Henry Waugh runs a fantasy baseball game rich with history and interesting, if imaginary, personalities as a way to distract himself from his crummy life. Henry has a dead-end job as an accountant and spends his evenings getting drunk at a local bar, occasionally sleeping with a bar girl to pass the time.
His real interest lies in the baseball league that he created, which he operates based on an elaborate set of rules, each play determined by a roll of the dice. He has invented personalities for each player, even family histories, and tracks their statistics from one season to the next. When the novel begins, his league is in its 56th season.
Until one night, when the dice bring up a very rare play: fatal beanball. And it happens when Henry's favorite player, Damon Rutherford, is at bat. Henry is torn over his role as the "god" of the league. He considers interfering with the outcome, by skipping that roll of the dice or re-rolling. But in the end, he lets the result stand, brokenhearted over the death of his young star.
In his real life, Henry reaches out to Lou, a dimwitted coworker, trying to show him the game. Henry is lonely and looking for someone to share the league (and any sort of social contact) with. But Lou doesn't understand the league's importance to Henry, dismissing it as just a dumb game.
After Lou leaves, an upset Henry continues the game they had begun. Soon Jock Casey, the pitcher who killed Rutherford, is on the mound again. Henry considers his options and interferes in the game, deliberately setting down the dice in the same pattern as before, killing Casey.
The final chapter is told from the perspective of the players in Henry's game, as they gather a year later to re-enact the fateful day that a player who killed another was himself killed. One of the players considers the possibility of a higher power influencing the world that they live and play baseball in. After the re-enactment, the next game continues.
Best part of story, including ending:
The metafictional conceit of the novel, where the characters invented by a fictional character themselves take on life, makes you re-evaluate your own position as a reader of fictional events and characters, and reconsider notions of religion and free will in our own world.
Best scene in story:
The final scene, told from the perspective of the players in a baseball league that the reader knows is totally and completely made-up is an incredible twist. To read a realistic description of what these "people" are thinking and doing, while simultaneously balancing the knowledge that they are not real, not even within the "reality" of the novel, is unlike any other book.
Opinion about the main character:
Henry is not very likable. Not only does he apparently have no real friends and spends all his time locked up in his apartment, poring over stat sheets for nonexistent baseball players, but he's in late middle age, meaning he's wasted his whole life doing this.