For Ages
6 to 9

Ballpark Mysteries #14: The Cardinals Caper is a part of the Ballpark Mysteries A Stepping Stone Book collections.

Batter up! Baseball action and exciting whodunits star in this chapter book series! Next up is St. Louis Cardinals!

It's a special day in St. Louis, and there's a pregame celebration with Clydesdale horses that drive around the edge of the stadium before the game. Mike and Kate get to meet the horses and the Dalmatian that rides along. Then, during the game, they find out the Dalmatian is missing. They rush to investigate and find a ransom note. The criminal will return the dog if they can get one of St. Louis's World Series trophies! Can Mike and Kate catch the crook and rescue the pup?

Ballpark Mysteries are the all-star matchup of fun sleuthing and baseball action, perfect for readers of Ron Roy's A to Z Mysteries and Matt Christopher's sports books, and younger siblings of Mike Lupica fans. Each Ballpark Mystery also features Dugout Notes with more amazing baseball facts.

An Excerpt fromBallpark Mysteries #14: The Cardinals Caper

Kate Hopkins reached up and gently petted the nose of a big brown horse. It nuzzled her hand.
Kate giggled. The horse lifted its head and whinnied. It had a white stripe on its nose and
white feet.
“Don’t get your arm bitten off, or we’ll miss the game!” her cousin Mike Walsh said. He was tossing a baseball from one hand to the other. “Red Gibson is going to set the Cardinals’ hitting streak record tonight! He’s hit in thirty- three straight games so far.”
Kate reached back up to pet the horse again. “It’s okay, Mike. We’re not going to miss any of the action,” she said.
The horse and five other Clydesdale horses were hitched to a tall red delivery wagon with big white wheels. At the beginning of the base- ball game, the horses would pull the wagon inside the stadium while a bouncy “oompah-pah” song played. The Clydesdales appeared at St. Louis Cardinals games on special occasions and for the first and last games of the season. They were at today’s game for the Cardinals’ Lewis and Clark Days celebration.
“Don’t worry,” the horse team driver said to Mike. “Duke doesn’t bite.” The driver wore bright green pants with yellow stripes down the side and a crisp white shirt with a black tie. A name tag on his shirt read manny. Manny reached over and gave Duke a pat. “Well, maybe he’d bite you if you were a Pittsburgh Pirates fan!” he joked.
Manny’s partner, Tommy, laughed. Tommy was polishing the wagon. He was dressed like Manny. “We don’t have to worry about the Pirates tonight,” Tommy said. “Red Gibson is sure to continue his hitting streak.”
It was six o’clock in the evening. Mike and Kate were in the groundskeepers’ area in the Cardinals’ stadium. Kate’s mother, Mrs. Hopkins, had arranged for the kids to visit with the horses. She was a sports reporter and often brought Mike and Kate with her to games.
People bustled all around them. Grounds- keepers were fetching rakes and supplies. On the other side of a garage door was the stadium’s outfield. A groundskeeper with a mustache stood just inside the door, dipping pretzels into a jar of peanut butter and munching on them as he watched the other groundskeepers. He seemed to be the boss.
The noise of the fans finding their seats flooded in through the open doorway. Nearby, Manny and Tommy were getting the horses ready for their appearance on the field.
“Let’s get a photo!” Kate said.
Mike pulled out his phone. But before he could take the picture, he noticed a baseball player on the other side of the wagon.
“Hey, it’s Red Gibson!” Mike said. “What are you doing here?”
Red stood tall in his St. Louis uniform. He had a bushy black beard and long arms and legs. His young face looked friendly. He smiled at Mike and Kate and walked over to shake their hands.
“Hello there!” he said. “I came down for a good-luck visit before the game. I do a lot of charity events with Manny and Tommy, and I like to spend time with the animals.”
Manny laughed. “You don’t just like these animals; you love them!” he said. He looked at Mike and Kate. “I’ve never met someone who loves animals more. He’s even studying to be a veterinarian when he retires from baseball.” Manny patted the side of the old-fashioned delivery wagon. “I know someone who’s going to be thrilled to see you, Red.”
Manny gave a loud whistle. A black-and- white blur flashed down from the driver’s seat of the wagon. Mike and Kate felt something brush past their legs.
Two big paws landed on Red’s chest, and a long pink tongue darted out to lick the side of his face!
“Louie!” Red called out. “That’s my boy! You’re my special good-luck charm!”
Louie, a large Dalmatian, continued to lick and nuzzle Red. Red petted the dog’s back. “As long as you’re here, I know I’ll be able to set a new hitting record!” he said. “Maybe I should see if Coach can make you the mascot for our team!”
Manny held up his hand. “Not so fast, Red,” he said. “We need Louie to travel with the horses. Dalmatians have always helped keep the horses calm.”
Tommy stood up from cleaning the wheels of the wagon. “That’s not a bad idea,” he said. “If Red keeps Louie, we can focus on the horses. Maybe we can get a stuffed Dalmatian.”
Manny shook his head. “That’s a horrible idea, Tommy!” he said. “The horses love Louie. Red’s not getting the dog.”
Tommy shrugged and went back to work. “Whatever,” he mumbled.
Red gave Louie one more hug. “Down, boy,” he said. Louie dropped to the ground and looked at Mike and Kate.
“I think Louie would like to meet you,” Red said. “Shake!”
Louie sat and then held up his paw for Mike to shake.
Mike laughed. “Oh, you’re trying to teach me a trick, are you?” he said. Mike shook Louie’s paw. “Nice to meet you!”
“Attaboy!” Red said. He let Louie give him another lick and a handshake. “I’d love to stay here with you, but I have a game to play. And since you’re my favorite furry friend, I’m going to set a hitting record for you tonight!”
Mike held out his baseball and pulled a marker from his back pocket. “Red! Would you be willing to sign my ball first?” he asked.
Red smiled. “Sure!” he said. He took Mike’s ball and signed his name across its sweet spot. Then he handed it back to Mike.
“Thanks!” Mike said.
“No problem,” Red said. He waved goodbye and disappeared into a hallway.
“That was so cool to meet Red Gibson!” Kate said. “And Louie!” She gave the dog a hug and then checked the time. “We need to get going,” she said. “Let’s find our seats so we can watch Louie, Duke, and the rest of the horses parade around the field before the game!”
As Mike and Kate turned to leave, one of the Cardinals clubhouse attendants walked by and opened a door to the loading zone outside.
Louie pricked up his ears. The last rays of sunlight shone through the open door. At the sight, Louie took off in a flash.
“Hey, look out!” Kate called.
Before anyone could grab him, Louie dashed out the door!

Under the Cover