Trading Gameby Alfred Slote
What's So Special About Ace 459?
Andy Harris's fabulous baseball card collection, left to him by his father, is the envy of every baseball fan in town. Still, Andy would rather play ball than collect cards. He's got a natural talent for the game, like his grandfather, pro ball player Jim Harris. And Jim Harris, Ace 459, is the one card Andy would give anything
What's So Special About Ace 459?
Andy Harris's fabulous baseball card collection, left to him by his father, is the envy of every baseball fan in town. Still, Andy would rather play ball than collect cards. He's got a natural talent for the game, like his grandfather, pro ball player Jim Harris. And Jim Harris, Ace 459, is the one card Andy would give anything to own he'd even trade his priceless 1952 Micky Mantle card.
Then Grandpa comes to town for a visit and offers to coach Andy's ragtag team. For the first time, Andy and his friends really look good, really feel like a team. But Grampa's rules for playing the game contradict everything Andy believes about friendship and good sportsmanship. And Andy begins to wonder if Ace 459 is such a hero after all.
Read an Excerpt
It was a Saturday morning in July. Tubby, Kyle Reavy, and I were biking home from another bad baseball practice. The worst part was that our so-called coach, Mr. Cartwright, had scheduled another practice for tomorrow.
Only Tubby was cheerful. One, because he didn't really care about the team. He was only playing because his father was making him. And secondly, 'cause we were going to stop at The Grandstand, where he was going to buy some baseball cards.
"You guys can have the gum," he said.
Kyle looked at me and shook his head. "Tubs is disgusting," he said.
Tubby laughed. Insults flowed off him like water off a duck's back.
The light changed and we shot across the intersection and locked our bikes together around a tree in front of The Grandstand.
As we went in, old Mr. Kessler lookedat us sourly. Even though he ran a great store for kids, I don't think he really liked kids. He always looked suspicious and the worst things we'd do, horsing around with the stuff, never surprised him.
The fact was, you could do a lot of horsing around in The Grandstand. There were tons of baseball cards, sports magazines, sports books, pennants, caps, newspapers, soft drinks, and candy. It was an old-fashioned store. Dad used to come here when he was a kid.
Once, I complained to Dad about Mr. Kessler being so grumpy all the. time. Dad laughed and said: "That's 0K, Andy, grumpy storekeepers usually run great stores. It's the smilers you!ve got to watch out for."
"Because they're not selling anything but themselves. The best thing about The Grandstand, Andy, is the great stuff in there and the factthat old man Kessler leaves you alone with it. You know that standing there in the paperback section I once read The Joe DiMaggio Story, the whole book, in two hours and he never bothered me once to buy it? In fact, I didn't think he even noticed me but when I was leaving, he said: 'Pretty good book, huh?'"
"Why does he run a store if he doesn't like it and doesn't mind people not buying things?"
"I think he does it to get out of the house," Mom said. "Mrs. Kessler is a battle-axe."
"I'll never marry a battle-axe," I said.
Dad laughed. "They don't start out as battleaxes, Andy. They get that way."
And he ducked as Mom threw a linen napkin across the table at him. In the napkin ring!
Sometimes those memories come back in a rush. Sometimes I'll sit alone in the backyard and try to remember and nothing comes.
Anyway, that Saturday morning in July, Tubby and Kyle and I went into The Grandstand.
"Hi, Mr. Kessler," Tubby said. Tubs was one of Mr. Kessler's best customers. But Mr. Kessler didn't even answer him. He looked at me.
"Your grampa here yet?"
I was really surprised. How'd he know my grampa was coming today?
Tubby was interested right away. "You didn't tell me your grampa was coming to visit you, Andy."
"Why would Andy tell you?" Kyle said, picking out a baseball magazine. "You won't give him the card. You're lucky he talks to you at all."
"I won't give it to him but I'll trade with him," Tubby said. He gave me a meaningful look. I ignored him.
"He's supposed to be here around noon, Mr. Kessler," I said.
"Tell him to give me a call. I want to chew the fat with him."
"That means they want to eat you, Tubs," Kyle said.
Tubs laughed. That's the trouble with Tubby. He doesn't care about how he looks ... or plays. Also, I think he may have been a little embarrassed about Kyle mentioning the card in front of Mr. Kessler. Mr. Kessler knew he had it, of course.
Kyle and I bought Pepsis while Tubby looked at card sets.
Kyle took a big swallow. "You think your grampa would come to our practice tomorrow?"
"If I asked him." That's what I said but I wasn't so sure. Lots of times, over the phone, I'd asked Grampa to come to my baseball games but he never did.
"Ask him, then," Kyle said. "Things are gettin' desperate. We need help fast."
"You're telling me."
"I'll buy this set, Mr. Kessler," Tubby said.
We watched Tubby give Mr. Kessler forty cents and rip open the pack.
"Here, you guys," he said, giving us the gum while he checked out his cards.
"What'd you get, Tubs?" we asked.
"Don Baylor, who I got four of already. Brett Butler, who I got two of. Mark Clear, who'll be worth two cents even after his career. Jim Fregosi, manager ... I got him too. LaMarr Hoyt. He could be worth something someday."
"You know what, Tubs?" Kyle said.
"You think about money too much."
"What else is there to think about? Here's Joaquin Andujar ... traded from the Cards. Marc Sullivan. His father is one of the owners of the Red Sox. Hmmm ... they might come out with a father-son series, only the father's an owner and the son!s a player."
Kyle and I laughed. We chewed Tubby's gum. It would have been better chewing the cards.
Tubby also got a Ruppert Jones he didn't need, a Rick Burleson he didn't want. And then he chortled triumphantly.
"How about this?"
"What?" we both said, looking.
"Wally Joyner, rookie all-star card. I bet that's worth some money."
Tubby grabbed the dog-eared price guide that was chained to the counter.
"Hey, you guys, it's worth $2.25. How about that? I more than quadrupled my money already. And these other cards are probably worth another dollar for all of them. Mr. Kessler, can I have a plastic sleeve?"The Trading Game. Copyright � by Alfred Slote. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Alfred Slote is the author of over thirty books, most of them for young people. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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