Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1027
Twelve-year-old Steve Diamond loves baseball. Although his family is poor, he spends nearly every leisure moment playing or watching the game rather than working to supplement the family’s meager income. Steve’s obsession with the game is a constant source of perplexity and irritation to Dave Diamond, Steve’s father, who is...
(The entire section contains 1027 words.)
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Twelve-year-old Steve Diamond loves baseball. Although his family is poor, he spends nearly every leisure moment playing or watching the game rather than working to supplement the family’s meager income. Steve’s obsession with the game is a constant source of perplexity and irritation to Dave Diamond, Steve’s father, who is a carpenter’s assistant. Anna Diamond, Steve’s mother, does not understand her son’s fascination with the sport either but is tolerant of it. When a major league team comes to town to play an exhibition game, Dave reluctantly agrees to take Steve if Steve will promise to help with some carpentry work. Steve agrees, and they go off to the stadium. Dave is unable to share his son’s enthusiasm for the game and is appalled by Steve’s extensive knowledge of professional teams and players. He feels that the time spent following professional baseball is time wasted. Steve feels isolated and chilled by his father’s sullen disapproval.
As they are leaving the park after the game, Steve joins a throng of young autograph seekers swarming around the players, but he is too shy to get close enough to ask for a signature. Then one of the stars of the game breaks away from the crowd and strides toward the dugout. His cap falls off at Steve’s feet, and Steve picks it up. He looks at the player in “an awed trance.” The player, responding to the worship and appeal in Steve’s eyes, tells him to keep it. Dave and Steve hurry home with the news.
In the following days, Steve is seldom without the cap on his head even though it is too big for him. Inevitably, Steve’s parents tire of all the fuss that Steve and his friends make about the cap. One night, Steve is very late coming home from the park where he usually plays baseball. When he finally arrives, he desolately explains that he has been searching for the cap, which must have been stolen. Dave is furious with Steve because he does not understand how the boy could lose something that is so important to him. Steve explains that he was not careless, that he put the cap in his back pocket because it kept falling off when he ran the bases. Someone, he believes, must have taken it from there. Dave remains uncompromisingly bitter about the situation, suggesting to Steve that he lost the cap only because he did not have a right appreciation of its value. Night after night, Steve returns to the park, looking for his cap.
A few weeks later, Steve and his father are passing an ice-cream parlor when Steve spots his cap on the head of a big boy just coming out. Steve snatches it off and challenges the boy. Dave separates them and confirms the fact that it is Steve’s cap. The boy coolly tells them that he bought it from another boy at the park. Moreover, his father, he warns them, is a lawyer. Dave agrees to see the boy’s father in order to resolve the issue.
The boy lives in a comparatively wealthy part of the city, and when they arrive at the house, Dave is awed by it. Dave and Steve wait outside while the boy goes in to prepare his father for the meeting. The lawyer comes to the door, introduces himself as Mr. Hudson, and invites them in. Mr. Hudson is tall, well-dressed, and self-assured. He treats Dave and Steve with elaborate politeness. Dave feels shabby and confused in the man’s presence but is determined to recover what belongs to his son.
Mr. Hudson asks for the details of the situation and confirms his son’s story. He assures Dave, however, that legally the cap belongs to Steve; he also asserts that legally the Diamonds are required to reimburse his son for the money that he paid for it if they want it back from him. Dave contends that this is unfair but asks the amount. When he hears that it was two dollars, he is shocked and worried. Two dollars is more than he can afford, as Mr. Hudson shrewdly realizes.
Nevertheless, Dave agrees to pay, and Steve is delighted. Mr. Hudson, on the other hand, is quite surprised and disappointed. He tells Dave that his boy has grown fond of the cap and that he (Mr. Hudson) would be willing to pay five dollars to keep it. Dave nervously refuses but is not sure he is doing the right thing, because five dollars would mean so much to his family. Mr. Hudson raises the offer again, and again, finally pressing twenty dollars into Dave’s hands. Twenty dollars for a cap seems impossible to refuse, but even now he turns to his son for a sign of agreement or disagreement. The boy smiles, expecting his father once again to reject the money, but Dave interprets his smile as a sign of triumph at exacting so much for so little. He accepts the money. Steve is stunned.
When they leave the Hudson’s house, Steve is sullen and refuses to walk with his father. Dave tries to explain that he sold the cap because he felt sure that Steve understood and accepted the necessity. He says that Steve is being unfair, but he really means that the situation is unfair: Mr. Hudson could afford to offer far more than Dave could afford to refuse. They arrive home, and Anna Diamond tries to comfort each of them. Steve goes to bed unreconciled with his father.
Finally, Dave goes in to talk with his son. He apologizes for not understanding the importance of the cap to him, and he admits that he might have known it had he tried to share Steve’s interests and aspirations. He tells his son that he is proud of him and wants to take some active part in his life. Steve responds to him with a gesture of love. He touches Dave’s arm and indicates that the cap was a small price to pay for “his father’s admiration and approval.”