The Only Ticket Off the Islands


229 pages
ISBN 0-88619-326-5
DDC 796.357'097293





Reviewed by Steven Lehman

Steven Lehman teaches English at John Abbot College in Montreal.


This portrait of baseball in the Dominican Republic is structured around
an inning-by-inning description of one game. As Los Tigres de Licey
battle Los Leones de Escogido, Joyce takes the reader on a tour of the
rural fields, back alleys, and training camps of this island nation. At
first, he focuses on gawky teenage hopefuls, such as aspiring shortstop
Alfredo Arias. The further we go into this particular game, however, the
deeper Joyce delves into the island’s baseball history.

He describes current activities of the Toronto club’s top scout in
Latin America, Epy Guerrero. He discusses current Major League successes
such as Tony Fernandez, George Bell, and Tony Pena, not as
bubble-gum-card heroes but as human beings. Likewise, he represents
individual stars of the recent past in the nostalgic poignancy of their
decline; for example, Damaso Garcia, Rico Carty, and Juan Marichal are
developed with a literary touch, as fully rounded characters. Finally,
Joyce describes his visit with 100-year-old Horacio Martinez: paralyzed
with Parkinson’s disease and unable even to talk, his aged eyes still
shine when he views photographs from his glory days. Throughout the
book, the hustlers and hangers-on of the Dominican baseball carnival
appear and disappear with pathos and charm.

This book is a solid work of sports journalism. It handles serious
economic and social issues with intelligence, balance, and sensitivity.
The writing is clear and graceful, consistently first rate, and Don
Cherry’s buffoonery is fun. But this book also reminds us of sport’s
vital importance in North American culture. Joyce discusses both its
positive and negative potential with an impressive overall vision and a
sharp eye for detail.


Joyce, Gare., “The Only Ticket Off the Islands,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,