It's a bit hard to imagine, but professional athletes used to be regular folks. Sure, they were athletically gifted, they were adored by millions of people they'd never met, and they got to play a game for a living. But basically, they were regular people. They drove family cars, lived in neighborhoods, served in the military, ate at diners, and just lived regular lives. This is the era that time-traveling tween Joe Stoshack travels back to in Dan Gutman's Ted & Me, the eleventh installment in the popular Baseball Card Adventure series. This time, Joe travels back in time at the request of the FBI. His mission: warn FDR about the impending Pearl Harbor attack and prevent the United State's involvement in World War II.
Of course, Joe is intrigued by the opportunity to meet Ted Williams - one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. Ted's career was interrupted twice by military service (WWII and Korea) and he served as a pilot, earning several decorations. What would Ted's career stats look like if those wars had never happened?
As usual, Gutman does a great job of quickly pacing the story and creating memorable characters. The history framing in this story is good, with several events woven into the plot. Joe gets to interact with Ted extensively, and we learn a lot about Ted's personality. Joe rides along with Ted during a baseball road trip; Ted has elected to drive his car rather than take the team bus. We soon find out why - Ted knows a great fishing spot along the route! He and Joe "borrow" a small boat docked by the river during the excursion. Goodhearted Ted leaves a few dollars to cover the gasoline he used. Of course, Ted gives Joe some coaching on hitting, which translates into success for Joe in a present-day Little League game.
Although Gutman has obviously done his research, this novel isn't promoted as historical fiction. As usual, Gutman includes an epilogue in which he tells the reader that the book is true, "...except for the parts I made up." A history nit-picker would remind us the World War II was already going strong in Europe and Asia when the United States got involved. But of course, they'd be missing the point. This is a chance for a kid to travel back in time to change the world. Nothing wrong with that!
I would recommend this book to any tween reader. Of course, boys and baseball fans make up the target audience. I look forward to more books from this "timeless" series.