Monday, July 11, 2011

Fake or Phantom? The Pinstripe Ghost (Ballpark Mysteries) by David A. Kelly

Mike drummed his fingers on the side of his chair. He liked action more than talk, and press conferences were all talk and no action. But at least it was baseball talk.

"That's it for today," he said. "Except for one thing. The famous author Mr. Robert Williams will be here all weekend near the main entrance, signing copies of his new book, Ghosts in the Ballpark: A History of Haunted Baseball Stadiums and Supernatural Superstars."

"What about the ghost of Babe Ruth?" Kate's mom asked. "Some people are saying that the stadium is haunted," she added, "because the original Yankee Stadium where Ruth played was torn down. ... Some workers have heard strange noises."

Mike and Kate suddenly come to full attention. In New York for a series between the Yankees and the Mariners with Kate's reporter mom, the cousins can't resist a double challenge--a baseball mystery and tracking the ghost of the Yankees' most famous player. As soon as the stands come to life for the first game, they begin their sleuthing, beginning with the strange noises and rush of cold air near Bud's Hot Dog Stand. And while Mike takes time off from detecting to try out the hot dogs, it happens:

There was a rush of cool air. Kate and Mike felt the hair on their arms tingle.

"Here it comes," Bud said. "The ghost of Babe Ruth is in the house!"


Above them--or somewhere behind the stand--they heard muffled scraping and rustling sounds. The sounds got louder, and then they got softer.

Kate and Mike can't deny what they've heard or felt, but being a detective means to question everything and look for physical evidence, and the case is on!

Exploring the service tunnels under the stadium takes them to the outfield stands and to the Monument Park, where Mike spots a strangely familiar figure:

It was an older man in a Yankee uniform. Mike noticed how old and worn the uniform looked.

The man stared at the Yankees dugout. Without a word, he tipped his baseball hat toward the field.

"Did you see that?" he asked Kate.

"See what?" Kate was in front of the big brass plaque dedicated to Lou Gehrig.

"The guy who was just here." Mike said. "He was wearing an old-fashioned Yankee uniform."

Kate is skeptical, but Mike is convinced that he has caught a glimpse of the ghost of Babe Ruth. Still the kids continue their search for clues, checking out the storage closet along the service halls. One is surprisingly unlocked, and the kids notice a trail of dirt and mulch between the air conditioning vent and the doorway. Mike remembers seeing the same kind of dirt on the otherwise spotless floor around Bud's Hot Dogs. When Kate sees a group of teenagers led by a curly-haired redhead evicted for sneaking into the stadium, she begins to put together the evidence.

Author David A. Kelly's second book in the Baseball Mysteries offers plenty of distracting clues and possibilities for the presentiments of the "ghost." Bud the hot-dog man is profiting from the curious traffic around his stand, and author Williams, who obviously wants to fire interest in his book, is unusually stern when he appears with a box of his books and orders the kids out of the service area and back into the stands with a gruff command to leave the mystery to grownups. But of course, our baseball detectives are not deterred in this latest, Ballpark Mysteries #2: The Pinstripe Ghost (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) (Random House, 2011). With plenty of false leads, real clues to put together, a bit of baseball play action on the field for sports fans, and a appendix "Stadium Notes: Yankee Stadium" for baseball trivia lovers, this newest entry has much to offer to the beginning chapter book reader.

And author Kelly wisely leaves one mystery still unsolved: Who was that enigmatic figure in faded Yankee pinstripes?

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