Like every other kid in his class, Joe Stoscack has to write a report on an African American who's made an important contribution to society. Unlike every other kid in his class, Joe has a special talent: with the help of old baseball cards, he can travel through time. So for his report, Joe decides to go back to meet one of the greatest baseball players ever, Jackie Robinson, to find out what it was like to be the man who broke baseball's color barrier. Joe plans on writing a prize-winning report. But he doesn't plan on a trip that will for a short time change the color of his skin--and forever change his view of history and his definition of courage.Joe Stoshack has really done it this time. When a pitcher insults his Polish heritage, Joe flings his bat and prompts an on-field brawl that ends in a two-team pileup. he's suspended from Little League...indefinitely. At school, his teacher assigns an oral report for Black History Month. The topic? An African-American who has made a significant contribution to American society. The prize for the best report is four tickets to a cool local amusement park. But Joe doesn't know where to begin. If he could just get his hands on a certain Jackie Robinson baseball card...
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February 01, 2000
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Excerpt from Jackie & Me by Dan Gutman
"You can't hit, Stoshack!" Bobby Fuller yelled at me from the pitcher's mound. "You couldn't hit water if you fell off a boat!"
I stepped into the batter's box. Bobby Fuller busted my chops all last season. Now it was our first practice game and he was starting in again. I dug my left toe into the dirt and got set for his first pitch.
"You're ugly, too, Stoshack."
Fuller knows he can rattle me. That's why he does it. My team, the Yellow Jackets, had a one-run lead in the fifth inning. The runners at second and third took their leads. Two outs. A hit would put the game out of reach. Fuller needed to strike me out. I was doing my best not to let him get to me.
"Did I mention stupid?" Fuller asked. I pumped my bat back and forth. "You're stupid, too, Stoshack."
A few of Fuller's teammates snickered. I felt the blood rushing to my face. Try to act like it doesn't bother you, I said to myself. Try to act like it doesn't bother you.
"You gonna take that, Stoshack?" the catcher whispered to me, quietly enough so that even the umpire wouldn't hear. "What kind of a wimp are you?"
It would be so easy. I could just turn around, take my bat, and brain the catcher with it. Do some real damage. His mask would provide only so much protection. That would shut him up. And it would feel so good.
"Stick it in his ear, Bobby!" the shortstop hollered.
The coaches are always telling us about the importance of sportsmanship. The Louisville Little League has strict rules about how we're supposed to act, and what we're allowed to say to the other team during our games. I guess Bobby Fuller and his teammates never got the message. Their coach didn't seem to care.
"You know you can't hit me, Stoshack," Fuller said as he looked in for the sign. "Because you're a big, slow, ugly, dumb Polack!"
Call me ugly. Call me stupid. Say I can't hit. But don't make fun of my nationality or you're gonna pay.
I didn't wait for the pitch. I brought the bat back and flung it at Fuller as hard as I could. It went spinning out of my hands and flew toward the pitcher's mound, about thigh high. Fuller freaked. He jumped to avoid the bat shooting toward him. It zipped about an inch below his heels and skittered all the way to second base.
"This ain't hockey, Stoshack," the umpire warned me. "You're out of the game!"
I didn't care. When I saw Fuller skip out of the way of my bat, I lost control. I made a fist and charged the mound. I was ready to rip his head off. Fuller flung away his glove and put his fists up.
"You wanna fight, Stoshack?" he laughed. "I'll kick your butt!"
I could see Fuller's teammates converging on the mound to defend him, but it didn't matter. There could have been a hundred guys out there. I still would have tried to bust Fuller's skull in.
Before I reached the mound, the catcher jumped on my back from behind and knocked me down. By that time, my teammates had rushed off the bench and stormed the field.
I couldn't tell exactly what happened next. I was at the bottom of a pile of bodies. There was a lot of yelling. I felt some punches being thrown at my head. Somebody stepped on my hand. Mostly, it was just the weight of a bunch of kids on top of me.
It took about ten minutes for the coaches to calm everybody down and peel all the kids off the pile. I was the last one to get up. I was okay, but my hand was throbbing. Coach Hutchinson wrapped his burly arm around my shoulder and steered me roughly back to the bench.
"The season hasn't even started yet!" he complained. "What are you trying to do, get yourself suspended?"
I glanced at Fuller. Nobody laid a glove on him. He smirked and turned away. I tore away from Coach Hutchinson and went after Fuller again.
"I'm gonna kill you, Fuller!" I yelled.
This time the umpire tackled me, sending me facefirst into the dirt around home plate. He lay on top of me, not letting me move.
"You got a problem, young man," the ump said in my ear. "You're not gonna play in this league again until you solve it."
Coach Hutchinson was furious with me. So was my mom. The Yellow Jackets forfeited the game. My left pinky was sprained. I was suspended from the Little League indefinitely.