Book Reviews

Book Review: Chasing Ghosts of Legends Past by Roland Colton

Watching modern baseball games, before the pitch clock was started, there would be time between pitches when announcers would discuss other aspects of the game. One ongoing topic that popped up from time to time is how some of the legendary players of the game would fare against modern players, especially modern pitching. Author Roland Colton took that a step further with a trilogy of books titled Baseball Immortal. In this series, he brings famed player Ty Cobb forward in history about 100 years to see how he would fare.

In the first book, The Second Coming of Ty Cobb, Colton set up the idea that Ty Cobb is in an accident and wakes up 100 years later. Or is it him? Befriended by journalist Savannah Cain, she starts to dig and wonders if the second coming of Cobb is actually a college sensation who disappeared. The book ended with a bit of a cliffhanger as “Ty Cobb” was released by the Atlanta Braves and ended up in a mental institution.

Chasing Ghosts of Legends Past picks up right where that one left off. Savannah finds out where Ty is being held and gets him sprung pretty quickly. With the help of her brother, Calvin, they manage to get him a second chance with the Braves, provided Calvin takes over the position of manager. The book spends a lot of time with Ty trying to make up for what a jerk he was in the previous book. He’s learning to adapt to this era where things are very different than what he remembers. Savannah finds herself falling for him, even as Ty laments missing his wife and children from an earlier time.

On the field, it’s Ty having success after success. I’m not sure how realistic that is, except for his baserunning. The excitement Colton describes when Ty is on base seems similar to how this current season is playing out with pitchers limited to how many times they can throw to a base and hold the runner on. This part is strictly for fans of the game as I doubt anyone unfamiliar with baseball will be able to understand all of the ins and outs of the game, and there are a lot of them. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend this series at all to anyone who doesn’t have a strong grasp of baseball.

Ty seems to be adapting all too well to the rules of today. If there’s one major complaint I have in this story is he’s too consistently the hero. He seems to be able to hit against everyone with ease and always gets the timely hit or makes the important play to be the hero. I have to wonder if the rest of the team is just there because he can’t play every position. When there’s a crisis with pitching, Calvin decides to insert himself as pitcher as he tries to reach the mythic 300-win club. To be fair, Calvin seems to know when he has it and when he doesn’t so he removes himself from games rather than stroking his own ego ahead of the team.

I rated this 3 stars, largely due to a sequence in the middle of the book where Savannah is covering a golf tournament. I don’t like golf, have no interest or real knowledge of golf, and yet I had to read page after page of details about golf that I really didn’t understand. I think it was due to Savannah following a golf sensation that reminded her of Cobb and possibly be a competition for Savannah’s affections, but I really didn’t need that whole interlude and detail to set that up. It took away from a book about baseball to be so immersed in golf, especially if you love baseball and have no interest in golf.

Going into the final book of the series, I have to wonder if it’s because he’s not really Ty Cobb, but Chase Ripley, the college sensation who disappeared off the face of the earth. If this is what readers are being led to, it would make sense for him to adapt to current pitchers with ease, although it doesn’t explain the amazing abilities he shows that didn’t seem to be a part of Ripley’s game. Ripley, though, did have an overbearing father who worshipped Cobb, so was this a psychological leap after his father died?

I found Chasing Ghosts of Legends Past to be a good read as a baseball fan, but the dominance of Cobb in this era bothered me a bit and felt less than realistic. Who knows, though? When you’re imagining what it would be like if a player from 100 years ago was playing today, anything is possible.

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