Audrey Vernick scored a hit when she appeared at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on April 12. As part of the hall’s Sibling Day festivities, the author of Brothers at Bat: The True Story of An Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of baseball lovers, including quite a few members of the Acerra clan. Vernick’s book spotlights 12 Acerra brothers from Long Branch, N.J., who formed their own semi-professional baseball team in the 1930s. Their team was the longest-running all-brother team in history and is honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Vernick’s picture book, illustrated by Steven Salerno, was released by Clarion this month.
Vernick, who lives in New Jersey not far from the brothers’ hometown, had head about the Acerra’s team from a relative of the family. An ardent Yankees fan and the author of She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story (Clarion), the tale sparked her interest. “I kept hearing snippets of stories about the brothers and their team, and I finally said, ‘What am I waiting for?’ ”, says Vernick. “I knew I had to hear it from the source. But I also knew that the three surviving brothers are now all in their 80s, and I had to get over my shyness and summon up the courage to call them.”
When she finally did, she was invited to dinner, where she had the first of many conversations with the surviving brothers: Freddie, Eddie, and Bubbie. “Eddie has an open-door policy several days a week, when anyone who wants to come to his house for a meal is invited,” she explains. “I went for the first time on spaghetti night, and sat down with Eddie and Freddie and a relative or two. The stories flowed. I led with some questions, and boy, can they talk! I had to repeatedly remind them that I was writing a children’s book and I couldn’t include any off-color stories.”
Vernick and the Acerras rented a bus to travel from New Jersey to Cooperstown, where the author and the brothers signed copies of Brothers at Bat after Vernick talked about her project, read the book aloud, and informally interviewed the siblings. “Anytime you can promote a baseball book at the Hall of Fame it’s pretty wonderful,” she says. “I couldn’t believe how the timing worked, that I was able to be there on Sibling Day, with Eddie, Freddie, Bubba, their 99-year-old sister Babe, and lots of other Acerra relatives. Those boys really know how to make a party and take it on the road!”
Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick, illus. by Steven Salerno. Clarion, $16.99 Apr. ISBN 978-0-547-38557-0