Play for a Kingdom

Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • * Winner of the 1998 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year

 

 

May, 1864. In a moment of quiet during the endgame between Grant and Lee, a Union and a Confederate company meet — not entirely by accident. The Union soldiers are part of the 14th Brooklyn, a motley company born of Irish, English, and German stock, all of them ragged and worn from the Battle of the Wilderness. Left behind on picket duty to guard their army’s flank, the soldiers decide to relax with a baseball and bat, when, as if by magic, a company of Alabama infantry appears from the woods. These ordinary soldiers determine to play baseball with the enemy, perhaps for diversion, perhaps to remind themselves that they are still human. In the ensuing days, Brooklyn meets Alabama four more times on the playing field, even as they and their armies collide in the horror now known as Spotsylvania. As every game and every skirmish bring them closer to either court-martial or a violent and anonymous end, what began as a game turns into a business as serious as death and dishonor. Friends become enemies and enemies friends, and each soldier realizes the price and the prize that betrayal offers.