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Only in Kit's Home Run
Kit and Stirling are playing catch in the backyard while Kit takes a break from her chores. Grace is nearby, snoozing. Stirling throws a fastball towards Kit and she catches it, grinning. She compliments him on his good arm for a skinny guy, and Stirling says that carrying newspapers has helped him—on the very first day of their summer vacation from school, he went out and got a job selling papers. Stirling throws the ball back to Kit and says she's a good catcher—almost as good as Ernie Lombardi of the Cincinnati Reds. Kit wonders that it would be great to go see Lombardi play, and Stirling agrees. Kit is sure that Stirling is thinking the same thing she is—going to a game right now is as possible for them as going to the moon. They do not have money to spare for baseball games; the Kittredges would have lost their house if Aunt Millie hadn't put up her own money to pay the mortgage. Stirling and his mother are doing quite poorly; they have not paid any rent since moving in, and the only income they have is Stirling's newspapers.
Kit mentions that she and her father went to baseball game last year—she doesn't add that it was before her father lost his job. She recalls several sensory details about the game, and how Lombardi hit a home run but was almost tagged out because he strolled around the bases and had to dive for home plate. She states that he is a good hitter and catcher, but a bad runner. Stirling points out that no one is good at everything, but the idea of a team is that everyone does something different to help them to victory. Kit agrees and would have said more, but is cut off by Mrs. Howard calling for Stirling to go get ready for his job—she does not want him to rush and get overheated. She also reminds him to wear his cap to keep the sun off.Stirling complies and says goodbye, throwing one last ball high up. Kit squints into the sun and runs backward without looking behind her, then jumps and catches the ball—then slams into a rose trellis and knocks it to the ground. She lands on it and the attached roses. Mrs. Howard and Stirling rush to Kit amd Mrs. Howard asks if Kit was alright. Kit says she's fine, even though she has scratched up arms. Mrs. Howard notices her roses and becomes upset. Kit and Stirling look at the roses and then each other before saying "uh-oh." The trellis roses have been Mrs. Howard's "pets"; she has put a lot of work into the roses, and Kit has flattened them.
Kit and Stirling apologize. Mrs. Howard blames what has happened on the baseball playing as she fusses over the roses, saying she doesn't like it. She feels that Stirling shouldn't play with his "delicate bones" and he could get hurt—and the roses have been. She sighs, saying that Stirling should go to work. Stirling leaves, giving a sympathetic look at Kit. Kit offers to help Mrs. Howard fix the trellis, but Mrs. Howard declines. She fusses that she doesn't understand why Kit likes baseball—it is rough and noisy, and in her day girls were graceful, gentle, and quiet—not tomboys! She points out that Kit is dirty and sweaty, and suggests that she go inside and clean herself up. Kit says "yes, ma'am" and heads inside to do so.
While this is all she says, it is not all she's thinking as she and Grace go inside. She feels very sorry for ruining the roses, but thinks that Mrs. Howard shouldn't have made such a fuss as she washes up. Mrs. Howard makes a fuss about everything—flowers, cleanliness, baseball, Stirling—and Kit feels it's pointless. For example, Mrs. Howard still fusses over Stirling—even though he is no longer as pitiful and weak as he was when they moved in. He's strong, healthy, and is even contributing to the household—which is more than Mrs. Howard does, Kit feels. She's even stopped doing her share of housework since Aunt Millie arrived in early April and now only volunteers at the hospital (doing their garden work). She does clean the room that she and Stirling stay in and do their laundry herself—but Kit assumes that this is only because she is so picky that she doesn't think anyone else would do it right. Mother has said that everyone has to work together to make the boarding house succeed, Kit thinks as she heads back to her chores, but Mrs. Howard is no star player.It is later that week; Kit is tearing around second base as her teammates yell at her to run. She can see the left fielder chasing the ball. Kit had been headed home from the library, but some friends invited her to a game of baseball. She has hit a grounder to left field and is running for home. The bases had been loaded and the other three have already come in; if she makes it to home it will be a grand slam and her team will win. She rounds third as her team hollers for her to keep going. As she does so, she sees the ball speeding through the air and the catcher stepping to catch it and tag her out. She decides the only thing to do is dive for home like Lombardi. She dives towards home to try and reach it before the catcher catches the ball. He jumps up just as Kit hits the plate; he snags the ball and turns to tag her—hitting her in the mouth with his elbow. Kit doesn't care though. She's safe, and while her face has been clobbered her team has won. Her team cheers.
Kit stands up gingerly and brushes the dirt from her dress. Her teammates thump her on the back to congratulate her. She tries to grin but it makes her lip sting. Everyone goes quiet and the catcher apologizes. Kit asks what's the matter (but her mouth is so mushy that the words are slurred together) and the catcher says it's her lip. She prods her lip with her tongue, tastes blood, then feels it and pulls her hand away to show blood. She looks down and there is blood and dirt on her dress. One boy says impressively that Kit will need stitches; another eagerly bets she'll get a black eye later too. A girl on Kit's team suggests Kit to go home. Kit says she should and says bye, picking up her library books. The girl congratulates Kit on the great slide as she walks away.
Kit feels weak and dizzy as she heads home, holding a hankie against her bloody mouth. She thinks that Mother and Aunt Millie will know what to do—then stops, realizing with dread that her parents are not there. They and Aunt Millie have headed to the bank to try to get a loan for the mortgage. Most of the boarders are gone, and Stirling is at his job. Only Mrs. Howard is at home. Kit groans, expecting a lot of fussing once Mrs. Howard sees her face. She fully expects to hear a lot against baseball—and her. Kit drags her feet all the way home.
Kit sets her books down and heads Mrs. Howard in the kitchen, so she heads inside. Mrs. Howard turns and her eyes go wide as she sees her face. She asks what happened—then says not to tell her, and that it was baseball. Kit nods yes, steeling herself for a lecture against tomboys and fussing, which will be even more bothersome than her injuries (which are starting to hurt badly). Instead, Mrs. Howard leads Kit to a chair and has her sit down, calling her "lamby". Kit does so, and Mrs. Howard goes into action. She washes Kit's injuries gently, gives her a cool cloth for her eye and lips, brings her fresh clothes and gets her dirty dress into cool water to soak. She mumbles reassurances the whole time and is patient, gentle, calm and kind the whole time. She asks Kit if she feels better as she finishes changing, and Kit says yes and thanks (but it comes out "sanks"). Mrs. Howard examines her eye and lip and says they should go to the hospital to have a doctor check out her injuries as her lip may need stitches. There's no money for a cab, so she asks if Kit feels up to walking. Kit nods yes and stands up, but she weaves a bit. Mrs. Howard calls her brave and offers Kit to lean on her.
As they walk to the hospital, Kit is grateful for Mrs. Howard's arm; the heat and sunshine are making her feel woozy. Mrs. Howard doesn't rush and speaks soft encouragements the whole way. While normally Kit hates being treated like a baby, she feels that Mrs. Howard is a good person to be with if you're hurt and on the way to the hospital for stitches. She thanks Mrs. Howard for being so nice. Mrs. Howard admits with a small smile that taking care of injured things is all she is good at except for cooking and cleaning. Kit has made her feel the most useful in a while. Stirling doesn't need as much fussing and with Aunt Millie in town—Mrs. Howard trails off. Kit tries to say more, but Mrs. Howard says not to try and talk with her poor lip. Kit presses the dishcloth to her lip and thinks that all she need was a clonk on the head to finally understand Mrs. Howard.
At the hospital. Mrs. Howard goes straight to the admitting desk as Kit waits with water dripping onto her dress. Mrs. Howard arranges an appointment with the next available doctor and then comes back and suggests they go to a hospitality shop near the front lobby. The store has a sink they can use to rinse out Kit's dishrag; she has used it to wash her hands after tending the flower beds at the hospital. Kit says alright—her lip does not hurt as much and the bleeding has stopped. The shop is very busy with shoppers, and every seat at the lunch counter is taken. Mrs. Howard calls for the owner, Mr. Hoffstader and says that they are going to use the sink. Mr. Hoffstader says to go ahead. Mrs. Howard takes them to the sink and rinses out the dishrag; as she notices some thirsty-looking potted plants she squeezes the rag over them.Kit thinks that Mrs. Howard sure does care for pitiful plants. Kit notices that Mr. Hoffstader is watching too. After serving some hamburgers, he starts in on egg-salad sandwiches and asks Mrs. Howard if she's one of the garden club ladies. Mrs. Howard says yes. He says that he's seen her working on the plants outside, and more often than the other ladies. Mrs. Howard modestly says yes, and Kit pipes in that Mrs. Howard loves plants. Kit suddenly gets a good idea and asks Mr. Hoffstader who waters the plants at his store. He says that his wife used to, but since she had their baby two weeks ago she has stayed home. He is too busy cooking and cleaning to remember to water the plants.
Kit, feeling that she has to dive right in like in the baseball game, says that it seems he could use a helper and suggests Mrs. Howard for the job and lists how good she is with plants, cleaning, cooking, and how nice she is to the injured. She then asks Mrs. Howard to agree, and Mrs. Howard blushes and agrees. Mr. Hoffsteader says that he needs help during lunch but he can't pay much, and offers two dollars a week. Mrs. Howard is so surprised she can't talk until Kit nudges her and she agrees. Mr. Hoffstader asks Mrs. Howard to start tomorrow and she accepts, and they agree that she will be there at eleven a.m. She thanks him as the two leave the store and return to the waiting room. Mrs. Howard asks if Kit really just got her a job and Kit says she did. Mrs. Howard laughs, saying that it was lucky that Kit got a black eye and split lip ans she won't fuss at Kit or Stirling about baseball anymore.
Mrs. Howard keeps her word—in fact, after getting her job, she rarely fusses at home at all. Stirling says it's because his mother is happy she can pay rent to the Kittredges. Kit thinks it's because Mrs. Howard uses all of her fussiness at work where it's appreciated. Mr. Hoffsteader is very pleased with Mrs. Howard's work and says she is the best cleaner and plants have never been as well cared for. Mrs. Howard feels that Kit has found her the perfect job, and after several weeks rewards Kit—by taking her and Stirling to a Reds' game on Ladies' Day. Kit thanks Mrs. Howard as they take their seats, knowing that baseball is not her thing. She notices this as Mrs. Howard does not know what is going on in the slightest, though she does try to follow the plays. The game is terrific—at the bottom of the seventh, Ernie Lombardi hits a homer over center field. The crowd goes wild except for Mrs. Howard. When she asks, Kit explains that he hit a grand slam which brought in four runs for the team. While she thinks that Mrs. Howard doesn't understand, Mrs. Howard shows she does—by saying that his home run was like Kit's. Kit's run brought in four things: she got a job, Stirling doesn't have her fussing all the time, Kit's parents are getting rent from her—and Kit finishes that she got to go to a Red's game. Mrs. Howard agrees, saying that her home run was truly a grand slam.
Meet The Author
Valerie Tripp shares that she liked to play baseball in the front yard with her brother Granger when she was Kit's age. She once got a black eye like Kit did but never hit a grand slam.
Looking Back: Baseball in 1934
Discusses baseball during the Great Depression Era. Topics discussed:
- How sports were very popular and offered people an escape from the Great Depression
- Popular and well-known players of the time such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio
- Children's participation in the sport, including collecting cards and "kittenball" (later renamed softball)
- National movements encouraging people of all ages to play sports to help people forget their troubles and fill spare time for the unemployed
- The government using the WPA to build sports fields of all kinds
- President Roosevelt's support of baseball
- How several teams went bankrupt or sold players to other teams, since people couldn't afford baseball tickets
- The Cincinnati Reds during the Great Depression—how in 1934 they had the worst record in the National League, that the owner went bankrupt, and how the team was sold to Powel Crosley, Jr. who with the help of the chief executive and general manager Larry MacPhail turned the team around
- How innovations by the team such as the first night game (May 24th, 1935), radio broadcasts, and genuine talented players such as Ernie Lombardi helped turned them around
- How World War II affected baseball, and the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League which allowed baseball to continue to provide people an escape from the war
Activity: Personalize a Baseball Cap
Craft on decorating a pre-purchased baseball cap, including tips on appliqué, sewing on buttons, and other ideas.
- Kit's Reds Fan Outfit is not associated to this short story.