Kimitake, who was renamed by his father with the American name of Clyde was born in 1962, the exact same day that Marilyn Monroe died. His traumatic family life is compounded with jarring moments with friends. As he struggles to understand what is going on around him, he begins to fixate on his connection to Marilyn. Raphael Dweck, born on Yom Kippur, struggles with his own issues of otherness, which grow even worse during a forced trip to Israel. The paths of these characters might seem unlikely to cross, but eventually the streets of Hollywood bring them together.
Clyde’s story open The Death of Baseball and his childhood is examined in vivid detail. His father hates him and his mother is doing her best to provide her son with a loving home. As he finds himself being pushed into situations by a family member that are tremendously inappropriate, things begin to spiral out of his control. Not only that but repressed memories of his father begin to emerge that lead to rage and confusion. Raphael’s story takes up a large portion of the book and delves into not only his own issues, but also portions of political unrest surrounding Israel. After blackmailing his doctor into agreeing to clear him, his family insists that he must go to Israel, which leads to further traumatic loses. In 1982 Clyde and Raphael finally meet after Clyde has become immersed in the idea that he is the reborn Marilyn Monroe. Raphael, who is going by the name Jimmy, wants to make a movie, but as with all of their choices things escalate unexpectedly.
Orlando Ortega-Medina crafts a strong narrative through The Death of Baseball by making detailed backstories for both Clyde and Raphael. The way that their stories are connected, even before they actually meet, surprised me. Ortega-Medina takes the time to think of ways to keep his reader guessing about what is happening in the world surrounding his characters. The psychological elements presented within The Death of Baseball are also complex and if you are looking for a read that is unconventional in a variety of ways you will enjoy this book. I was particularly intrigued by what I am calling the third act of the book where Clyde and Raphael actually find themselves contending with some of their own deep seated issues and traumas, while also having to cope with new issues that arise because they are now acting together. You can purchase your copy of The Death of Baseball today.