Out of Left Field

 
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Out of Left Field

A story about the fight for equal rights in America's favorite arena: the baseball field! Every boy in the neighborhood knows Katy Gordon is their best pitcher, even though she's a girl. But when she tries out for Little League, it's a whole different story. Girls are not eligible, period. It is a boy's game and always has been. It's not fair, and Katy's going to fight back. Inspired by what she's learning about civil rights in school, she sets out to prove that she's not the only girl who plays baseball. With the help of friendly librarians and some tenacious research skills, Katy discovers the forgotten history of female ball players. Why does no one know about them? Where are they now? And how can one ten-year-old change people’s minds about what girls can do?

Set in 1957—the world of Sputnik and Leave It to Beaver, saddle shoes and "Heartbreak Hotel"—Out of Left Field is both a detailed picture of a fascinating historic period and a timelessly inspiring story about standing up for equality at any age.--from the publisher

320 pages             978-0425288597             Ages 8-12

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“Talkin' baseball!

The Man and Bobby Feller

The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newc

They knew 'em all from Boston to Dubuque

Especially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke”

-- Terry Cashman, “Talkin’ Baseball” (1981)

“‘I’m Coach Martin,’ the man said. He had a strong voice that carried. ‘For almost twenty years, Little League has been open to any boy who wants to play baseball. Your race, your religion, your ethnic heritage--none of that matters. Little League is a true democracy. It does not discriminate in any way whatsoever. Each of you has an equal chance to make one of the teams, based only on your skills with a ball and a bat. How about that?

Half the boys gave a ragged cheer.

‘That’s the spirit.’ The man smiled. ‘Today we’re going to see how you run, hit, throw, and catch. We’ll also be watching for some things that are not so easily measured--healthy competition that includes goods sportsmanship and fair play.’ The other men nodded.

‘Success on the field comes from dedication, discipline, and--of course--practice, practice, practice!’ He pounded his fist into his hand. ‘Now who’s ready to play ball?’

This time every kid cheered, me included.

‘That’s what I like to hear.’ He tapped his clipboard.”

It’s the fall of 1957, and ten year-old Katy Gordon has grown up playing baseball with the neighborhood boys. She’s got exceptional talent as a pitcher and those boys have long respected and embraced her for that practiced skill.

Using her initials instead of her name, keeping her hair tucked out of sight, Katy easily makes her way through the Little League tryouts. But her attempt to really democratize the organization quickly short circuits when a boy from outside her neighborhood group rats her out. Katy is unceremoniously shown the door as the local adults and the national Little League organization make it clear that baseball is only for boys.

Fortunately for Katy, her mom has a bit of personal history that causes her to be supportive of Katy’s cause. Katy chooses to research women in baseball for a school term assignment, and uncovers a surprisingly long, rich history of female involvement in the national pastime. In the process, she also learns about Negro League baseball.

I loved so much about OUT OF LEFT FIELD. It’s a great American history story, and it’s filled with camaraderie between Katy and the neighborhood boys. Katy’s quest to document the involvement of women in baseball demonstrates to readers how top notch research was undertaken back in the old pre-Internet days, when one would employ the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, snail mail letter writing, and personal interviewing. And while Katy, despite her best efforts, does not ultimately get to join the Little League, she does get some pretty cool recognition for her hard work.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD will complement one of my all-time nonfiction favs, Karen Blumenthal’s 2005 award-winning LET ME PLAY: THE STORY OF TITLE IX: THE LAW THAT CHANGED THE FUTURE OF GIRLS IN AMERICA. It will also fit in nicely with Kadir Nelson’s Sibert Medal-winning WE ARE THE SHIP: THE STORY OF NEGRO LEAGUE BASEBALL.

Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

See more of his recommendations: http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

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