Authors: Dan Gutman
A Baseball Card Adventure
Dedicated to Stephen Fraser,
Elise Howard, and all the folks
at HarperCollins Children's Books
My Good Friend Bobby Fuller
The Guy Who Invented Baseball (Maybe)
Mom and Uncle Wilbur
A Horrible Symphony
Dinner at Gettysburg
Poppycock and Flapdoodle
Rules Are Rules
When Joey Comes Marching Home
A Silly Baseball Game
This book contains more violent scenes than my previous books. It may not be suitable for younger readers.
HEY, WHAT'S UP WITH YOU, STOSHACK
Kenny Cohen was whispering from the seat behind mine. It was the middle of social studies and Mrs. Van Hook was giving a boring lecture about the Civil War. Something about the Missouri Compromise. Learning about battles and stuff was pretty cool, but all that junk about what led up to the war didn't interest me much.
“What do you mean, what's up with me?” I asked, leaning back in my chair so Mrs. Van Hook wouldn't catch me whispering to Kenny.
“People are talking about you, man.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked Kenny. “And what are these people saying?”
“They're saying you're a freak. They're saying you got magic powers or something.”
That got my attention.
“What kind of magic powers?” I asked, trying to sound as casual as possible.
“You know,” Kenny said. “Like you can travel through time and crap like that.”
“Yeah, right,” I whispered. “Do you think that if I could travel through time and go to any year in the history of the world, I'd be sitting here listening to
The fact is, I
travel through timeâwith baseball cards.
That's not a joke. Ever since I was a little kid, I've had thisâ¦power, I guess you'd call it. Something strange happened to me whenever I touched an old baseball card. It was a buzzy, vibrating feeling. It didn't hurt, but it was kind of scary. I would drop the card right away, and the tingling sensation would stop.
Then one day, I decided to keep holding on to the card. That buzzy feeling went up my arm and across my body. And the next thing I knew, I was in a different place and a different time. I was in the year 1909 and I met Honus Wagner.
You don't have to believe me if you don't want to. But I know what happened to me. I can do it whenever I want.
know was how Kenny Cohen found out I could travel through time. I hadn't exactly broadcast the news. I didn't want kids to think I was nuts. Only a few people knew about it. My mom
and dad knew. My baseball coach, Flip Valentini, knew. My nine-year-old cousin Samantha knew.
“Yo, Kenny,” I whispered, turning around in my seat, “who told you that crap about me?”
“Fuller,” he said.
Bobby Fuller! That figured. I should have known. Bobby Fuller has had it in for me ever since I hit a double off him to break up his no-hitter. And that was back in our T-shirt league days! You'd think he would forget about it by the time we got to seventh grade. Bobby Fuller sure could hold a grudge.
In the past few weeks, he had been tormenting me whenever he saw me in the hall or on the ball field. I'm just glad he's not in any of my classes this year.
Some people just rub you the wrong way. Fuller and Kenny were on the same team. They're a couple of prejuvenile delinquents. They should form the Future Inmates of America Club. I'm sure that ten years from now I'll pick up a newspaper and read that the two of them were arrested for something or other.
“Fuller said you were a freak,” Kenny whispered. “He said you're an alien disguised as a human. He said he's gonna get you at the game after school today.”
“That what he said?” I asked.
“Yeah, are you gonna show?”
I'm gonna show,” I said. “Bobby Fuller doesn't scare me.”
“Mr. Stoshack! Mr. Cohen!” Mrs. Van Hook suddenly said. “What is so important that you need to discuss it in the middle of my class?”
“Uh, baseball, Mrs. Van Hook,” Kenny said.
What an idiot! Any fool knows that when the teacher catches you talking and asks you what you're talking about, you're supposed to say, “Nothing.” Kenny Cohen is a moron.
“Baseball?” spat Mrs. Van Hook. “The Civil War was perhaps the most important event in our nation's history. It defined us as a nation. And you're talking about
? Tell me, do you boys find the Civil War to be boring?”
“Oh no, Mrs. Van Hook!” I said, jumping in before Kenny had the chance to say something stupid like, “Yes.”
“Good. Because over the weekend I want you to read Chapter Twenty-six in your textbooks. There will be a test on this material next week.”
Everybody groaned, out of habit. As we filed out of the room, Mrs. Van Hook pointed a finger at me and gestured for me to come to her desk.
“Is something wrong at home, Joseph?” she asked once all the other kids had left the room.
Most everybody at school knew that my dad had been in a pretty bad car accident not long ago. Some people had been acting weird toward me, going out of their way to be all nice to make me feel better.
“No,” I said. “Everything's fine.”
“I don't like what I see, Joseph,” said Mrs. Van
Hook. “Your grades have been slipping. You're heading for a C this marking period, maybe even a D. You're a better student than that.”
“I'll bring it up, Mrs. Van Hook,” I said. “Promise.”
D in social studies. Ha! Little did I know that getting a D would be the
of my problems.
ARE YOU NATURALLY STUPID, OR DID IT
take a lot of practice? Ha-ha-ha! Hey, is it true that when you go to the zoo, the baboons take pictures of
I'm not sure if Bobby Fuller is certified as a psycho, but he should be. Bobby used to pitch, but they switched him over to third base so he couldn't throw at batters' heads anymore. He was shouting at me, using his glove as a megaphone.
I stepped into the batter's box. My team, Flip's Fan Club, was down by a run, and we had come all the way back from 8-1. Kit Clement was on third base, and I really wanted to drive him in and keep the rally going. It was the sixth inning, so this was our last chance.
“Hey Stoshack, you ain't gonna be the hero. You suck, man!”
Fuller used to really get to me. He could make some stupid comment and rattle me just enough to throw off my swing a little so I'd strike out or pop up or something. But he didn't bother me anymore. Now he just seemed pathetic. And the more it didn't bother me, the more it bothered Fuller that it didn't bother me, if you know what I mean. It just made him worse. He figured that if he just got rude enough, eventually he would say something that would get to me.
But he couldn't. I saw a pitch I liked and ripped it down the right field line. It skipped past the first-base bag, and the umpire yelled, “Fair ball!”
I took off. Kit trotted home from third with the tying run, and it occurred to me as I was heading for first that this could be the game. If the ball was misplayed in the outfield, I could make it all the way around and score the winning run. I pushed off the first-base bag with all I had and dug for second.
I couldn't see the right-field corner anymore. But I could hear everybody on our bench screaming, “Go! Go!” so I knew I was going to make a try for third at the very least. If I stopped at third, I knew I could score on a hit, an error, a passed ball, a wild pitch, a sacrifice flyâall kinds of ways.
I looked toward third. Coach Valentini always tells us that when you're rounding second, you shouldn't turn around to see where the ball is. Instead, you should look to the third-base coach. He will signal you to slide, go in standing up, or if
you're lucky, he'll windmill his arm around, which means keep going and try for home.
My eye caught Bobby Fuller at third base. If Fuller looked like he was ready to catch the relay from right field, I knew I would have to slide in and try to beat the throw. But he didn't. He was just standing there, his hand on his hip, shaking his head sadly. It looked like he was waiting for a bus or something.
The ball must be still bouncing around the right-field corner, I figured. I would be able to trot home with the winning run, no sweat.
Then I remembered that Fuller might be trying to deke me. If you know baseball, you know that infielders are trained to be masters of deception. They try to fake you out all the time. Fuller could be standing around like that so I would slow down. Then, when the ball approached, he would quickly grab it and slap the tag on me. I do that all the time. When you're running the bases, you should never look at infielders to decide what to do.
Finally I spotted Coach Valentini, who was coaching at third. He was putting both hands down, which is the signal to slide. I hit the dirt.
Just as I had suspected; Fuller suddenly got down into position to receive the throw from right field. The ball skipped once on the infield dirt and short-hopped into Fuller's glove. He smacked the glove against the back of my head just a millisecond after my toe touched third base.
I knew I was safe, but I looked to the umpire anyway. It's not uncommon that they blow the call, at least in my league.
“Safe!” the ump hollered.
“Oh man, I had him!” Fuller protested.
!” the ump said, staring at Fuller, daring him to argue. “I don't change my calls.”
“The man made the call,” Coach Valentini said.
As I got up and brushed off my pants, I looked up in the bleachers to see if I could find my mother. Whenever I make a good hit, I want her to see it. But she wasn't there. Maybe she had to work late at the hospital or something, I figured.
My neck was throbbing; Fuller slapped his glove on me harder than he had to. I tried not to rub it. I didn't want him to have the satisfaction of knowing he had hurt me.
Coach Valentini leaned over to congratulate me on the triple, and to make sure I knew the situation. The game was tied now. I represented the winning run on third. One out.
“Okay, you know what to do, Stosh,” the coach mumbled. “You're not in a force situation, so you don't have to run. But if you can make it home, we win this thing. So be ready to score. Got it?”
Coach Valentini went to talk the situation over with the batter, Anthony Blengino. He was a decent hitter, but the coach might have been telling him to let a few pitches go by to see if the pitcher would
throw one wild. Or maybe he was telling Anthony to drop down a squeeze bunt to bring me home.
“Hey Stoshie,” Bobby Fuller said from his third-base position, just loud enough for me to hear.
I ignored him. I didn't need to be distracted by him when I was trying to win the game. I knew he was trying to do something to psych me out. I kicked at the dirt around the third-base bag.
“Yo, Elephant Ears,” Fuller said. “I hear you can travel through time.”
I stopped kicking at the dirt. I looked at him.
“Who said that?” I asked. How could Bobby Fuller possibly know that I could travel through time?
“I've got my sources,” he said, grinning his stupid grin.
Maybe he was bluffing. Maybe he just made up something to be outrageous and it was just an amazing coincidence that it was true. Or maybe he knew.
“Who told you that?” I said, more forcefully.
“My kid sister,” he said. “She goes to school with your cousin Samantha. Your cousin said you told her you could travel through time, Stoshack. Ooh, that must be
.” Fuller started making flying saucer noises with his mouth.
Samantha! I knew I shouldn't have been showing off in front of that annoying little runt. She slipped a card into my hand when I was about to go back and meet Mickey Mantle in 1951, and the next
thing I knew, it was 1944 and I was sitting in the dugout of an all-girls team in Milwaukee.
Samantha and my aunt had moved to Louisville from Massachusetts recently, and she was nothing but trouble.
Coach Valentini had finished his chat with Anthony and was heading back to the third-base coaching box.
“You're a freak, Stoshack,” Fuller whispered. “A mutant. Just wait until I spread the word around school that you think you can travel through time. They'll laugh you right out of town!”
“One out, everybody!” the pitcher shouted. “Let's get this guy.”
I was determined to put what Fuller said out of my mind. I wasn't going to let him bother me. I put my toe on third base and focused on the pitcher.
Mentally I went over what I was going to do in any situation. If the pitch got past the catcher, I was going to try to score. If Anthony put a bunt down, I was going to try to score. If he hit a slow roller to anyone but the pitcher, I was going to try to score. If Anthony hit one past the infield on the ground, I was going to try to score. If the ball was hit in the air, I would stop to see if it would be caught. And if it was hit far enough into the outfield, I would tag up and then try to score. If anything
happened, I would stay on third and then try to score with the next batter.
Baseball is so complicated. That's why I love it.
“C'mon, Tony,” I shouted, clapping my hands. “Drive me in, baby!”
Anthony looked over the first two pitches. They both looked good, but the ump called one a ball and one a strike. Anthony stepped out of the batter's box to look at Coach Valentini. I looked at him too. Our bunt sign was when the coach would say the words “swing away.” The coach didn't say it, so I knew Anthony would be swinging away. I took a few steps off the third-base bag.
“You ain't gonna score, Stoshack,” Fuller said.
“Let's see you try and stop me,” I replied.
On the next pitch, Anthony took a rip and made contact. It was a high fly to left field. I could tell it wasn't going to make it over the fence, but it looked deep enough for me to tag up. The left fielder drifted back. He had it in his sights.
I retreated to third base, putting my foot firmly against the bag. I knew the left fielder had a good arm, so I wanted to take off for home the instant he made the catch.
As soon as the ball settled in his glove, I broke for home. Or I tried to break for home, anyway. Something was holding me back.
Fuller! He had his hand on my belt! That jerk!
He held on for about half a second, not long enough to get caught, but just long enough to slow me down. When I finally broke loose I stumbled, and then started running for home again.
Everybody was shouting, “Slide! Slide!” I knew I
would have to get a toe on the plate before the ball got there or barrel into the catcher and knock the ball loose. With a little luck, the throw would go off line or maybe hit me and bounce away.
No such luck. The throw was right there at about the same time as my foot. I sent a shower of dirt flying, and the catcher put his mitt on my leg. I looked up at the umpire, really not sure if I had beaten the tag or not.
“Yer out!” the ump hollered.
The game was over. They don't play extra innings in our league, so it ended in a tie. As I lay there in the dirt, Bobby Fuller and his teammates mobbed their left fielder, who had made the great throw. My teammates gathered up the bats and balls and stuff and started stuffing them into their duffel bags.
I could have protested. I could have told the ump that Fuller grabbed my belt from behind and prevented me from scoring. But it would have been pointless. The ump said it himself. He didn't change his calls.
As Fuller ran off the field, I glared at him.
“Bet you wish you could travel through time
, Stoshack,” he said. “Like to five minutes ago! Ha-ha-ha-ha!”
I could hear his stupid laugh all the way from the parking lot.