January 24, 2013
Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
You may find it hard to believe, but from 1860 until the 1940s, there were 29 all-brother baseball teams. Twenty-nine! One of these teams was the Acerras and that’s exactly what it said on their jerseys. ACERRAS.
The Acerras lived in New Jersey. There were 12 boys and 4 girls, but apparently only the boys played baseball.
In 1938, the boys ranged in age from 7 to 32 and the oldest nine formed their own semi-pro team to compete against other New Jersey teams. Some of the Acerras were amazing — Jimmy’s knuckleball is still talked about today. It was hard to hit and just as hard to catch. Some of the Acerras were much less amazing; Charlie was such a slow runner that his brothers joked about it. But unlike many ball players today, they always stuck together.
Whether someone made a play or missed a ball, they stuck together. They were, after all, a team.
Wherever they played, they drew big crowds. They were even honored at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. One brother was struck in the face with a ball and lost his eye although he returned to the team and continued to play with his brothers. Then there was World War II.
The team disbanded and 4 Acerras joined the Army. Two became Marines. Amazingly, they all returned home.
They played their last game as team Acerra in 1952 but that wasn’t the end of their life in baseball. In 1997, they were honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I’m not a huge baseball fan but I am a huge history fan. Vernick brings this time period to life just as she helps as see the Acerras as both an amazing family and a group of amazing individuals who just happened to be related.
Salerno’s illustrations, black crayon and water color and pastel, gives a feeling of power and drive to the story, a must read for baseball fans young and old.