Monday, April 13, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I heard on the radio today that it was baseball's opening day in Washington, D.C. A little research informed me that the Tigers had their opening day last Friday. It seemed like a good time to talk about baseball.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't know much about baseball and most of the time care even less. I did see the Mets play at Shea Stadium in the very early 1970's and I went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium about four years later. That is all that I remember about those games except for the relief of the seventh inning stretch.

That said you can imagine that I don't read a lot of books about baseball. But wait--I have some baseball books that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Just last night I finished The Desperado Who Stole Baseball by John H. Ritter. Mix together the Wild West, Billy the Kid, and some baseball excitement and you have a pretty good story. Jack is an orphaned boy who sets off to find his uncle Long John Dillon who has made a fortune in gold mining and baseball. Along the way, Jack meets Bill Bonney, a.k.a Billy the Kid. Jack tells lots of tall tales to make himself sound brave and smart, but Billy takes him on anyway, mostly to provide a bit of a distraction to those who are hunting for the famous desperado. Together Billy and Jack make it to Dillontown just in time for a big game with the National League Champion Chicago White Stockings. The year is 1881.) There are many twists and turns in this story. The desperado is not who you might thinking it will be. Uncle Long John Dillon isn't who Jack expected either. The book's afterward includes notes that separate fact from fiction. This is a prequel to The Boy Who Saved Baseball which I think I will have to read soon. Our library has two more baseball books by John H. Ritter that probably deserve a look as well. These books are aimed at grades three or four to six, but can be enjoyed by older readers, too.

My favorite baseball books, however, are in the Baseball Card Adventures series by Dan Gutman. Joe, the protagonist in these books, has discovered that baseball cards are magical in his hands--they have the power to transport him back in time to meet the player on the card. Time travel is a favorite topic for me so that drew me into the series. It is the history and the adventure that keep me reading. The first I read was Shoeless Joe and Me. Remember, I know very little about baseball so I had never heard about the scandal that surrounds Shoeless Joe. I also did not know that Shoeless Joe could not write so one of his painfully scribbled signatures is very rare and very valuable. The book includes information on all of this as well as the influenza epidemic which was a part of life in 1919. The adventure filled story ends with a moral decision that I have thought about many times since reading the book. There are many other titles in this series including ones about Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Honus Wagner, Abner Doubleday, Satchel Paige, Jim Thorpe, and Ray Chapman. If baseball is not your cup of tea, try other titles by Gutman such as the popular The Kid Who Ran for President, the My Weird School series, and various titles about sports, school, elections, and more. Dan Gutman is a school-wide and interest-wide favorite at Emerson. Most of his books are directed at upper elementary level readers.

Step up to the plate and try some good baseball novels.

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