Read All About
It! is a
collection of 50 read-aloud stories for preteens and
teens, with commentary and introductions by Jim Trelease,
including an award-winning selection of his own work
included below. ($15.00) Penguin Books, wherever books
are sold or from Jim Trelease.
here is an old
cliché that calls
baseball a "game of inches." Playing it as
a child, covering it as a sportswriter, and watching
it as a fan, I had given the phrase only cursory attention
and then only as it applied to what happened on the field.
I knew the stories about the perfect symmetry of the
game, how much it would have changed the game if the
distance between the bases had not been ninety feet,
that the sixty feet, six inches to the pitcher's mound
could not be changed by even an inch without dramatically
changing the relationship between pitcher and hitter.
Then one day I took my son to Fenway
Park in Boston for his first major-league game. That
day, I lived the cliché. I can tell you firsthand:
It is a game of inches. In fact, that day I was willing
to expand the expression to "Life is a game of inches."
But I also
learned that day, if I had not known it before, that
baseball is just a game. There are more important things
on a sunny day.
When we returned
home after the game, I went immediately to a typewriter
and wrote this story. I had started in the newspaper
business almost twenty years earlier as a sportswriter
but had left that department after a few years to become
the paper's staff artist and editorial cartoonist.
I continued to, however, to write feature stories as
I came across them. In 1980, this was the only story
I wrote. It won the New England Associated Press features
award that year and brought me more mail and phone
calls than anything I ever wrote until The
Trip to Fenway Drives Home Truth—
Right Off the Bat
by Jim Trelease (copyright
1983, 1993, 2007)
e waited until the boy was fully awake. He sat on his
bed in the morning and savored the look on the child's
face when he told him they were going to Fenway Park.
had waited until his son was ten, waited until he was
sure he would understand the game, appreciate the beauty
of Fenway in the spring. He waited for the right day,
a sunny day game in the middle of a vacation week,
a game minus the weekend drunks. He wanted the boy's
first game to be perfect.
He wanted it to be better than his
own first game—a hot afternoon at Yankee Stadium
in 1950 with the sun in his eyes and the players too
The boy had his mother's eyes and
good looks, his father's sensitivities; he was laugher
and a worrier—sometimes in the same hour. He liked
sports. He didn't love them; just liked them. And that
was fine with his father because that's the way he felt,
This day at Fenway would be special.
But this day! This would be a special
one. This would be a day the two of them could treasure
all their lives. The boy's first day at Fenway—the
day they'd both waited so long for.
down the Pike, the father detailing the history of
Fenway and its uniqueness in sports, the boy testing
their borrowed binoculars on road signs and a solitary
cloud over Framingham.
They parked in the Grove Street MBTA
lot and rode the trolley into town. "A lot quieter
than a subway, huh, Dad?" the boy commented. And
the man silently recalled how he and his father had ridden
the noisy and frightening New York subway up to the Bronx
for that first game together and that of all the memories
from that day, the only pleasurable one was the security
he felt with the closeness of his father in the subway.
'Got the split end of the bat in the face'
father and son arrived by the second inning, took a
chance at the reserved seat ticket window and were
rewarded with a pair of lower box seats next to the
Red Sox on-deck circle. The father could not believe
his good fortune.
The boy sat
in the second row and stared in disbelieve at the great
green wall in left and the white double-knit uniforms
just a few feet away from him.
And the father
watched him and felt his heart bursting with joy. If
there were a way, he thought, to capture even a part
of this day and put it in a bottle, it would glow forever.
They did all
the things the man had planned: Fenway franks, ice
cream sandwiches, how to read the scoreboard, crowd
watching, foul ball chasing, and cheering for Yaz.
This is what
life is all about, the father thought. A boy and his
dad and baseball. Nothing beats it!
With the Sox
ahead 9-2 in the ninth, the stands began to empty.
But these two didn't leave. Here was a day to be savored
until the very end.
"Wait here," the father said. "Even if the
game ends—just stay in your seat. I'll be right back."
The concession was closed and in minutes
the father was struggling against the exiting crowd to
return to his seat. And then suddenly the crowd wasn't
pushing any more. It was standing still. Then leaning.
The aisle was clogged. The father couldn't see the box
seat section. He stood on his toes and peered over the
shoulders. There—there were the two women from
the adjacent box. But the boy was missing.
wrong down on the field. Play had stopped. There were
ushers congesting the aisle.
The father felt his legs go weak and
his hands tremble. He remembered the woman advising him
and his son that "you've really got to watch yourself
with the foul tips when you're sitting in these box seats." Somehow
he fought his way down the aisle. There was no sign of
the boy. Everyone was bent toward the steps where the
ushers were ministering to a boy.
"Got the split end of the bat
in the face," the father heard someone say over
"Is . . . is that my son?" he
asked aloud to the stranger. "Is it my son?"
He knelt on
the blood-smeared cement steps and peered through at
the body that was face down in the spot where he'd
left his son minutes before. The jacket was the same
color as his son's.
A tiny figure in the front row
But the collar—it
was different. It's not him! he told himself. It can't
be. This couldn't happen. It happens to other people,
not to us, he thought.
He was shaken
with doubts. What if they'd placed someone else's jacket
around the boy. Still on his knees, he reached through
the ushers' legs and gently touched the boy's hair.
Was it the hair he'd tousled and caressed so many thousands
of times? He couldn't be sure or wouldn't allow himself
to be sure.
His hands were
shaking as he turned back the coat's sheepskin collar
and saw the red shirt beneath. His son had been wearing
He stood up quickly, his face hot,
his voice trembling, "Where's my son?" he asked
the woman who had warned them. Together they scanned
the crowd and finally came to a tiny figure in the front
row—alone in the seats that had been vacated by
the helpers and voyeurs.
He was standing
stiffly, facing centerfield, both hands covering his
was all different. A father and son held each other
in the lengthening shadows of a Fenway afternoon. It
was a moment they would remember for a long time.
will remember the long ride home and what they talked
about. How the splintered bat had spun into the stands,
glanced off the spectator across the aisle and bounced
off the shoulder of his son.
Yes, they talked
about the game, Yaz's hits and how much Fred Lynn looked
like Willie Wonka on TV. But always they came back
to what was important: not a game or runs or hot dogs
but that they were together, alive and well, and that
they loved each other. That is what life is all about,
thought the father. And he prayed silently that they
both always would remember their first game together
and the lesson it carried.
A few days after the article
appeared, my old college friend Dick Bresciani, then
community-relations director for the Red Sox,
sent word that the youngster who had been struck by the
bat had recovered and was OK.
HAVE YOU READ . . . ?
field mishaps at the ball park can be as common as
on-the-field errors and ministering to the medical
needs of sports fans is often as nerve-wracking as
a pennant race, according to the Wall
Street Journal's July 15, 1992 front page story, "It's a Bloody Business
Being a Baseball Fan; Ask Mr. Giampietro" by Timothy
Smith. (Back issues of the Journal can found in your
local library's reference room.)
If you're a fan—be
it of actors, musicians, or athletes, you'll enjoy "The
Andy Strasberg Story" by Mike Bryan, found in Read
All About It! In my opinion, it is the greatest fan story
of all time: the true account of the relationship between
an eight-year-old kid in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium
and Roger Maris, the man who broke Babe Ruth's sixty-homers
record, a relationship that stretched beyond the ballpark,
even beyond the grave!
From the late
1930s through the 1950s, the best American writer of
teen sports novels was John R.
Tunis. Old Joe Kennedy
used to threaten the young future president Jack Kennedy
that if he didn't stop misbehaving in school he wouldn't
let him read the next Tunis book. Many of his books
are still relevant and back in print, including: All-American;
Champion's Choice; City for Lincoln; The Iron Duke
and The Duke Decides; Keystone Kids; The Kid Comes
Back; The Kid from Tomkinsville; Rookie of the Year;
Schoolboy Johnson; and World Series.
The most widely
praised teenage sports novel in the last twenty-five
years is Bob Lipsyte's boxing book The
a list of 20 excellent sports picture books, see the
list here at Picture-Sports.
Also, should you encounter that special child (between
gr. 4-8) who cannot get enough baseball, check out Hey
Batta Batta Swing! The award-winning illustrator
Kadir Nelson offers a brilliant overview
of the Negro Leagues in his oversized picture book, We
Are the Ship(Hyperion
2008). Nelson builds the book on a narrative
recited by a fictional veteran of those leagues, telling
the history in a witty, insightful vernacular that brings
those bygone days to vivid life. Furthermore, to call
the art in the book "illustrations" is an insult to fine
art. It's a perfect compliment to Alfred Slote's middle-grade
Some of today's most popular
sports novelists include :
readers, Dan Gutman and his series of baseball
novels built around time-traveling baseball cards;
titles include: Mickey & Me; Abner & Me;
Babe & Me;
Satch & Me;
Jackie & Me; and Shoeless Joe & Me.
Also by Gutman, a clever picture book Casey Back
For older readers, Thomas
J. Dygard: Forward
Pass; Halfback Tough; Outside Shooter; Point Spread;
Quarterback Walk-On; Rebound Caper; The Rookie Arrives;and Winning
Kicker; Jerry Spinelli: Maniac
Magee; and Crash; Carl
the Devil's Court; and Heart
of a Champion; and Will
Weaver: Striking Out; Farm Team;
and Hard Ball.
the best pieces I've ever read about a baseball
fan is Steve
in the Los Angeles Times about one female
reader who sent him an email challenging his diamond
wisdom, especially when it came to the Dodgers. When
he emailed her back, he discovered one of the game's
most unconventional but rabid fans—that is, if she
was for real. After all, she could be a colossal put-on.
So he decided to track her down. Covering a Lakers
game in Texas, he drove the 85 miles from Houston to
rural Anderson, Texas, and found a decaying shack
housing a devoted mother and an 87-pound cerebral palsy
victim in a wheelchair who typed with her forehead—for
hours at a time. His
celebrated column on Sarah Morris can
be found online at Sarah
Column; Plaschke can he heard describing his
meeting with Sarah for NPR's "Only
a Game" at Plaschke
Interview. Sarah's own description of her struggle
can be found at My
search this site, use the Google search
engine to the left. You can also consult the Site
Contents page. Occasionally Google reports
older, out-of-date pages ("404
Error") which can usually be found using
Archives (pasting the missing URL
the "WayBackMachine" space).
COPYRIGHT NOTICE Trelease on Reading is copyright 2006,
2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 by Jim Trelease and Reading Tree
All rights reserved. Any problems
or queries about this site should be directed
Reading Tree Webmaster