Coming-of-age story captures civil rights and anti-war tensions of the ’60s
“Fielder’s Choice,” written by Alabama attorney Mark Hart, is a coming-of-age novel about a high school senior from a traditional American family who is forced to confront the divisive issues of racial integration in the Deep South and the escalating war in Vietnam.
Set in the author’s hometown of working-class Birmingham, Ala., “Fielder’s Choice” is a dramatic and deeply personal tale which accurately captures and depicts the social, moral and economic conflicts among the people at the time.
It’s the spring of 1969 and 18-year-old Brad Williams’ working-class father expects him to start earning money immediately after graduating high school. He desperately wants to get a baseball scholarship to college to avoid the life of drudgery and desperation he sees with a father who slaves away in the steel mills.
His chances for a scholarship are threatened when a talented black student is transferred into his school and is given his position as shortstop. Racial tensions intensify when black families try to move into the neighborhood. He falls in love with the girl of his dreams, but the possibility of getting a low number in the new lottery system could draft him into the Vietnam War.
He is forced to make choices that have serious consequences. He befriends his new black teammate, but is taunted by a bully and confronted by bigots. While recognizing that property values could decline if blacks move in, he disagrees with his father’s methods of keeping them out. He becomes involved in an antiwar movement, losing support from his coach and alienating his girlfriend.
Hart’s portrayal of the growth and development of a young man facing these challenging and difficult times is more sympathetic than judgmental. His story is a microcosm of the conflicts in those times.