified by the pressure, cracks when given his big chance, and retreats from the public eye.
Fielder tries to live an anonymous existence in the army air corps during World War II but is shot down and taken prisoner by the Japanese. He is first confined in a narrow pipe for weeks; then his face is severely damaged by a blow from a rifle butt. Through all his adversity, he continues to see the Japanese as human beings, especially after an admiral takes Fielder in to teach his son how to pitch.
FIELDER’S CHOICE is a first novel by a Lake Charles, Louisiana, attorney who has clearly been influenced by Mark Harris’ Henry Wiggen novels, J.D. Salinger’s THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, and Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE. Like the protagonists of those novels, Fielder is a good soul too unsophisticated for the world’s complexities, especially those of war. Fielder survives because of his good humor and his insight into his many deficiencies. These qualities help maintain the entertainment level of a novel that could easily have been too moralistic.