By: Chris Baldwin
Publication Date: November 1, 2023
Reviewed by: Kathy Stickles
Stand on the Bench, Achilles is a story that takes readers on a journey into the world of baseball during the 1920s as we follow a nonprofessional baseball team on their quest to win a tournament in the post-season. The book, the debut novel from author Chris Baldwin, is one that will be loved by baseball fans everywhere.
This is the story of Tripp Williams, better known as “Zip” on the baseball diamond, who is picked up by an amateur team to help them win. While Tripp is African American, and that would be a huge no-no in the world of baseball at this time in history, his skin is also very light so the manager and the members of the team attempt to pass him off as a different race in order to keep him on the team. While not everyone on the team is happy about this or the changes that their manager, Red, makes to the team overall, they want to win so they do their best to deal with it. In addition, Tripp has to deal with the prejudices that are rampant in society at this time in his own life as well as on the baseball diamond from people who do not believe the story that he is not an African American.
Stand on the Bench, Achilles includes a cast of characters that form a very diverse group of people on one team attempting to pull together as a group to achieve their common goal...having the best baseball season possible and winning a championship. Throughout their season, the men on the team, as well as their manager, must make a lot of sacrifices in order to win and the book truly shows the drive that they each have as well as the difficulties in making tough decisions as they try to be the best team they can be. Of course, baseball as with most other things in life, is something that cannot always be planned out perfectly. Will this team win or will they eventually, no matter how hard they try, be disappointed at the end?
Stand on the Bench, Achilles is an interesting story to read, especially for those of us out there who do not know as much about the sport, as the author does a great job (his love of the game is very apparent) of explaining what is happening on the field as well as in the world around them. I thought that the explanation of the rules of baseball and the depiction of the developing team spirit and friendships among this group of men was shown very well in the book and the author should commend himself for it; I certainly do.
The best part of the story is definitely the development of the characters from beginning to end. The reader really gets to know each of these men as the book moves forward and we are allowed to get into their minds and understand them; what they believe in and what they are striving for. You can feel the strength that they have as they attempt to achieve their goal as well as the nervousness that comes with their position in the game and the fear that they will fail and let down an entire team. A perfect example of that is watching the anxiety spread through Patrick Klee, who is chosen to pitch and is terrified that he will not do well.
Stand on the Bench, Achilles is an interesting and well-written book that will appeal to anyone who enjoys the game of baseball as well as any reader who enjoys historical fiction. There is so much background given about the time period in the story and that makes it all the more interesting. I think that, for a debut novel, Chris Baldwin has hit it out of the park (pardon the pun) and I look forward to seeing what he writes next.
Quill says: While many fiction novels revolving around sports can be boring and too technical, Stand on the Bench, Achilles is a perfect combination of fictional story and sports fact that will keep the reader interested from beginning to end.