RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Baseball's all-star game started out as Barry Bonds Night: cheers from home-team fans there in San Francisco and a near home run. But the night quickly went to others. The Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki made all-star history with the first inside-the-park home run. In the end, the game turned into a fan's dream. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, down just one run, the National League had a chance to turn the game around. Then American League pitcher Francisco Rodriguez sealed the deal for the American League win of the all-star game, 5 to 4.
JOHN YDSTIE, host:
We're going to turn now to another baseball story, this one told by commentator Frank Deford in his new novel. It's called "The Entitled" and it's the story of Jay Alcazar, a power-hitter for the Cleveland Indians, and his manager Howie Traveler, who is dazzled by his star player's enormous talents.
Mr. FRANK DEFORD (Author, "The Entitled"): (Reading) One evening early in the season as Alcazar laced pitch after pitch - oh so graceful, oh so absolutely perfect of motion - Howie jumped up in the dugout and dipped at his knees, swinging his right arm back behind him. What's that? What's that called? He asked of the assembled members of the diamond press.
(Reading) What's what called, Howie? You know, like in the Olympics, the Frisbee-type thing, the famous sculpture. The discus throw, one of the more learned writers said. Right, I'm telling you if the guy who made that statue, if he were around today, he wouldn't do the discus thrower, he'd do Jay Alcazar swinging a baseball bat because that's the prettiest thing in all of the world.
YDSTIE: That's Frank Deford reading from his new novel, "The Entitled." The plot turns when Jay Alcazar is accused of rape and his manager is faced with a decision that could end both their careers.
Frank Deford, welcome.
Mr. DEFORD: Thank you very much. It's nice to be with you, John.
YDSTIE: Frank, let's start with manager Howie Traveler. Obviously a baseball character for whom you've got a lot of sympathy, someone who really loves the game.
Mr. DEFORD: He's the soul of baseball. The guy who couldn't make the grade himself as a player, but has plugged the way and loves the game probably more than anybody. And Howie has given up a lot of his personal life chasing a baseball dream. And finally now at the end of his career he's gotten to be the manager of a Major League team.
YDSTIE: You know, it's interesting that you seem to suggest that the people who love the game the most are not those most skilled at it.
Mr. DEFORD: I think that's true. I think if you're really good at something, you don't stop to think of why you are. It's probably why good players - and this is true in all sports - so seldom make good managers or coaches, because they can't describe what it is that they're doing. It just comes so easily to them.
YDSTIE: Howie's job is to manage this wonderful athlete, Jay Alcazar. Describe Jay for us.
Mr. DEFORD: Jay is the classic American superstar. He is the title character. He is the entitled. But beyond that Jay Alcazar is attractive. He's smart. He is a Cuban-American. He comes from a very interesting background. He's a bright guy.
YDSTIE: You know, the tension in the book really is whether Howie, the manager, is going to go to the police to report what he saw happen between Alcazar and this woman who's accused him. It's not a definitive scene but enough to trouble Howie. Tell us a little bit about that.
Mr. DEFORD: Well, Howie comes back to his hotel - I'm not giving anything away, by the way, because this happens in the very first chapter. I set it up. Howie comes back to his hotel room, and as he is heading to his room, the door opens in the corridor there to Jay Alcazar's room and he glances in and sees a woman trying to get away from Alcazar. He grabs her, slams the door shut and Howie is left. He has seen this moment. And the next morning he hears that the woman has accused Jay of rape.
And so Howie hasn't seen anything definitive, but he's seen enough to be very, very worried. And the question is will he go to the cops, because he knows that that - well, it could be his career and Jay's career and Jay's life as a free man, potentially.
YDSTIE: As I was reading these two versions of what happened between Jay Alcazar and this woman, it occurred to me that they both may be true. They could be true simultaneously.
Mr. DEFORD: I think that's a possibility. Remember the Japanese movie "Rashomon"?
Mr. DEFORD: In which the same incident is told from the points of view of several people. And yes, I think that's often the case in date rape in our society, where both principles who think that they're right. But it is also true that we know that athletes today in this society, because they do feel entitled, they tend so very often to be involved not only with sexual assault on women but with outright brutality toward women.
I think that athletes today feel that of all the perks, women come number one. And it's largely because so few people, so few women say no to these guys.
YDSTIE: Ultimately, you end up with a pretty sympathetic portrait of Jay Alcazar. And I wonder what kind of response you're getting from women readers about that.
Mr. DEFORD: What I'm getting is, generally speaking, people are as unsure as I am as to the outcome. And I do want you to be sympathetic to Jay and I also want you to be sympathetic to the woman, Patricia. You do want to believe both of these people because that's so often the case in these matters.
YDSTIE: Let me ask you this, Frank, you're kind hard on the sports writing profession in the book and yet you're still a sportswriter…
Mr. DEFORD: Yeah.
YDSTIE: …after all these years. And obviously when you take a look at this book, a very skilled piece of work, you could be writing about anything you want. Why do you stay with sports?
Mr. DEFORD: That's a good question. And actually, John, in the past I have used my novels to get outside of sports. And I guess I come back to sports because there's a little dirty secret that we sportswriters know: it's the easiest thing to write about and I guess the most fun to write about. Sports is - every day there is winners and losers, and there is drama, and there is joy, and there is glamour. And the guys playing it are young and so lots of times they say all the wrong things. They're not quite as schooled as politicians.
And so even though I never set out to be a sportswriter, I guess I ended up as one and have enjoyed it very much. And I think you can, without getting too deep, I think that you can use sports to tell larger lessons.
YDSTIE: Frank Deford, thanks for joining us.
Mr. DEFORD: Oh, thank you so very much, John.
YDSTIE: Frank Deford's new novel is called "The Entitled." You can hear and read excerpts at npr.org.
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YDSTIE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
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