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Fiction: The Case of the Fishy Baseball Card 

Caleb Craft is a fifth-grade detective with a passion for math and a thirst for mystery. Can you match wits with him? Read this story carefully, thinking about the math clues. 

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Caleb and his friend Jo arrived at Tim’s Cards and Comics. The bell on the door jingled as Caleb and Jo entered the shop. 

“How much did you save up?” Caleb asked. He knew Jo had been saving his allowance for the past year just for this trip. Jo collected baseball cards. 

Jo grinned and held up his envelope of cash. “I’ve got $150. I’m going to buy so many cards!” 

The man behind the counter looked up from his sports magazine and smiled. His mustache twitched.

“Hi, boys, I’m Tim! What are you looking for today?”

"Baseball cards!” Jo exclaimed. “Do you have any cool ones?”

“You’re in luck,” said Tim. He pulled out a baseball card in a plastic case from under the counter. 

Jo’s mouth dropped. “No way!” he shouted. “Is that Jackie Robinson?”

“You bet!” Tim grinned. “This is the best card in the shop. It’s an original from 1948. Only $150!”

Caleb leaned in for a closer look. The photo definitely showed baseball’s first black Major League player, Jackie Robinson. But the card looked new. Its colors were bright. The edges were unworn. 

“Are you sure this is from 1948?” Caleb asked.

“Of course,” Tim said. “You can see the date on the card.”

“I’ve got to buy it,” Jo said. “Jackie Robinson is my favorite player.” He handed Tim his savings.

“Let me take another look,” Caleb said once they were outside the shop. He read through the stats: Age—28; Height—5' 11"; Rookie of the Year—1945.

“This is going to be the best card in my collection!” Jo gushed.

That night, Caleb couldn’t stop thinking about Jo’s new baseball card. He looked up Jackie Robinson online. 

The first article he found was about segregation in professional baseball. It said an 1887 rule prevented black players from playing on white baseball teams. Jackie Robinson was the first to break that rule, exactly 60 years later.

A second article gave Jackie Robinson’s stats. It said he was 5' 11", hit 137 home runs, and was born on January 31, 1919.

“Aha,” Caleb gasped to himself. 

The next morning, Jo met Caleb inside Tim’s Cards and Comics. 

“Why did you ask me to bring my new card back?” Jo asked.

“Because this card is a fake,” proclaimed Caleb, “and I can prove it!” 

Tim’s mustache twitched. “You can’t prove anything! That card is real and in mint condition.”

“Oh yeah?” Caleb countered. “What about the Rookie of the Year date? And if you still think it’s from 1948, take a look at Robinson’s age.”

Continue the Learning Journey
SLIDESHOW
Think Like a Detective!

Follow these steps to crack the case of the fishy baseball card. 

How did Caleb crack the case? Use your math wits to figure out what was so fishy about the Jackie Robinson baseball card. Click on the slideshow above to help you solve the mystery!

A baseball card includes facts and numbers about a baseball player’s life and career. Create a baseball card about yourself! On the front of the card, include your name and a recent picture or drawing of yourself. On the back of the card, include any of the following details: 

 

  • your date of birth and age
  • where you live
  • members of your family
  • your likes and dislikes
  • your greatest accomplishment or achievement
  • what you want to be when you grow up 
VIDEO
The Great Jackie Robinson

Watch a video about baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

After watching the video, think about Jackie Robinson’s life. Although Robinson was welcomed by some teammates and fans, he was not always treated fairly. It’s important to remember to be kind to others. Think about the following scenarios and discuss what you would do in each situation with a trusted adult: 

 

  • You’re playing with friends and another student asks to join. Your friends say no. Think: How does it feel to be left out? What can you say to your friends?
  • You're at recess and you see someone being bullied. Think: How can you stand up for him or her?
  • You see a classmate crying. A group of kids is pointing and laughing at him. Think: What can you say to your classmate? What can you say to the group of kids? 

This article was written by Jessica McKenna-Ratjen for DynaMath magazine.

Image Credits: Illustrations by David SanAngelo