St. Louis, 1922. Babe Ruth reigns as the king of baseball. Mickey Rawlings is no king, not even a prince, but he is at least in the peerage: a utility infielder for the St. Louis Browns. This season, though, there’s more than baseball on his mind. A man has been murdered, and his death may plunge the city into bedlam. The story started when Rawlings, desperate for a chance to play baseball instead of sitting in the dugout, accepted an intriguing offer to play one game between two local clubs -- one of them being part of the Negro Leagues. Professional white ball players are forbidden from taking the field with black players by MLB management, and Mickey was eager to test his skills against such obvious talent. Crawford pitched magnificently, humbling the opposition, and then – days later – he was found lynched, hanging from the stadium’s walls. There had been a fistfight at the game, and members of the Klan hovered about, but – would anyone murder for a baseball game? With little else to do on the bench, Rawlings digs for answers. His search casts a light on the simmering racial tensions in Missouri, the widespread influence of the Midwest Ku Ku Klux, and a prenatal Civil Rights movement.
Hanging Curve is one of the most interesting mysteries I've ever read, with a setting that invokes both warm, sentimental nostalgia for the lovely game of baseball and the sad reality of racial tension in America. Consider: the St. Louis Browns, who played in a city a stone's throw from Ferguson, are these days better known as the Baltimore Orioles. But as Rawlings discovers in Hanging Curve, there is more to social dramas both in our day and in his than mere racism. Rawlings was able to tease out the truth, but will we?