Extra Innings

Extra Innings

4.0 1
by Robert Newton Peck

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From the author of A Day No Pigs Would Die comes a new novel about recovering a dream—and a family. Sixteen-year-old pitcher Tate Stonemason is crippled in body and spirit after a devastating plane crash. He finds unexpected solace from his stalwart great-grandfather and his warm. loving great-aunt Viddy, who tells Tate the story of her childhood years


From the author of A Day No Pigs Would Die comes a new novel about recovering a dream—and a family. Sixteen-year-old pitcher Tate Stonemason is crippled in body and spirit after a devastating plane crash. He finds unexpected solace from his stalwart great-grandfather and his warm. loving great-aunt Viddy, who tells Tate the story of her childhood years spent traveling with Ethiopia's Clowns, a ragtag Depression-era baseball team.

About the Author:
Robert Newton Peck is the best-selling author of Cowboy Ghost, A Day No Pigs Would Die, A Part of the Sky, and the highly successful Soup series. He lives in Longwood, FL.

Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center For Children's Books
Peck paints a seductive portrayal of a young man's journey back to health. The Stonemasons are a family worth meeting.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Only the most ardent of baseball fans will likely cotton to this preachy, maudlin effort from the author of The Day No Pigs Would Die. When the rest of his immediate family dies in a plane accident, teenager Tate Stonemason survives. His leg shattered, he struggles with his grief, especially in giving up his dream of pitching in the major leagues. By the end, Tate conquers his inner demons with the help of his great-aunt Vidalia, an African-American woman adopted into his family after spending her early years touring with a "colored" baseball team called Ethiopia's Clowns. Peck devotes the second third of the book to Vidalia's history and the last third to Tate's great-grandfather, Abbott, so readers never fully identify with the young protagonist's predicament. Worldly Aunt Vidalia is a little too perfect, and Tate's worship of her is so artificially worded it rarely sounds authentic: "Vidalia, you are so wise, it's eerie," says Tate. "Is there anything you don't know? Honestly, is there?" The best parts of Peck's novel chronicle the sports adventures of Vidalia's childhood, which vividly capture the politics of mixed-race baseball in the 1930s. Elsewhere, clunky writing bogs down this tale in service of a moral. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Peck, author of A Day No Pigs Would Die, knows that in the American South, history and the present day are never really separate. His protagonist, Tate, loses his family and his dream of playing baseball after a plane crash. Living with elderly relatives, Tate finds a reason to live through Great-Aunt Viddy's tales of a Depression-era barnstorming team called the Ethiopian Clowns. The stories engage and delight him, but they also teach him that family is family, no matter how unorthodox, and that loss doesn't give someone the right to give up. Peck's prose is Southern-courtly, drawling yet musical. His love for the history of the game shines throughout. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95 and $15.89. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Donna Freedman
After sixteen-year-old Tate boards his family's private jet, it explodes during takeoff. Thrown clear, Tate is left with a mangled leg and the loss of his immediate family. He moves to his great-grandfather Abbott's mansion, which also houses Vidalia, Abbott's adopted black daughter. When baseball player Tate shows anger about his leg, Vidalia offers solace by sharing her childhood of traveling with a black baseball team in the Depression-era South. Abbott and his wife adopted Vidalia when the team disbanded. Later, Abbott describes attending Ty Cobb's funeral, albeit in his Bentley. If only the remainder of this book were as focused and gripping as its prologue. Because the majority of the book is Vidalia's story, readers witness little grieving for Tate's losses. Inconsistencies plague this story. Within a year, once-injured Tate ably kills Vidalia's aged dog, and when Vidalia dies, he nimbly climbs into her grave and opens the coffin to place a forgotten memento. He also begins flying model airplanes, finds love, and although his leg miraculously heals, ballplayer Tate turns author. Moreover, Abbott's impossibly genteel lifestyle is supported by loyal black servants, and there is nary a hint of prejudice regarding Abbott's adoption and rearing of a black child by whites in the South during the tumultuous times of the Depression. Readers will question these improbable circumstances and events, and despite the age of the teen protagonist, this novel lacks the depth to interest high school students. Middle level baseball fans will learn more baseball history through Vidalia and Abbot's narratives, with the book's stories-within-a-story providing them a multilayered structural framework.VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P M J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, HarperCollins, 176p, $15.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Lisa Spiegel SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
Peck's book covers all the bases (pun intended) for readers to enjoy. There is baseball for sports fans, history for those who like historical fiction, race relations for fans of politics, and a little romance for fans of love stories. Tate loses his leg and all of his immediate family in a plane crash. He goes to live with his great-grandfather and great aunt. As he is trying to recover from the loss of his family and the loss of his dream of playing baseball professionally, Vidalia, his great aunt, tells him the story of her life before his great-grandfather adopted her. Vidalia was abandoned as a baby on a bus filled with traveling black baseball players. They did not discover her until they were many miles away from town, so they decided to keep her as their mascot. She traveled from town to town with them learning about baseball and life, the life of a colored person in the South before desegregation, during the Depression. When she was ten, the man she considered her father died playing ball and one of the white ball players from the other team took her home. He and his wife fell in love with her and adopted her. She tells Tate her story to help drag him out of his depression and to give him a purpose�she wants him to write a book about Ethiopia's Clowns, the ball team she lived with on the purple bus. Many students will enjoy this story, with some salty language; it is more appropriate for young adults in high school or mature junior high students. The message of perseverance is timeless and seen on many levels of this novel. KLIATT Codes: JS�Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, HarperTrophy, 216p.,
— Stacey Conrad
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Sixteen-year-old Tate Stonemason survives the crash of a small plane that killed his parents and sister. Injuries from the crash also destroy his dream of playing baseball in the major leagues one day. Bitter and lonely, Tate is comforted by his Great-Granddad Abbott Bristol Stonemason and the man's adopted African-American daughter, Vidalia. She tells Tate of her early childhood spent with Ethiopia's Clowns, a Depression-era, all-black baseball team that barnstormed its way through the South, before she was adopted by the white Stonemason family. The long story within a story of her childhood is her legacy to the teen. After her death, he finds a reason to go on with his life, as he begins to write Vidalia's oral history. The account of the barnstorming team, getting by on a shoestring and finding kindness and hatred in the deep South, is the best part of this book. Many readers, however, will find it difficult to plow through the elaborate dialogue that can best be described as baroque. Unfortunately, Tate and his relatives seem rather remote and artificial creations. At the novel's end, readers may find it difficult to care much about the boy because they haven't gotten to know him very well.-Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Memorable for its cast, if not its patchy plot, this tale revolves around a teenager regaining his balance, both figuratively and literally, after losing most of his upper-class family. But as the title indicates, it's really more about the lives and characters of the elderly relatives who take him in. A plane crash has left Tate Stonemason without parents, grandparents, or siblings, and with a shattered leg that has brought an end to his dreams of playing professional baseball. Only his great grandfather Abbott and Abbott's adopted daughter, Vidalia, herself over 70, remain to care for him. They do that, in part, by sharing baseball memories: Abbott, of attending Ty Cobb's funeral; Vidalia, of"Ethiopia's Clowns," African-American barnstormers who raised her for ten years during the Depression era after she was left as a baby on the team bus. Peck (Cowboy Ghost, 1999, etc.) stitches together a set of connected but separate tales. They include an airport worker's act of negligence that causes the crash; the Clowns' experiences in towns both hostile and welcoming; the adoption of young Vidalia into the Stonemason family despite the color of her skin; and finally, Vidalia's death, and the keeping of certain promises made to her by Tate and Abbott. The Stonemasons' oddly stilted way of speaking with each other—" �Mr. Tate believes that there's only darksome, but all he has to do is wait patient for a dawn. No storm endures forever. There always comes a sunup. Perhaps not the perfect day, but nevertheless a spanking-fresh one.' "—has the effect of bringing out how strong, close, and loving they are, and though the worst of Tate'sdarknight passes betweenchapters, his healing brings the story to a strong close. (Fiction. 11-14)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.56(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Hurry it up, you pokes."

Thirty feet behind, passing slowly beneath a gum tree, sixteen-year-old Tate wasn't spurred by the older man's gruffness. The spry gentleman of eighty-two had halted and turned to smile warmly at a great-grandson and a dog.

Close to Tate's side, Ballerina, the coonhound bitch, might have kept pace with their patriarch despite her age and hesitant gait. Yet, among the tall shafts of golden switchgrass she waited, to encourage the boy with her company.

Determined to endure the bellowing throb in his right leg, Tate marveled at her concern that he could no longer run. Barely walk. Six months ago, a crashing Cessna had annihilated his leg to within a prayer of amputation.

Tate had been the only survivor.

Six others died, consumed by exploding flame: the family's professional pilot; Tate's older sister, Prudence Grace; and their parents and paternal grandparents.

After a week in shock, Tate could speak; it took a month to sit up in a hospital bed, two more months with crutches, and another six weeks hobbling on a cane. Today was Tate Bannock Stonemason's first hike among the familiar and fragrant pines and oaks of the family's far-flung Florida estate.

"Doing okay, Tater?"

"We're both coming, Great-Granddad."

Struggling forward, Tate stroked the hound's silky head. A dainty dog, Ballerina was sleek and slender, almost entirely black, with patches of brown over her intelligent eyes, on her jowls, and along her delicate legs. Eleven years ago, she had wandered to his great-grandfather's kitchen door, thin and hungry, too dignified to beg.

Aunt Vidalia had petted and fed her,named her Ballerina, and adopted her for life, as Vidalia herself had been permanently adopted and given the name Stonemason.

"She knows." The elderly man waited for them. "Had I brought the Purdey, she'd be ahead of us, Tater, quartering a field, inhaling information with every sniff, and flushing quail." Kneeling to cradle her chin in a gentle hand, he added, "Ballerina realizes we didn't bring a gun."

"At times," Tate admitted, "she's so clever it's spooky. When my laundry bag's full, she tugs at it with her teeth, telling me to tote it downstairs to the washer."

"Whip smart. If trailing a raccoon that takes to wet, she won't follow. In water, a coon'll drown a dog in seconds because under the surface, a lot of hounds are too stupid to hold breath. But no coon'll drown Ballerina." Bending to touch the moist ground with the tip of an arthritic finger, Great-Granddad said, "Bobcat track. No wonder our whooping cranes aren't so plentiful." He stood up, then pointed. "Look over yonder."

Tate squinted. Whoopers?"

"No. Notice the bright red tufts on their heads? Sandhill cranes. And those longleggers way beyond are ironhead storks."

"If you say so."

Tate didn't know an ironhead from a Sopwith Camel. Yet he planned to learn. Trying to balance himself, he involuntarily yielded to his troubled leg and winced, aware that little escaped the steel-gray observation of Abbott Bristol Stonemason.

"Pain," his great-grandfather said compassionately. "Personal and private. Impossible to shoulder for another. A leg is the least of all yours." Again he caressed the coonhound. "We three are all suffering, Tate. This venerable hunter, her tail once high and happy, feels discomfort with every step. Going deaf. Sleeps indoors in patches of parlor sunlight to ease her stiffness." He studied her face. "Those eyes are a cloudy fog of winter, overcast, as if Ballerina's seen all that she was meant to see."

For an instant, Tate's pain eased in the pride of being the great-grandson of the stalwart yet sensitive man who now tousled his hair.

"Blessings," the old voice said, "far more than burdens have always been bestowed on me, Tate. When your greatgrandma Lavinia was alive, we took little Viddy to our hearts and home. Over sixty years ago, it was unheard of for a white family to adopt color. And now you're also living with us."

"It's all so strange, Great-Granddad."

"Hope I survive long enough to fashion you some. Not into my mold. Into yours." He shook his head. "Enough sentiment. I can't stomach too much artificial sweetener. How's the leg?"

"Mending," he lied.

"Bully, as Theodore Roosevelt liked to say. Way before my time, but I read he was sickly but never a quitter."

"Is this a pep talk? Sorry, but I received too many from the hospital shrink, so pardon my being full up on motivation."

A.B. said, "Consider yourself pardoned. On that score, I hope you pardon Vidalia and me. Living with two elderly people may not be comfortable for you. Yet with us is where you belong. For now."

"You and Aunt Vidalia seem so formal."

"We're devotees of tradition. I would suppose it is just plain stuffiness."

"You and Aunt Vidalia are fingers on a fist. Both of you old-fashioned South."

"Viddy's a conservative lady and has always formed her own boundaries of propriety. Abhors trash, be it black or white. At times, she's an uppity snob." He held up a finger. "But her bias is based on conduct. Certainly not on wealth." The older man patted the dog. "Good grief, lad, Vidalia is seventy! At this age, do you imagine she's fixing to budge an inch? Not hardly. Our charming, caring, and often contrary matron is the most financially endowed heiress in Swamp County. Viddy has two stockbrokers, three savings accounts, plus bonds and a stack of tax-free municipals."

It pleased Tate to learn this. For years, his parents had told him that, when he first began to talk at age two, his first word was "Viddy." As he grew, Vidalia and he were woven by affection into a strange union, a combining that elated the entire Stonemason clan...

Extra Innings. Copyright � by Robert Peck. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Robert Newton Peck is the author of more than sixty books, including Horse Thief, Cowboy ghost, and A Day No Pigs Would Die. According to Newsweek, Mr. Peck "manages to evoke a sense of vanished America — when neighbors were neighborly, when food was home-cooked, and clothes and philosophy homespun." Raised on a farm, he is familiar with cattle, hogs, and horses. He lives with his wife, Sam, in Longwood, Florida, where he and a partner currently own eleven mustangs.

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Extra Innings 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You know your reading a good book when you find yourself not being able to put it down. However, I did not experience this when reading Extra Innings by Robert Newton Peck. This book was 215 pages too long. Young Tate who was harmed in a plane crash, struggles to play the game he has loved and mastered since a very young age. Dispite losing his Mother, Father, great grandparents and Sister in the crash, Tate stays strong. Taken care of by his Aunt Vidalia who reassures him numerous times of her struggles in the past and how she overcame them. This upside down story captures many moments from the early 1900s, and many racial conflicts between blacks and whites. Also, there is quite a lot of baseball terms not the everyday reader would know. So I suggest you to be a baseball fan if you are going to read this. Although Tate will slowly heal, does he have enough to heal inside and find his inner strength to play ball again? Read it and find out for yourself.