Friday, July 31, 2009

Babes, Baseball... and Asperger's Syndrome

from James Grippando

Jackie's off today celebrating her parents 60th--Wow!--wedding anniversary, and I'm filling in from Martha's Vineyard. There's a book festival here this weekend (some might say the island is one continues book festival), so I dragged my family along to be part of it.

Then on Monday I'll be signing books in a most unusual place: McCoy Stadium, the minor league home to the Pawtucket Red Sox ("PawSox"), the triple-A affiliate for the Boston Red Sox.

It's a pretty special ending to a Chevy/Chase Griswold-family-style summer vacation that started in Michigan and wraps up in Rhode Island. And it should be special, because Intent to Kill is a pretty special book for me. Sometimes an idea hits you like lightning. Other times, an idea pecolates around in your head for years. Intent to Kill is one of those long-brewing concepts that eventually shaped itself into the story of a rising baseball star who’s married to the perfect wife—until a tragic accident changes everything. I love baseball, and I’m married to the perfect wife, so much of the research was fun and easy. As a writer, however, I always like to challenge myself, and I especially enjoyed the character of "Babes," a young man with an autism-related disorder.

The character "Babes" in Intent to Kill is based on a real person who I had a special connection with. When I was growing up in Illinois, my godfather and his family were the Grippando family’s closest friends. A young man who everyone called "Junior" lived with them (my godfather’s brother in law). As a boy, of course, I didn’t understand Junior’s condition, but I remember him as a kind and gentle soul who acted more like a child than an adult. Junior was a huge baseball fan, but his poor motor skills meant that he never played sports. He was purely a spectator—and a wealth of baseball trivia. He came to all the Little League games when I was growing up, and we were very fond of him. When I went on to high school, he watched those games, too. Almost inevitably, the high-school kids started to make fun of the grown man who never went anywhere without a baseball mitt and baseball cap, and who wore "high-water pants" that were hemmed way too high above the ankle. The teasing became unbearable, and Junior finally stopped coming.

The next season, I was on the track team, not baseball, but I walked by the baseball field every day on my way to practice. It seemed weird without Junior. As the season wore on, however, I saw Junior return to the stands. Even though some of the jerks still made fun of him, he ignored them. Whenever the home team came up to bat, he would cheer and shout, "Come on Baaabe," or "Let’s go Baaabe." People started calling him "Babes"—though most of them were still snickering behind his back. But he kept coming. One day I was walking toward the track for practice, and the baseball team was playing an important game against a huge conference rival. I didn’t see Babes in the stands. Sadly, I thought maybe all the teasing had finally gotten to him. Then I heard his cheer—"Let’s go Baaaabe"—and I looked across the field. He was on the team’s bench! They had adopted him as their own and invited him to sit with the players. From then on, he was known as "Babes"—with affection, not derision. No sports team ever had a more loyal fan.

Babes is part of an engaging cast of characters in a fast-paced story that I hope will bring you hours of thrills.


  1. Thanks for the background info. It's always more fun when you known about the inspiration behind the words.

    You're in the Vineyard!!!! Me, too. I'm in East Chop, Oak Bluffs. Where are you?

  2. I should have known you'd be in one of the two towns that aren't dry. I'm in Vineyard Haven, home of the "Black Dog" Tavern. Supposedly there is a review of "Intent to Kill" in the Martha's Vineyard Gazette today. I may need to travel over to one of those towns that serve alcohol...depending.

  3. Touching story, well told.

    Looking forward to "Intent to Kill."

    And good to have you back: twice!

  4. Welcome to Rhode Island, Jim. :-D

    Babes is a lovely story, thanks for sharing it. :-D


  5. Ah but in most restaurants you are allowed to BYOB. Whew!