The love of baseball links nine generations of the Schneider/Snider/Flint family in this story collection that tracks the national pastime from the 1840s to the present day. It's an ambitious work of research, weaving authentic details about the evolution of the sport into stories about nine fictional young people with baseball in their DNA. Louis Schneider carries his father's treasured souvenir baseball into battle during the Civil War (Abner Doubleday makes a cameo), trading it for an original Louisville Slugger from a wounded rebel. The bat then plays a role in his son's misplaced worship of a fading legend. Another descendant has his illusions shattered when the hometown team is unmasked as racist. Girls are represented, too: one leaves Brooklyn to play for the Grand Rapids Chicks during World War II. These are not sports stories so much as historical fiction built around a theme, and though billed as a "novel in nine innings," there's no real narrative tension pulling the reader forward. But baseball fans will find satisfying glimpses of the game as it has been played in its various incarnations. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Brooklyn Nineby Alan Gratz
Baseball is in the Schneider family blood. Each member of this family, from family founder Felix Schneider in the 1800s to Snider Flint in the present day, has a strong tie to the game and to Brooklyn. Through the years this family has dodged bullets on a battlefield, pitched perfect games, and dealt with the devastating loss of family and the Brooklyn Dodgers.… See more details below
Baseball is in the Schneider family blood. Each member of this family, from family founder Felix Schneider in the 1800s to Snider Flint in the present day, has a strong tie to the game and to Brooklyn. Through the years this family has dodged bullets on a battlefield, pitched perfect games, and dealt with the devastating loss of family and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Nine innings-nine generations. One game-one family. Through it all, one thing remains true: the bonds of family are as strong as a love of the game.
In loosely connected chapters, Gratz examines how one Brooklyn family is affected by the game of baseball. Ten-year-old German immigrant Felix Schneider arrives in America in the mid-19th century and uses his speed to good advantage both on the ball field and as a runner delivering the goods his uncle, a cloth cutter, produces. His fortunes and his family's take a turn for the worse, however, when his legs are badly injured in the great Manhattan fire of 1845 (where he encounters volunteer firefighter Alexander Cartwright, the father of modern baseball). Subsequent "innings" deal with Felix's son, Louis, who has compassion for a Confederate soldier because of their shared love of baseball; Walter Snider, a Brooklyn Superbas batboy who secures a tryout for legendary Negro Leagues star Cyclone Joe Williams and discovers the ugliness of anti-Semitism and racial prejudice; and Jimmy Flint, a 10-year-old in 1957, who worries about the class bully, Sputnik, nuclear annihilation-and the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn. Curiously, the author passes over the team's glory years from the late 1940s to the mid-'50s. For the working-class Schneider/Snider family, baseball is an important part of their history, but it does little to mitigate the gritty reality of their lives. Economic uncertainty, prejudice, and the threat of violence are ever-present concerns, and the accurate, tough-minded depiction of these issues is the novel's greatest strength.-Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT
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Table of Contents
First Inning: Play Ball - Manhattan, New York, 1845
Second Inning: The Red-Legged Devil - Northern Virginia, 1864
Third Inning: A Ballad of the Republic - Brooklyn, New York, 1894
Fourth Inning: The Way Things Are Now - Coney Island, New York, 1908
Fifth Inning: The Numbers Game - Brooklyn, New York, 1926
Sixth Inning: Notes of a Star to Be - Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1945
Seventh Inning: Duck and Cover - Brooklyn, New York, 1957
Eighth Inning: The Perfectionist - Brooklyn, New York, 1981
Ninth Inning: Provenance - Brooklyn, New York, 2002
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Copyright © 2009 by Alan Gratz
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Gratz, Alan, date.
The Brooklyn nine : a novel in nine innings / by Alan Gratz.
Summary: Follows the fortunes of a German immigrant family through nine generations, beginning in 1845, as they experience
American life and play baseball.
eISBN : 978-1-101-01480-6
[1. Baseball—History—Fiction. 2. United StatesvHistory—Fiction.] I.Title.
PZ7.G77224Br 2009 [Fic]—dc22 2008021263
For Mom and Dad, finally
First Inning: Play Ball
Manhattan, New York, 1845
Nine months ago, Felix Schneider was the fastest boy in Bremen, Germany. Now he was the fastest boy in Manhattan, New York. He was so fast, in fact, the ship that had brought him to America arrived a day early.
Now he stood on first base, waiting to run.
“Put the poreen just about here, ya rawney Dutchman!” the Striker called. English was difficult enough for Felix to understand, and almost unintelligible when spoken by the Irish. But the “Dutchman” at Feeder—another German boy like Felix—didn’t need to understand Cormac’s words to know where he wanted him to throw the ball. He lobbed it toward the plate and the Irish boy slapped the ball to the right side beyond first base.
Felix ran full out. His legs churned in the soft mud, but his shoes gave him traction, propelling him toward second base. He was a racehorse, a locomotive. The world was a blur when he ran, and he could feel his blood thumping through his veins like the steam pistons pounding out a rhythm on the fast ferry to Staten Island. Felix flew past the parcel that stood for second base and dug for third.
“Soak him!” one of the boys called. Felix glanced over his shoulder just in time to see an English boy hurl the baseball at him. He danced out of the way and the ball sailed past him, missing his vest by less than an inch. Felix laughed and charged on to third, turning on the cap there and heading for home.
“Soak the bloody devil!” one of the other Irish boys cried. The ball came at Felix again, but this time the throw was well wide. He pounced on the rock at home plate with both feet and celebrated the point.
“Ace!” Felix cried. “Ace, ace, ace!”
“No it weren’t,” called one of the buckwheats, a boy just back from the Ohio territory. “You missed second base!”
Felix ran straight to second base to argue, and was met there by the boys on both teams.
“You’re out, ya plonker!” said one of the Irish boys.
“The heck I was!” said Felix. He stepped forward to challenge him, and the boy laughed.
“You sure you want to get them fancy ones and twos there muddy, Dutchman?”
He was on again about Felix’s shoes, which were better than everyone else’s. Felix’s father, a cobbler, had made them for him—sturdy brown leather lace-ups with good thick heels. They were the only thing he still had to remind him of his family back in Bremen.
The boys looked down at Felix’s shoes. That’s when they all saw Felix’s footprints in the wet earth. He’d missed second base by a foot.
“Three out, all out,” the buckwheat said.
Felix snatched the ball from the boy’s hand and plunked him hard in the shoulder with it.
“Run!” Felix cried.
The lot became a battlefield as both teams went back and forth, tagging each other and dashing for home to see who would earn the right to bat next. Felix had just ducked out of the way of a ball aimed for his head when someone grabbed him by the ear and stood him up.
“Felix Schneider!” his uncle Albert yelled.
The game of tag ground to an abrupt halt and the boys shirked away as Felix’s uncle laid into him.
“I knew you would be here, you worthless boy! You should have been back an hour ago! Where is the parcel you were sent to deliver?”
Felix glanced meekly at second base.
“You’ve buried it in the mud!?” Felix’s uncle cuffed him. “If you’ve ruined those pieces, it’ll mean both our jobs! My family will be out on the streets, and you will never earn passage for yours. Is this why you stowed away aboard that ship? To come to America and play games?”
Uncle Albert dragged Felix over to the parcel.
“Pick it up. Pick it up!”
“I didn’t step on it, see? I missed the bag—”
His uncle struck him again, and Felix said nothing more. With his speed he knew he still had plenty of time to deliver the fabric pieces, and time enough to go to the Neumans’, pick up their finished suits, and get them to Lord & Taylor by the close of business too. He also knew his uncle wouldn’t want to hear it.
“Now go. Go!” Uncle Albert told him. “If you were my son, I’d whip you!”
And if I were your son, thought Felix as he dashed off with the parcel, I’ d run away to California.
Felix ran to where the Neumans lived on East Eighth Street off Avenue B, in the heart of “Kleindeutschland,” Little Germany. Their tenement stood in the shadow of a fancier building facing the street on the same lot. The Neumans lived on the fourth floor, two brothers and their families squeezed into a one-family flat with three rooms and no windows. Felix hated visiting there. It made him think of those preachers who stood on street corners throughout Kleindeutschland yelling warnings of damnation and hell. As much as he disliked his uncle, Felix knew that but for Uncle Albert’s job as a cutter, their own Kleindeutschland flat would look like this. Or worse.
One of the Neuman boys, not much older than Felix, met him at the door. Felix only knew him from deliveries and pickups—he’d never seen any of the Neuman boys playing on Little Germany’s streets or empty lots.
“Guten tag,” the boy said.
“Good morning,” said Felix. He held out the parcel. “I’ve got your new pieces.”
The boy let Felix into the room. It was hot and dark, and Neumans young and old sweated as they sewed cut pieces of cloth into suits around the dim light of four flickering candles. Herr Neuman, the family “foreman,” came forward to take the package from Felix.
“Danke schön,” Herr Neuman said.
“You’re welcome,” Felix said. “Bitte.”
Herr Neuman set the parcel on a table and opened it, counting out the pieces. He nodded to let Felix know everything was in order.
“Do you have anything for me to take back?” Felix asked. “Haben Sie noch etwas fertig?”
Herr Neuman held up a finger and went into another room. Felix waved to one or two of the women who looked up at him with weak smiles. Felix knew this wasn’t what they had expected when they’d come to America. It wasn’t what any of them had expected. Felix’s own father had talked of New York as a promised land, where everyone had good jobs and plenty to eat. “Manhattan is a city of three hundred thousand,” he’d said, “and half of those are men who will need a good pair of shoes.” Herr Neuman, a skilled tailor, had probably said the same thing to his family about the men in Manhattan needing suits.
Meet the Author
Alan Gratz was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. After a carefree but humid childhood, he attended the University of Tennessee, where he earned a College Scholars degree with a specialization in creative writing and later a Master's degree in English education. In addition to writing plays, magazine articles, and a few episodes of A&E's City Confidential, Alan has taught catapult building to middle schoolers, written more than 6,000 radio commercials, and lectured as a Czech university. Currently, Alan lives with his wife Wendi and daughter Jo in the high country of western North Carolina, where he enjoys reading, eating pizza, and, perhaps not too surprisingly, watching baseball.
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