If only.... If only.... They all said it. There had been clues, signs, but they'd been ignored or misunderstood. But the Bat 6 game was everything, the most important event for 6th-grade girls, and this was the 50th game. In 1899 — 49 years before — the women of Barlowe Road and Bear Creek Ridge, at the end of the Oregon Trail, decided the rivalry between their towns had gone on long enough. They planned a ladies softball game and picnic, and the men from both towns showed up and made friends. Over the years, the games continued, and eventually, it became traditional for the 6th-grade girls’ teams to play against each other. It was the only game they played, and they could only be on the team for one year. For the nine girls on each of the teams, it was the most important year of their lives.
But in 1949, the Bat 6 game had an unexpected finish. A tragic finish. There was one girl on each of the teams who was different, new that year, an unknown quantity.
Aki was Japanese, and her family had just come back to town after beingreleased from internment camp where they'd lived for years. She hadn't lived on Bear Creek Ridge since she was in the 2nd grade. Her mother had been a Bat 6 girl in 1930, the MVP that year, and everyone in Bear Creek Ridge was delighted that the Japanese-American families they'd missed for so long were back in town. The Ridgers were certain Aki would be able to help the Bat 6 team win. She was short, and a lefthander, great for first base, and could hit harder than almost anyone on the team. She had to potential to be a MVP, too. For her, the war was over.
Shazam wore dresses that looked like they'd been made out of tablecloths and shoes from a church rummage sale. She lived with her grandmother, out by the Barlowe gravel pit, because her father died at Pearl Harbor, and her mother couldn't take care of her. She had dreams about the fires, the gas masks, and the horror she'd seen when the bombs dropped. She'd been in Pearl Harbor, and had seen it all first hand. What she didn't remember, her mother told her about — over and over — how her father died on the Arizona, how the bombs looked and sounded when they exploded, and how it was all the fault of the Japanese that she didn't have a husband and Shazam didn't have a father. Shazam hated the Japs who killed her father, and even the Japanese Americans who lived in Barlowe. The only time she didn't think about getting revenge for her father's death was when she was playing baseball. For her, the war would never be over.
The teams didn't know each other, hadn't met before they started the game. There was no way for anyone to know what would happen because of the two new girls, and the collision course they were on. Or was there? There were signs, there were clues, if only someone could have put them together. If only...
But the girls of the 1949 Bat 6 teams want to tell their own story, in their own way, their own words. Listen to what Aki, Shazam, and their teammates have to say, and then ask yourself, could there have been a different ending?
This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart