Read an Excerpt
The Spy in the Bleachers
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2010 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
"Wow!" said Benny. "Two baseball fields! One is on the outside, and another one's on the inside." Benny was six years old. He was excited that Grandfather was taking them to a baseball stadium. Not just for a day, but for a whole week!
Jessie, who was twelve, smiled at her younger brother. "There's nobody using the outdoor ball field right now," she said. "What does that make you think?" All four Alden children were good at solving mysteries, but Jessie was the one who always listed the facts and what they meant.
"It makes me think we can use it right now," said Benny eagerly
"Or, it makes me think we aren't allowed to use it," said ten-year-old Violet. She was the shyest of the Aldens. As she spoke she slipped a baseball glove onto her left hand.
"Who's right?" kidded Henry. "Benny or Violet?" Henry was fourteen and very good at figuring out how things worked. Sometimes he even invented his own tools. This time he said, "Look at the sign."
Grandfather parked the car in the big parking lot surrounding Cogwheel Stadium. They would stay at an inn here in the town of Clayton. And they would go to a baseball game every day.
The four Alden children lived with their grandfather, James Alden. After their parents had died, the children had run away from home and lived in the woods in an old boxcar. They had never met their grandfather and thought he would be mean. But their grandfather found them and they learned he was a good person.
All five Aldens climbed out of the car and looked at the sign. Play Ball! the sign said. Whenever You Want To.
"Benny is right," said Violet happily. "We can use the ball field!"
"After you're done," said Grandfather, "go to the front gate of the stadium. Tell them that Jim Tanaka left tickets for you."
Grandfather walked toward the front gate of Cogwheel Stadium. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny took bats and balls and gloves onto the field.
"Jessie can pitch," said Henry, "and I'll catch. Violet and Benny can take turns hitting."
Violet turned to Benny. "You can bat first, and I'll try to catch what you hit. Then we can switch places."
Benny stood at the plate and Jessie threw the ball. Benny took a wide swing with the bat. He missed the ball.
"Watch the ball as it leaves Jessie's hand," Henry told him. "Just keep your eye on the ball, then hit it."
Benny watched the ball. When it came to him, he swung his bat. The bat hit the ball and the ball bounced across the infield. Violet ran to pick it up near first base.
"Good one," said Henry.
After Jessie threw twenty pitches to Benny, it was Violet's turn to bat.
Benny stood near second base and watched. He saw Henry had his catcher's mitt pointed down. His other hand was down, too. Henry was moving his fingers up and down, almost like he was counting. Benny saw one finger down, then two fingers down, then three fingers down. Then back to one finger.
"Hey!" said Benny. "What's Henry doing with his fingers?"
Jessie turned around to answer. "I want to practice my pitching, so Henry is giving me signs on what to throw."
"Signs?" asked Benny. "What kind of signs?"
"Signs with his fingers. One finger down is a sign that he wants me to throw a fastball. Two fingers down is a sign that he wants me to throw a change-up."
"What's a change-up?" asked Benny.
"It looks just like a fastball, but comes in slower."
Benny thought about this. "When I watched the ball come out of your hand, sometimes it came fast. But sometimes I swung before the ball even got to me. That pitch must have been a change-up!"
"That's right," said Jessie. "If you had known the pitch was going to be a change-up, you would have been ready for it. You would have hit the ball." Jessie turned back to throw to Violet.
By now the parking lot was half full. The Aldens gathered their balls, bats, and gloves and put them in the car.
The four of them walked to the front gate of Cogwheel Stadium. "Look at the long line of cars waiting to park," said Violet.
"That's part of the reason Grandfather is here," Jessie reminded her. "So many people are coming to Cogwheel Stadium that Grandfather is going to help with plans to make the stadium bigger. It needs more parking spaces. And more seats."
When they reached the turnstile, Henry spoke to the man taking tickets. "We're the Aldens. Our grandfather told us that Mr. Jim Tanaka left tickets for us."
"Welcome," said the man as he let them through the turnstiles. "I'm Jim Tanaka, and here are your four tickets." He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the tickets.
"Thank you," said Jessie. "Do all baseball team owners stand at the front gate?"
Jim Tanaka laughed. "Not usually," he said. "I'm here because the stadium is so crowded we don't have enough help."
"We'll help," said Henry. "We're very good at helping."
"Oh, I couldn't ask you to help," said Mr. Tanaka. "You're my guests, and you're here to enjoy the game."
"But we enjoy helping," said Jessie. "Especially if our help is needed."
"I really do need help," Mr. Tanaka said. "Thank you for asking. You can start—Oh, hello."
Benny turned to see who Mr. Tanaka was talking to. It was a man dressed in shorts and a flowered shirt. He wore a Cogs baseball cap and sunglasses. The cap brim was pulled down so low that it hid the man's face. In his hand was a pencil and small notebook.
Instead of saying hello, the man raised a finger to his lips and whispered, "Shhhh!"
"Oh," said Jim Tanaka. "Right." He let the man through the turnstiles.
"Who was that?" asked Benny.
"Oh, uh, nobody," answered Jim Tanaka. "Now let me show you what you'll be doing." He looked at the children again. "Henry and Violet, I'm going to put you here, at the front gate, just behind the ticket takers." He walked over to a large cardboard box and reached in. He pulled out something large and orange. "These are today's giveaways," Mr. Tanaka explained. "I want you to give one to each person who comes in."
"This is great," said Henry. "It's a foam glove shaped like a cog!" Henry put a hand into a glove and waved it around.
"The fans love these free gloves," Mr. Tanaka said. "When the Cogs are winning, everybody wears a glove and waves it in the air."
Benny could see that the word Cogs was written on the orange shape. "What's a cog?" he asked.
"A cog is a gear," Mr. Tanaka answered. "It's a circle made out of metal. Old cogs used to be made out of wood."
Benny looked at the foam shape. "What are all those bumps sticking out around the cog?"
"Those are called teeth," Henry explained. "If you put two gears together, the teeth of one slide into the spaces of the other. That way, one gear turns the other gear."
"Like on our bikes!" said Benny excitedly.
"That's right," said Mr. Tanaka. "Many, many years ago the town of Clayton was a cog-making center. That's why my team is called the Clayton Cogwheels. 'Cogs' for short."
Mr. Tanaka spoke to Jessie and Benny. "We'll leave Henry and Violet here to hand out foam gloves. The two of you follow me, please. I'll take you to where you can help."
Henry and Violet watched Jessie, Benny, and Mr. Tanaka walk through the crowd. Then they began to give out free foam gloves as the fans came through the turnstile.
"Oh, thank you!" said one fan. "My son and daughter love the Cogs." Violet watched the mother, son, and daughter each put on a Cogs glove and wiggle it.
"This is fantastic!" another fan said to Henry. "The Cogs finished first last year. And it looks like they'll win the pennant again this year."
"That's for sure," said the next fan in line. "Only five games left to go, all of them here in Cogwheel Stadium."
Violet knew that was good news. When a team played on their home field, they had a better chance of winning.
"How many games do the Cogs have to win in order to win the pennant?" she asked Henry.
"Only two," Henry answered. "If the Cogs win two of these last five games, they win the pennant."
"The Cogs aren't going to win two of the last five games," called out a young man who had overheard them. He wore a Hatters baseball cap. "The Hatters will win all five and win the pennant. Go, Hatters!" he shouted as he walked by.
"Look at all the Hatters baseball caps coming our way," whispered Henry. "There are as many Hatters fans here as there are Cogs fans."
A young woman taking tickets at the turnstile smiled at Henry and Violet. "The Hatters are from Madison, which is the next town over. The Hatters and Cogs have been rivals for over a century."
"Wow!" breathed Henry. "These should be very exciting games!"
Violet watched a young woman come through the turnstile.
The woman had long blonde hair that she wore in braids. She was dressed in a white T-shirt, denim shorts, and white sneakers. Was she a Cogs fan or a Hatters fan? She wore a visor instead of a cap. The visor didn't say anything. Around her neck the young woman had a pair of binoculars.
Violet held out a free glove.
The woman took the foam glove from Violet and tore it in half. Then she threw the two halves on the ground and stomped on them. "I hate the Cogs!" she shouted. "They're a rotten, no-good team! I hope that Cody Howard hits four home runs! I hope the Cogs lose every one of the five games!" The woman stomped away, into the crowd.
"Whoa!" said Henry. "She's a Hatters fan, for sure."
Violet picked up the two halves of the foam glove and threw them into a trash barrel. "Who's Cody Howard?" she asked her brother.
"He plays center field for the Hatters," Henry answered. "He's a great hitter. He might win the league batting title this year." Henry explained to Violet that each year the batting title was won by the player who had the highest batting average.
"Does that mean the player who has the most hits in a season?" asked Violet.
"Yes," answered Henry.
"Whoever wins the batting title wins a brand new car," said a man with a Cogs baseball cap. "I hope it's not Cody Howard," he said.
"Because he's a Hatter?" Henry asked the fan.
"Yeah," answered the fan. "I'd like to see the Cogs catcher, Reese Dawkins, win the title and the car."
Henry and Violet handed out free foam gloves until there weren't any left.CHAPTER 2
View from the Bleachers
While Henry and Violet were giving out free gloves, Jessie and Benny followed Mr. Tanaka. Thousands of fans crowded the open area inside the stadium. Jessie saw that the fans were buying pennants and T-shirts and caps. Benny saw that the fans were buying food: hot dogs and popcorn and ice cream.
They followed Mr. Tanaka through an unmarked door. Now they stood inside a very large kitchen. Men and women in white aprons were cooking hundreds of hot dogs on grills. Others were putting the dogs into buns and wrapping them in clean paper. Still others were filling large paper boxes full of popcorn.
"This is a very busy place," Jessie said. "Everybody is working hard."
"Yes," replied Mr. Tanaka. "Cogs fans are hungry fans."
Benny stood still, staring at all the food.
Jim Tanaka looked down at him. "I'll bet you're hungry," he said.
Benny looked up. "How did you know?" he asked.
"I have a grandson your age," said Mr. Tanaka. "He's always hungry." Mr. Tanaka grabbed two large boxes of popcorn off a counter. He handed one to Jessie and one to Benny. "Eat some popcorn," he said, "and follow me around this room. I'll explain how you can help."
"Thank you," said Jessie as she took her box of popcorn.
"Thank you," said Benny. He shoved a large handful of popcorn into his mouth. "Yum," he said.
Mr. Tanaka pointed to a metal door, not the one they had come through. "See all the vendors coming through that door?" he asked. Then he looked down at Benny. "A vendor is somebody who sells things."
"Like popcorn," said Benny, eating another large handful.
"Yes," answered Mr. Tanaka. "Some vendors sell food. Others sell baseball caps or pennants."
"Souvenirs," said Jessie.
"That's right," said Mr. Tanaka. He looked at them. "Would you rather help with the food or the souvenirs?"
"The food!" answered Benny right away.
Jim Tanaka laughed. "I thought so. Follow me."
Jessie and Benny followed him to one side of the large kitchen. Workers were putting just-cooked hot dogs in paper wrappers.
"Jessie, do you think you can wrap these hot dogs and stack them inside these vendor boxes?" asked Mr. Tanaka.
"Yes," said Jessie. "I can do a good job at that." She began to wrap and stack hot dogs.
"Very good," Mr. Tanaka said. "I really appreciate your help."
"You're welcome," said Jessie. In no time at all, she had filled one vendor box. As soon as she closed the lid on the box somebody took it from her. It was a young man.
"Hello, Carlos," Mr. Tanaka said to him. "I'd like you to meet Jessie Alden and her brother Benny. They volunteered to help us out today. Jessie and Benny, this is Carlos Garcia."
Jessie and Benny said hello to Carlos.
Benny stared at Carlos' baseball cap. A tall stiff wire stood up at the back of his cap, like an antenna. At the top of the wire was a Cogs pennant.
"Nice to meet you," said Carlos as he hurried away with a full box of hot dogs.
"Carlos is one of our best vendors," Mr. Tanaka said. "He works the bleachers, right where you'll be sitting."
"We'll buy our hot dogs from Carlos, then," said Jessie.
"Carlos will be easy for you to find," said Mr. Tanaka. "He wears that tall wire and pennant just so hungry fans can spot him. I sit in the owner's box near home plate—even I can see Carlos in the bleachers."
Before he left, Mr. Tanaka showed Benny how to load trays with boxes of popcorn. Benny liked this job.
Jessie loaded more boxes with hot dogs. Soon Carlos Garcia was back.
"You sell your hot dogs really fast," Jessie said.
Carlos laughed. "I'm a very good vendor," said Carlos. "But I'm an even better catcher." He frowned. "Better than Reese Dawkins, that's for sure."
"Who's Reese Dawkins?" asked Jessie.
"He's the Cogs catcher," explained Carlos. "And he doesn't know which pitches to call." Carlos picked up a full box of hot dogs and left.
Jessie was happy that she was able to help Mr. Tanaka. Helping other people felt good. Soon one of the cooks came up to Jessie and Benny. "Thank you," he said. "Now you can go enjoy the game."
Jessie and Benny hurried out the door. Once again they were in the middle of thousands of fans. The two of them walked slowly, moving between groups of people.
They almost walked into the back of a large, fuzzy, orange circle. It was taller than Jessie. It had two legs that stuck out of the bottom. It had two arms which stuck out of the sides. It was a person in a big, strange costume!
"What's that?" asked Benny. "It has those things sticking out of it. Teeth, that's what they're called."
"Yes," said Jessie. "It looks like a giant walking cog. I'll bet it's the team mascot." Jessie had seen other sports mascots. They were people who wore big, fuzzy costumes.
Suddenly a group of children older than Benny ran up to the giant walking cog. "Wheelie!" they shouted, "Wheelie!" The cog turned around and around, bowing to the children.
Jessie saw words written across the front of the costume: Wheelie the Cogwheel.
As Benny and Jessie watched, Wheelie did a little dance for the children. Then he bowed to them again and continued walking.
"Let's stay behind Wheelie," said Benny. "I like to watch him."
Benny watched the fans. They held things out to Wheelie—napkins, pieces of paper, baseballs, and caps. One of them gave Wheelie a pen and the mascot autographed a napkin. After he autographed the napkin, the mascot held out a hand. The fan walked away.
Next Wheelie autographed a baseball. Once again he held out his hand. Benny saw the man with the autographed baseball put money into Wheelie's hand. Quickly, Wheelie's hand disappeared into his costume. Then it came out again, empty.
Just as Benny was about to tell Jessie what he saw, he heard cheering. Wheelie was racing down the aisle toward the playing field. Everyone was clapping and cheering to watch Wheelie run.
"Look," said Jessie, staring at the aisle number. "This is our section."
Jessie and Benny walked down the aisle, looking at row numbers. "I think we're way at the bottom," said Jessie. "We'll be very close to the baseball field." She was excited.
"I see Henry and Violet!" shouted Benny. He pointed to the second row of seats, where Henry and Violet sat.
"We just got here," Violet told Jessie and Benny. "We handed out all the foam gloves."
"I filled trays with popcorn boxes," Benny answered. "I could hardly keep up!"
"And I wrapped hot dogs and put them into vendor boxes," answered Jessie.
"I'm hungry," said Benny, looking around.
"Me, too," said Henry. "It's way past lunch time."
Jessie looked around, then smiled. She had spotted a pennant that seemed to float in the air. But she could tell that it was attached to a wire, and the wire was attached to a baseball cap. "Carlos!" she shouted.
"Who are you calling?" asked Henry.
"Carlos Garcia," said Jessie. "He's a hot dog vendor."
Excerpted from The Spy in the Bleachers by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp. Copyright © 2010 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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