Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring Training -- a taste of THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK.

Because THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK is now out in paperback, we're offering a little excerpt, below.

First, what some other people have to say about the book:

"Richly imagined ... young sports fans will revel in Baggott's underworld ... especially young residents of Red Sox Nation, [who] will dig their cleats in for a thoroughly involving tale."
--Kirkus Reviews

"... brilliant premise ... Both whimsical and provocative, this story will engage readers who like clever tales, and also those who enjoy chewing over controversial themes."
-- School Library Journal (John Peters, New York Public Library)

"If you have a young reader ... [The Prince of Fenway Park] should score a home run.... a wild adventure..." -- Cape Cod Times

"...a delicious little fairy tale about the National Pastime... Baggott's knocked another one out of the park."
-- Star News

The year it came out THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK was on Scholastic's Top 5 List of Best Baseball Reads.

In 2004, there WAS a curse on the Boston Red Sox (an 86-year-old curse).
It WAS reversed.
And THIS is the boy who did it --
Oscar Loss, a biracial 12-year-old die-hard Red Sox fan, living in Hingham.
When the book opens, he has no idea that he's the boy who'll break the curse.

This is the moment when Oscar goes into the past to meet ... Babe Ruth.


He squatted down to the cabinet door near the floor, and unlocked the door. It was cold in there. Oscar could feel a draft. His puffy yellow vest was slung over the back of one of the kitchen chairs, and since he didn’t know where he’d end up tonight – on the back of the Pooka or worse – he put it on. He got down on his knees and looked through the door to a small passageway, unlit, earthen. He crawled in, and shut the door behind him, but then it was too dark. Scared, he turned back and left the door open a crack, just enough to let some of the light from the kitchen slip in.

;font-family:";" >He crawled quickly. The dirt was a little moist. He could feel the wetness seep through the knees of his pants. This tunnel had as many twists as the passageways of nettles and barbed ivy. He was trying to think of the perfect rhyme to describe whatever was beneath home plate and something about midnight. He thought and thought, but his mind always wandered at the power he had. He could say anything about any time and place. Where did he really want to go? What did he really want to see? The past would always be in the past. He could always catch up with the Pooka, couldn’t he?

He slowed down. What would it hurt if he went to just one place first. Just one. This was such a huge gift. Finally he blurted the one thing that was on his mind. “To tell the truth, I want to meet Babe Ruth.”

And it rhymed. He hadn’t said it very loudly. In fact, his voice sounded small and weak in the tight tunnel, muffled by the earth all around him

There was no grand transformation. Nothing. Maybe this was just another passageway. Maybe this didn’t lead anywhere. Or not for him. Maybe it only worked for those with fairy blood. He thought about turning around. He’d probably get in trouble, big trouble, for sneaking out like this. He already felt horrible about it. And he was going to turn back, he was just about to, when he saw a distant long, rectangular window of light. Oscar crawled to it. On either side were hung up jerseys. Red Sox jerseys – old-fashioned ones. He lifted his hand and touched them. They were coarse. He pulled one, stretching the back of it wide. It was a broad jersey – no name, no number. The front was button-down with RED SOX stitched on it.

There was a space to climb down, and Oscar did, into a narrow closet. No, Oscar corrected himself, a locker. It was wooden and door-less. He recognized the fungal stink.

He stepped out of it into a large room. It was dark.

But then ceiling lights flipped on overhead, and a voice said, “Hey kid, what are you doing in here?”

The man was tall and broad and ruddy. He was wearing a suit and a long coat and a hat with a black band. He was holding a cigar, but it wasn’t lit. His face was wide, his nose too. He had black shiny eyes. He was, of course, Babe Ruth, but so much bigger than Oscar had ever imagined. He said, “You one of Bossy’s kids?”


“You lost?”

Oscar looked around the locker room – the wooden benches, the old overhead lights, the player’s lockers with wool uniforms on hangers, the pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room. “No,” he said. “I’m not lost.”

“What you got on there? A life jacket?”

Oscar looked down at his puffy yellow vest. He wasn’t sure what to say. “It’s a costume.”

“Close enough to Halloween, I guess.”

“What year is it?”

“What year, kid? Don’t you know? You bang your head or something?” Ruth had a big wide smile

“I’d just like you to tell me. That’s all.”

“C’mon, kid. It’s 1919.”

“And you’re still here with the Red Sox?”

“Where else would I be?”

“Nowhere,” Oscar said. “It’s just...”

“Just what?”


“You don’t know what year it is and you want to talk management all the sudden?”

Oscar could hear voices off in the distance. He didn’t have much time. “Frazee might say some mean things about you one day, but you’ll go down in history as the best of the best. No one will ever forgive him for the bad things he’s going to do and say to you.”

“You think he’s a bad guy, huh?”

“I do.”

Ruth stared at Oscar then, taking a step forward, tilting his head. “Do you know something about bad guys? Bullies and stuff like that?”

Oscar nodded.

“You know, when I was little, I lived in a place called St. Mary’s – it was a school for wayward boys, no-goods, like me. And you know what the kids called me at that place?”

Oscar shook his head.

“They called me Nigger Lips.”

Oscar didn’t move. He just looked at Ruth, and it seemed like Ruth knew what it was to be Oscar in a way that no other adult had ever seemed to.

“You think people still call me things like that?” Ruth asked.

“No,” Oscar said. “You’re famous.”

“You’re wrong. They still do. The difference is that when I was a kid, like you, I thought it was because there was something wrong with me. But now I know it’s that something is wrong with them.”

Oscar nodded.

“No matter what Frazee says I’ll keep on swinging with everything I’ve got. I’ll sometimes hit them big and I’ll sometimes miss them big. But I’ll always be living as big as I possibly can. You can’t beat the person who never gives up.”

“I won’t give up then,” Oscar said.

Someone down the hall shouted for Ruth. “I gotta go,” he said. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m just waiting for my dad. He’ll be here soon.”

“You look kinda familiar. We met before, you and me?”

Oscar shook his head.

Babe walked over then and held up a piece of hard yellow candy wrapped in plastic. “Here,” he said. “A little early for Halloween, but I like your costume. You’re a survivor, right? Of a shipwreck? Like the Titanic?”

Oscar nodded and took the candy. “Um, and one more thing,” Oscar said.

“What is it?”

“You were talking about swinging big and hitting big. I know you’re a pitcher now, mostly, but maybe …” He suddenly felt flustered. This was Babe Ruth. His cheeks felt flushed.

“Go on,” Ruth said. “Go on, kid.”

“Um, well, maybe you should hit more. I mean, pitchers only get up to bat once every five or so games, but hitters can get up to bat five times in one game.”

Babe looked at him seriously then smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind, kid,” he said, then he looked at his vest one more time. “A survivor. I like it.” And he walked to the door of the locker room, tipped his hat, then he was gone.