Thursday, March 30, 2023

Opening Day! David A. Kelly's Ballpark Mysteries and 100 Baseball Legends

Kelly, David A. and Meyers, Mark (illustrator)
Ballpark Mysteries #19: The Black Cat Change-Up 
November 14th 2022 by Books Go Social
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Cousins Kate and Mike are back, and this time they are in New York at the Mets stadium with Kate's mother, who is a sports reporter. The team has a big game against the Chicago Cubs, but the Mets pitcher, Cookie Clifford, is spooked. There have been threatening notes and phone calls that a black cat ghost is going to ruin the game! In 1969, is a game between the Mets and the Cubs, a black cat got onto the field, and the Mets lost the game. Kate and Mike want to find out who is behind the threats; even though it's not really a serious issue, it has thrown Cookie off his game. As is their wont, the two check out the locker room and stadium, and share a lot of the history they find along the way, like the fact that the Mets honor Jackie Robinson, even though he was a Dodgers player! They meet a former ball girl who is now working with the equipment manager, Ash Santo. Her grandfather had played with the team, so she had an in. Mike, who is a little spooked by the mascot, Mr. Met, knows that something is up, and when Mr. Met shows up on the field during the game with a back pack, he and Kate are able to avert disaster. Will they also be able to solve the mystery?
Strengths: I learn so much when I read these books, like the fact that ball girls and boys don't travel with the teams. The teams bring along uniforms for the kids working for the home team to wear! I also didn't know that in the 1970s the Mets had Mettle the Mule as their mascot. Kate and Mike get along really well, and the unlimited access they have to the stadiums seems realistic and enviable. What child wouldn't want to meet players and get a good look behind the scenes? The mysteries have enough clues laid out early in the story that a reader who is really trying to solve the mystery has a good chance of doing so. I was a big fan of Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown when I was young, and reading this along with a 2nd or 3rd grader would be a great way to foster critical thinking skills. Meyers' illustrations are fun and help show details of the stadium as well as the players and game. There are lots of humorous moments, and the story moves along quickly. Elementary libraries should definitely have these in prebinds, because they will be in heavy rotation! 
Weaknesses: As an adult, I always want to see the perpetrators brought to justice, but since the "crimes" are never that bad, there's not really a need. 
What I really think: My children devoured books like this in early elementary school: Baily School Kids, A to Z Mysteries, Magic Treehouse, and the like. This series is perfect for readers beginning to enjoy chapter books and who want to revisit their favorite characters again and again. I am a little concerned that Random House doesn't seem to be publishing the books any more, which seems like a bad decision, since so many young readers are invested in sports and love to see sports stories, especially when they have Dugout Notes about different stadiums. 

Roberts, Russell and Galv√£o,Ricardo (illus.)
100 Baseball Legends Who Shaped Sports History: A Sports Biography Book for Kids and Teens (100 Series)
Copy provided by the publisher

Baseball has been around for a really, really long time. I'm still astonished that Babe Ruth played his last game in 1938! The other thing that surprises me is that my students who love baseball really enjoyo delving into the history of the game, whereas football and basketball fans are more interested in modern players. A surprisingly popular book has been Game Faces: Early Baseball Cards from the Library of Congress that I bought after conferring with some of my fans. This well thought out overview of players who shaped the game will be a big hit.

Each player, listed in order of birth, is given a good overview of his career, descriptions of what made their time in the game noteworthy, and ends with other things that happened in the person's life. It's amazing how many players had amusing nicknames, how many went on to manage or report on baseball, and also, sadly, how many had problems with alcohol and died a bit young. I had fully intended just to skim the articles but got sucked in by all the interesting details. I learned a lot, including the fact that the Cincinnati Reds have been around since 1881, and were a stopping place for many players, if only briefly. 

The author note about which players were chosen was interesting; Pete Rose is included, even though he has had issues over the years. Did he shape sports history? Absolutley! Derek Jeter is the youngest player mentioned, and while I haven't had a chance to look at the 2003 edition of this book, I imagine the last few listings are updated from the first book. 

Many are familiar; Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner, Don Drysdale, Johnny Bench. There were lots of players I'd never heard of, though, like Harmon Killbrew, Pepper Martin, Warren Spahn, and Mike Schmidt. There are also a lot of ball players, like Schmidt, who were born in Ohio! While I would have liked to see photographs of the players, or even images of a baseball card from their career, I imagine that getting permission to use these images is hard to do. 

The only downside of this book is that the print is a bit on the small side, and there is not a bibliography. I'm sure that a bibliography would be exceedingly long for 100 people, but I'd still like to see selected sources mentioned. 

Collective biographies are useful in so many ways. They are great starting points for research projects, fun to dip into for pleasure reading, and make a great place for avid fans to start memorizing all the facts about every ball player they can think of! This would make a great gift for fans of Gutman's Baseball Card Adventures because it would offer more information about characters who appear in that classic baseball series. 

1 comment:

  1. Baseball has a fascinating history filled with larger-than-life characters and I'm glad you told me about this book. PS--Harmon Killibrew played for the Charlotte minor league team back in the day.