49 pages 1 hour read

Alan Gratz

The Brooklyn Nine

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2009

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Summary and Study Guide


The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings is a work of middle grade historical fiction written by Alan Gratz. The novel is told in nine innings, or parts, and each “inning” contains three chapters, just as an inning in a baseball game has three outs per team. The novel is told in a series of linked short stories about different generations of the Schneider family, starting in 1845 and ending in 2002. All the stories involve baseball in some way.

This guide was created using the 2009 Kindle Penguin Group version of the novel.

Content Warning: The novel depicts numerous instances of racism against Black, Jewish, and Indigenous people. Racial slurs are used against numerous different groups. Alcohol abuse is also depicted as are serious injuries in fire and injuries and deaths in war.

Plot Summary

In 1845, Felix lives with his Uncle Albert and his Aunt Jenell. Felix was a stowaway on a boat from Germany to America, and he came to America to make money, then bring his family over, and create a better life for them all. He loves playing “Three-Out, All-Out,” an early form of baseball. One day, a fire breaks out in New York, and he goes with the volunteer firefighters to help put out the fire. He is injured in an explosion, and because of this, he can never play professional baseball. He passes a baseball he made from his old German shoes to his son.

Louis is Felix’s son, and his story takes place during the Civil War. He is too young to be in the war, but he lied to authorities so he could fight, since his father, with his injured leg, could not. The day before he is to be sent home, a battle breaks out, and his friend Stuart is killed. Felix retreats along with the other Yankee soldiers, but he sneaks back to the battlefield to ensure that Stuart is not lying in pain and to retrieve his baseball. A blind and injured Confederate soldier, Jeremiah, asks for his help. While Louis plans to bring the soldier to his own camp as a prisoner, the two bond over baseball and Louis decides to bring Jeremiah back to the Confederates. Jeremiah gives Felix his baseball bat and Felix gives him his ball.

Arnold is Louis’s son, and he idolizes a baseball player named King Kelly. Arnold finds out that Kelly is giving a show one day, and he goes to watch. Afterward, when he tries to get Kelly’s autograph, Kelly passes out. Arnold and Hiroshi, Kelly’s valet, return Kelly to his home. Hiroshi quits, because he knows Kelly cannot pay him anymore, as Kelly has been asked not to return to his team, the Giants. Arnold still believes in Kelly, however, and he manages to get him a tryout. He gives Kelly his prized possession, the baseball bat his father Louis received from Jeremiah, the Confederate soldier. Kelly signs and then pawns the bat, leaving Arnold disillusioned.

Walter is Arnold’s son, and their family faces discrimination for being of Jewish descent. This comes to a head when the family goes to a hotel they always go to, but they are turned away because of their ancestry. As a result, Arnold changes the family surname from Schneider to Snider because the latter sounds more American. During this trip, Walter watches some Black men play baseball and he convinces a Black pitcher, Joe Williams, to try out for a National League team. Williams goes to the tryout, but even though the man pitches well, the other players refuse to field balls hit off him. He leaves without being allowed on the team, and the coach tells Walter that even if they let Williams on the team, other teams would refuse to play against them because of it.

Frankie, Walter’s daughter, runs numbers for people who want to place bets. She also spends a lot of time at a baseball field. There, she meets a reporter who claims that he can alter the winning numbers to be whatever she wants. She approaches one of the women who places bets. This woman has very little, but she spends some of the little she has gambling. Frankie learns from the woman that she would likely continue to bet even if she won big, so Frankie sees no point in cheating to help this woman win. Instead, she convinces her father to place a bet on what she knows will be the winning numbers. When he wins, the men refuse to pay out, and she is in danger until her father, who is now a police officer, saves her. The money they won will pay for her college.

Kat is Frankie’s daughter, and she is a professional baseball player during World War II. She has numerous compulsions, including the need to tap wood and the need to eat a piece of gum every day and save the wrapper. She insists on folding her gum wrapper and putting it in a box, because she fears that a failure to do so will result in her father’s death in the war. Kat likes her life during the war because the war is the only reason women get paid well to play baseball. The war comes to an end, and Kat’s dad dies on the last day. She attributes his death to the fact that she forgot to put her wrapper in the box that day.

Jimmy is Kat’s son, and kids tease him for not having a father in his life. His mother is a baseball scout and was pregnant during her last months of playing baseball. Jimmy becomes entangled with a bully named Eric, who he tries to avoid. Jimmy’s grandfather tells him that hiding from his fears will only cause him problems. One day, Eric punches Jimmy. Later, Eric is fearful during what he believes to be a bombing attack, and Jimmy lets Eric know that he will tell everyone about Eric’s fear if he beats him up again. This mutually assured destruction is something Jimmy learned about while his class discussed nuclear bombs during the Cold War. 

Michael Flint, Jimmy's son, finds himself about to pitch a perfect game. He has recently been perfecting his curveball, but he is too afraid to use it in a game, because he knows that it is not perfect. He starts to feel lonely, as no one will talk to him, because tradition dictates that no one can talk to a pitcher who is closing in on a perfect game. He realizes by the end of the game that he cannot control everything, and a pitch he is certain is a strike is called as a ball by the umpire.

Snider Flint, Michael’s son, has recently broken his leg escaping from a house fire. He must live with his uncle while his house is rebuilt. His parents want to rebuild it even though it will take longer than building a new home. This frustrates Snider, and he finds himself not spending his time wisely. His uncle tasks him with finding out the origin of some baseball paraphernalia that was given to him, and through this process, Snider learns about how objects can be worthless to some but invaluable to others. Snider realizes that in a small way, he has become a part of the history of the objects he researches.

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