Baseball is known as the “All-American game”, but its professional leagues haven’t always been open to all Americans who were great players.
Hank Greenberg was a talented batter in the 1930s, helping the Detroit Tigers win the American League championship in 1934. As the first Jewish player in the major leagues, he encountered vicious name-calling and prejudice from other teams. Sometimes opposing pitchers would aim for his head, instead of the strike zone! But no matter how mean or rough the other team treated him, Hank kept his temper and just played better, competing in 4 World Series and winning Most Valuable Player twice.
During Hank’s last year of baseball, a young player was just beginning – Jackie Robinson walked onto the field in 1947 as the first African-American to “break the color line” to play for a modern major league team. A successful Negro League player, he now faced jeering people who didn’t believe that a black man could play baseball as well as white players. But as he was counseled by Branch Rickey, the brave man who hired him for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie kept his cool through all the hate and prejudice as he showed America his amazing baseball skills.
The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957, building their new stadium where a Mexican-American community stood. Instead of becoming Dodger fans, Mexican-Americans turned their backs on baseball… until 1981, when young Fernando Valenzuela from Mexico threw a shutout in his very first game! But during a strike that summer, no baseball games were played for weeks. People were angry that they couldn’t watch their favorite sport, and many stayed away from baseball when games started again. However, whenever Fernando pitched, people crowded into stadiums and around their televisions. His outstanding pitching made baseball popular again, and earned many new fans all over the USA and Latin America.
Many kids dream of becoming big league baseball players, but girls have only been able to wish – until Ila Borders pitched her way into the record books. Women have played baseball, but usually in their own leagues. A baseball fan since birth, Ila had a strong pitching arm and parents who encouraged her to try for her dream. She pitched well in Little League, high school, and college, working constantly to improve her strength and accuracy. In 1997, Ila became the first woman pitcher in professional baseball, playing for several teams in the independent North League.
Compelling stories of baseball players whose great playing skills were matched by their outstanding character make this “Good Sports” book a great read! Includes appendix with statistics for Hank, Jackie, Fernando, and Ila. 128 pages.
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA