Keeping Score

by Linda Sue Park

Both Maggie Fortini and her brother, Joey-Mick, were named for baseball great Joe DiMaggio. Unlike Joey-Mick, Maggie doesn’t play baseball—but at almost ten years old, she is a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maggie can recite all the players’ statistics and understands the subtleties of the game. Unfortunately, Jim Maine is a Giants fan, but it’s Jim who teaches Maggie the fine art of scoring a baseball game. Not only can she revisit every play of every inning, but by keeping score she feels she’s more than just a fan: she’s helping her team.

Jim is drafted into the army and sent to Korea, and although Maggie writes to him often, his silence is just one of a string of disappointments—being a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in the early 1950s meant season after season of near misses and year after year of dashed hopes. But Maggie goes on trying to help the Dodgers, and when she finds out that Jim needs help, too, she’s determined to provide it. Against a background of major league baseball and the Korean War on the home front, Maggie looks for, and finds, a way to make a difference.

Even those readers who think they don’t care about baseball will be drawn into the world of the true and ardent fan. Linda Sue Park’s captivating story will, of course, delight those who are already keeping score.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780547248974
  • ISBN-10: 0547248970
  • Pages: 224
  • Publication Date: 03/08/2010
  • Carton Quantity: 48

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  • Both Maggie Fortini and her brother, Joey-Mick, were named for baseball great Joe DiMaggio. Unlike Joey-Mick, Maggie doesn’t play baseball—but at almost ten years old, she is a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maggie can recite all the players’ statistics and understands the subtleties of the game. Unfortunately, Jim Maine is a Giants fan, but it’s Jim who teaches Maggie the fine art of scoring a baseball game. Not only can she revisit every play of every inning, but by keeping score she feels she’s more than just a fan: she’s helping her team.

    Jim is drafted into the army and sent to Korea, and although Maggie writes to him often, his silence is just one of a string of disappointments—being a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in the early 1950s meant season after season of near misses and year after year of dashed hopes. But Maggie goes on trying to help the Dodgers, and when she finds out that Jim needs help, too, she’s determined to provide it. Against a background of major league baseball and the Korean War on the home front, Maggie looks for, and finds, a way to make a difference.

    Even those readers who think they don’t care about baseball will be drawn into the world of the true and ardent fan. Linda Sue Park’s captivating story will, of course, delight those who are already keeping score.

  • July, 1951 Brooklyn, NY

    Chapter One: The New Guy “How’s come you guys don’t bunt?” Maggie was sitting on the stoop. On the sidewalk in front of their house, Joey-Mick finished tying his shoe with a double knot. He shrugged but didn’t answer.

    Then he picked up his glove and glared at it. He tightened the worn leather lace that was always coming undone, and prodded the hole in the top of one of the fingers. The glove was a hand-me-down from their Uncle Leo, and the only reason it was still in one piece, Maggie thought, was because it didn’t want to face her brother’s wrath if it fell apart. “They bunt all the time in the majors,” Maggie said. “Well, not all the time, but when they need to. Nobody on your team bunts, hardly never. Don’t they teach you how?” “We know how,” he said as he started plunking a ball into the pocket of the glove—thunk – thunk – thunk. “But it’s lots more important to get good at hitting.” He stopped plunking long enough to tug at the bill of his cap; Maggie thought that the cap over his new crewcut made him look like he didn’t have any hair at all. “If you played, you wouldn’t hafta ask that.” Maggie pressed her lips together hard.

    Whenever she tried to talk baseball with Joey-Mick, he always used that older-so-I-know-way-more-than-you voice and said she didn’t or wouldn’t or couldn’t understand because she didn’t play the game herself.

    It wasn’t fair. She was nine-going-on-ten, and she knew plenty about baseball, and way more about the Dodgers than he did. Unless she was in school, she never missed a game on the radio. Joey-Mick might go out to play with his friends during a game, but not Maggie. Like today. The Dodgers’ game against the Pittsburgh Pirates would be starting soon, and here was Joey-Mick waiting for his friend Davey; they were going to the park to have a catch. Maggie stood up. She was leaving as well, to walk the two blocks to the firehouse and listen to the game with the guys.

    “Gotta go,” she said. “Us real fans have a game to listen to.”

    New York was the only city in the whole country with three baseball teams. The Yankees of the American League were the winningest team in all of baseball. They had been World Series champions a whopping thirteen times. And the National League Giants had won the World Series seven times in their history.

    The Brooklyn Dodgers, who were in the National League with the Giants, had never won the World Series. Not ever.

    Not even once.

    It was what Maggie wanted more than anything in the world: for the Dodgers to win the World Series. It seemed like she had wanted it ever since she was born. Every year the Dodgers—whose nickname to Brooklynites was ‘Dem Bums’—came close, either winning the National League pennant or finishing in the top three. But the biggest prize, the World Series championship, always seemed to slip away from them. Although Maggie knew it wasn’t true, she felt like the first words she had learned when she was a baby were “Wait till next year!”—the unofficial official slogan of Dodgers fans.

    Charcoal, the mostly-black firehouse dog, always knew when Maggie was coming, and she knew he knew, so even before she saw him, she took from her pocket a folded paper napkin that held a half-slice of salami. When he bounded down the street to meet her, she was ready.

    She held out the salami, which he snapped down without chewing.

    “Charky! Where are your manners?” she said, shaking her head and smiling at the same time. The dog led the way to the firehouse, where the guys were sitting out front in folding chairs, boots and suspenders and toothpicks, with the radio already tuned to the broadcast of the game. As soon as George caught sight of her, he jumped to his feet and went and got another chair.

    After greetings, they all settled in to listen, Charky flopping down at Maggie’s feet. A routine, but one she never got tired of.

    The call came in at a crucial moment: The Dodgers had just tied the game.

    “Shouldn’t be long, Maggie-o,” George said as he opened the door on the driver’s side of the wagon and waited while Charky bounded onto the seat.

    “Doesn’t sound like anything serious.

    You better get that lead and keep it for us.” “I will,” Maggie promised, and stepped to the side of the bay to get out of the way. “Stay cool,” she called out as George hopped into the wagon.

    Whenever Dad left the house to go to work, Maggie and Joey-Mick always told him to ‘stay cool’. It came from something he often said to them: “When things get hot, you gotta stay cool.” During Dad’s firehouse days, Maggie would get sent home if an emergency calll came in. But now she didn’t have to leave when the guys went out on a job. “You’re in charge,” George had said the first time she stayed. Which had made her feel quite important. She watched until the wagon was out of sight, then walked over to the radio attttt the side of the bay and turned up the volume so she could hear it while she worked. George was very strict about keeping the firehouse tidy. He had learned it from Maggie’s dad, how keeping the whole place neat and organized could save precious time in an emergency. Most days at the firehouse when there weren’t any calls, the guys spent a lot of time cleaning. Today Maggie planned to surprise them by sweeping up while they were out.

    Dad had been a fireman at this station until three years ago. One afternoon when Maggie was six, Mom answered a knock at the door. Two cops were on the stoop. There had been a fire, and Dad was hurt. They didn’t know how bad. Maggie could still remember every detail of that ride to the hospital, the dome light flashing and the siren shrieking and Mom holding her hand tight enough that it hurt. They saw Dad for a few moments before the operation to fix his leg, his face so black with soot that you couldn’t tell where the soot ended and his hair and mustache began, and when he smiled at them his teeth looked the whitest they had ever been—smiled even though the pain must have been too awful to imagine. And he said, “You weren’t none of yous worried, were ya?” Maggie had seen the tears tracking down her mother’s face as she cleared her throat and answered, “Pish, I couldn’t be bothered. I was getting the dinner, and it’ll be gone cold now, thank you very much.” They were clustered around his hospital bed when he woke up from the operation.

    “Everybody staying cool?” he asked groggily, the first words out of his mouth.

    Later he told them a little more about what had happened. “I went crashin’ through the floor, right? And when I got my wits back, I got down low, where the air was a little better, and I started crawling. Every inch I crawled I tried to think about something cool. Maggie eating ice cream, Joey-Mick hosing down the wagon, your mom on our honeymoon at Jones Beach—” “What’s so cool about that?” Joey-Mick asked.

    Dad winked. “—in her bathing suit—” “Joseph!” Maggie’s mom put one hand to her mouth, half annoyed and half laughing.

    “Can’t help it, Rosie, it’s the truth.” And staying cool had helped Dad save his own life, and maybe George’s and Vince’s too, for even with a shattered leg he managed to crawl as far as the door where the other guys found him and dragged him out just as the whole roof collapsed. I...

  • "Although the jacket image shoes a girl at a baseball stadium, Newbery Medalist Park's (A Single Shard) Korean War-era novel is best approached not as a sports story but as a powerful attempt to grapple with loss. Margaret Olivia Fontini, named after Joe DiMaggio ("Maggie-o, get it?"), loves Brooklyn's beloved but doomed Dodgers with a passion. When a new fireman arrives at her father's station wearing his allegiance to the arch-enemy Giants on his sleeve, Maggie keeps her distance until he teachers her how to score the game, a practice Maggie embraces with gusto, believing that recording every pitch and play might actually help Dem Bums finally win. And when Jim is drafted and sent to Korea, he and Maggie write, until Jim's letters abruptly stop. Park evokes the characters and settings with her customary skill and talent for detail; she shows unusual sensitivity in writing about war and the atrocity that, Maggie learns, has traumatized Jim into silence. Readers will be moved by Maggie's hard earned revelation, that every instance of keeping score "had been a chance to hope for something good to happen," and that "hope always comes first."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

    "In 1950s Brooklyn, everyone is baseball mad. Maggie says daily prayers and follows careful rituals to "help" the Dodgers. She listens intently to games on the radio, often with her friends at the firehouse. With firefighter Jim's help, even if he is a Giants fan, she learns to score the games meticulously. Jim is drafted and sent to Korea, where his experiences lead to a severe breakdown. Maggie writes to Jim faithfully, scores Giants games for him and says heartfelt prayers for his recovery. But her efforts meet with little success. She is disillusioned and heartbroken by the war, by Jim's inability to cope and by the constant disappointments provided by the Dodgers. But she never completely gives up, and there is a ray of hope for both Jim and the Dodgers as the 1955 season begins. Park's deeply layered plot is built as slowly and as meticulously as Maggie's scoring. As Maggie matures from age nine to 13, she never loses her compassion and openhearted nature. An author's note adds historical information. A winner at every level."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

    "In 1951, Maggie, nine, and her older brother, Joey-Mick, are dedicated baseball fans though their beloved Brooklyn Dodgers always disappoint them at season's end. Maggie enjoys listening to the games with the firefighters in her neighborhood station; her dad worked there before an injury forced him to accept a desk job. When a new firefighter, Jim, joins the crew, he teaches Maggie how to keep score and she comes to share his admiration for Giants' great Willie Mays. Then Jim is drafted and sent to Korea. They writer to one another until his letters abruptly stop. Maggie, frustrated and worried, tries to understand the conflict by researching it at her local library and even drawing her own maps tracing the war's progress on the Korean peninsula. Eventually, she learns that Jim suffered traumatic shock after a horrific battle and has been sent home with a medical discharge. Park paints a vividly detailed account of life in 1950s Brooklyn. Maggie's perspective is authentically childlike and engaging, and her relations with her family and friends ring true. Jim's tragic experience raises difficult, troubling questions for Maggie, but her grief eventually brings her to the conclusion that "hope is what gets everything started." Baseball fans will savor her first visit to Ebbets Fields, but this finely crafted novel should resonate with a wide audience of readers.."--School Library Journal

    "Park, author of the Newbery-winning A Single Shard (2001), opens this thoroughly researched novel in Brooklyn with the 1951 baseball season half gone. Nine-year-old Maggie likes to hang out at the fire station, where she listens to the Dodger games with the firemen. The new guy, Jim, teaches Maggie how to score a game, and after Jim is drafted and sent to Korea, Maggie writes him letters. When she learns that he has been traumatized and sent home unresponsive and unable to function on his own, Maggie works on a plan to bring Jim back to himself and his own life. To her credit, Park doesn't make Maggie's goal seem easy or even realistic. The involving story spans several years with only a glimmer of hope for Jim's recovery. Still, readers will find plenty to root for as they get to know determined, persistent Maggie, who feels that the first words she ever learned must have been "Wait till next year."--Booklist