The book: “I Am Jackie Robinson,” from the series “Ordinary People Change the World” The author: Brad Meltzer The illustrator: Christopher Eliopoulos The vital statistics: Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Young Readers Group, 40 pages, $12.99 Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com
The pitch: The books we’ve reviewed on this special day in past years of this annual series have pretty heady in regards to what topically comes out about the life and times of Jackie Robinson.
Time to switch it up and get a little more back to the basics.
This one intended for the 5-to-8 age range (kindergarten to third grade) caught our attention because, in addition to this being a recent release, there was a review from the School Library Journal that included:
“This title … is a preachy, moralistic account of courage. Its sentimentality and sugary-sweetness are a throwback to motivational tales of a century ago. … Facts, including names, dates, and places, are few and far between, and the theme of bravery overrides all else. … Eliopoulos’s cartoonish illustrations are corny and, as Jackie is always shown as a small child (a characteristic of this series), border on disrespectful. This book isn’t complete or thorough enough for use as a biography, and the perky tone will likely cause eye-rolling among readers and listeners. There are many other more informative, better written books on Robinson that also emphasize the themes of courage and racial equality, such as Cathy Goldberg Fishman’s When Jackie and Hank Met (Marshall Cavendish, 2012), a picture book that parallels the lives of Robinson and Jewish baseball star Hank Greenberg, and April Jones Prince’s easy reader Jackie Robinson: He Led the Way (Penguin, 2007).”
OK, then. Maybe we’re setting the bar too low here? Is it possible this is really for kids under 5? Could this really cause that much damage to anyone’s psyche?
We had to investigate. It’s not as if Meltzer is new to this whole paragraph-generating genre — his website points out he’s had bestsellers in fiction (with The President’s Shadow coming out in June as a sequel to The Inner Circle and The Fifth Assassin), non-fiction, (History Decoded), advice (Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter), children’s books (I Am Amelia Earhart and I Am Abraham Lincoln) and even comic books (Justice League of America).
He takes the voice of Robinson as the narrator, explaining how he received his middle name “Roosevelt,” because his mother considered President Teddy Roosevelt to be a brave person who made sure black people were treated fairly.
“But having a brave name doesn’t make you a brave person,” Robinson explains. “In fact, as a kid, I didn’t like sleeping alone. I used to sleep in my mom’s bed. Even when she tried to bribe me, I wouldn’t leave.”
Well, right there, he’s telling kids not to listen to their mom. How horrible. Continue reading →
A 52’x16’ mural, painted by artist Randy Hedden, is located in Petersburg, Indiana. It was dedicated in 2009.
The book: “Gil Hodges: A Hall of Fame Life” The author: Mort Zachter The vital statistics: University of Nebraska Press, 478 pages, $34.95 Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com
The pitch: They’re still praying for Gil Hodges. Harder and harder. At this point – sadly, more than 40 years after the former Dodgers first baseman died of a heart attack at age 47 on Easter Sunday while he was managing the New York Mets and waiting for the 1972 players strike to end – there aren’t any more arguments left to pitch that he has rightfully earned a place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
But that won’t stop even more of the filibusters on behalf.
Back in 1991, when Marino Amourus came out with “Gil Hodges: The Quiet Man,” USA Today called one of the top five sports books of the year. That led to a 2003 documentary and eventually a “commemorative edition” came out in 2012 that included a chapter about how some “politics” in the Hall were preventing Hodges’ vote from passing. Hodges’ widow, Joan, called “The Quiet Man” the “best book ever written about Gil …”
In 2006, “Praying For Gil Hodges,” a memoir by Thomas Oliphant that personalized Hodges’ career and put him back on the radar, became a New York Times bestseller.
It didn’t matter to Hall Veterans’ Committee voters. Hodges kept getting passed over.
The October 2013 entry, “Gil Hodges: The Brooklyn Bums, the Miracles Mets and the Extraordinary Life of a Baseball Legend” by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, definitely kept the conversation alive. They made a case that the reason Hodges isn’t in the Hall is because the Dodgers haven’t thought enough about him to retire his No. 14, holding onto a “backward” Catch -22 policy that only those who go into the Hall get their numbers retired (aside from Jim Gilliam). It’s a policy that current ownership could easily change.
(The Mets, by the way, retired Hodges’ same No. 14 in 1973. On the Dodgers, No. 14 was worn by 21 players since Hodges last had it in 1961. It was last worn by pitcher Dan Haren, and made popular by Mike Scioscia from 1980-92).
So here comes the latest Hodges for the Hall tome – this time, with a cover photo that emphasizes his Mets’ days as the pondering skipper. The subtitle doesn’t hide the author’s intent, as Zachter, a CPA, tax attorney and adjunct tax professor at NYU, has admitted that Hodges was his childhood hero.Continue reading →
Joe Black poses for a photo in his Phoenix home office in April 4, 2002, just a month before he died. (AP Photo/Arizona Republic, Jack Kurtz)
The book: “Joe Black: More Than a Dodger” The author: Martha Jo Black and Chuck Schoffner The vital statistics: Academy Chicago Publishers, 376 pages, $27.95 Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnesandnoble.com, at Powells.com
The pitch: At a time when racial integration in baseball was still fresh, you’re not going to forget a name like Joe Black.
His major-league baseball career lasted a modest six seasons, with 30 career wins as a pitcher. But the reality is that it was just one outstanding year that marked his arrival as a player.
A year after the Dodgers purchased him and Jim Gilliam from the Baltimore Negro American League in 1951, Black made the Dodgers’ roster and, as a 28-year-old, won the National League Rookie of the Year after posting a 15-4 record with a 2.15 ERA and 15 saves. Almost all of his 56 games were in relief, as he had a league-best 41 games finished. But because of injuries that October, he was put in a starting role and became the first black pitcher to win a World Series contest – Don Newcombe and Satchel Paige had tried earlier and didn’t do it. Black went the distance in winning Game 1. He lost Game 4 only because the Yankees’ Allie Reynolds threw a four-hit shutout. In Game 7 back at Ebbetts Field, Black was even with Reynolds at 2-2 through five innings but gave up a home run to Mickey Mantle in the sixth, and eventually was tagged with the loss in a 4-2 decision.
Considered to be the Dodgers’ “next Newcombe,” but one who credited much of his success based on how Roy Campanella called the game from behind the plate, Black pitched in the 1953 World Series for the Dodgers as well, and was on the roster for the start of the 1955 season but he only lasted until June when they traded him to Cincinnati. He missed Brooklyn’s only World Series victory celebration.
A torn muscle in his right shoulder started his injury decline and ended his last comeback try in 1957 with the Washington Senators. It meant that Black needed a life after baseball. He found one as a father and businessman. To put his life story into some context, his youngest daughter, Martha Jo, decided she would be the one to provide it, with the encouragement of Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and a forward written by former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley.
Black, an executive with Greyhound and living in Phoenix, and five-year-old Martha Jo were at a turning point in both their lives in 1972, put in the middle of a bitter divorce case. Martha Jo told the judge she wanted to live with her father “because my dad played with me all the time. He talked to me. He joked around with me. It didn’t have anything to do with what he could buy me. He just spent so much time with me … So when the judge asked me who I wanted to live with, the answer was easy.” Continue reading →
The pitch: I look around this home office space and wonder: How did I end up with all this stuff?
It can’t be worth more in the open market than it is to my own psyche.
Now, I’m comfortably sure of that assessment.
Until this point, I had only curious checks of eBay.com to see what the dollar value might be on some of the things I’ve collected over the years but was considering parting with because of space, lack of fondness, or the desire to maybe “trade up” – getting rid of a few things so I’d have the means to buy something I “really needed” instead.
I’ve had enough discussions with Sports Museum of Los Angeles curator Gary Cypres to know I’m no where near his league as a buyer/collector/investor/historian.
(BTW, the Museum is expected to reopen this month … details to come).
To date, I hadn’t really thought about the benefits of having something like this baseball memorabilia guide until I came across it in a Google search.
The Pickers brand specializes in all kinds of needs for the “hobbyist,” from signs, bottles and other antiques. The “pocket” guide implies you can carry it around with you at some flea market and refer to is when you need some price range. But it really doesn’t work that way.
It’s far more general than specific to our needs, but Figler, who lives in Poway and set up his own “museum” while hosting radio shows about sports collectables, does give everyone a reality check in the opening chapters here. Continue reading →
INDYCAR SERIES: 41st GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH Details/TV: Start at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Shoreline Drive, Sunday at 1:30 p.m., NBCSN: Remember how chippy things got a year ago? James Hinchcliffe was upset with his own Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay. Will Power tried to apologize to Simon Pagenaud, but he wouldn’t have any part of it. Scott Dixon infuriated Justin Wilson. And there was Mike Conway, who started 17th in the 23-car field and overcame an early broken wing to win the whole thing for the second time in four years. The Brit chased Dixon over the final few laps, then got the lead when Dixon stopped for fuel two laps to go. Conway then held off Power to win by 0.9005 seconds. “Second would have been good,” said Conway, “but this is awesome.” Hunter-Reay, who started on the pole and led for 51 laps, triggered a seven-car accident just 24 laps from the finish (see video above), one that Conway, a road- and street-course specialist, managed to avoid. Hunter-Reay was trying to pull around a slower Josef Newgarden on Turn 4 when the two collided. Hinchcliffe then ran into Newgarden. “At the end of the day, patience is a virtue and someone wasn’t very virtuous day, it was a rookie move,” said Hinchcliffe, who suffered a sprained left thumb. Said Hunter-Reay: “A lot of people say it’s my fault. I made the decision at that split second when he had some wheel spin to go for it, that’s the type of driver I am. I go for it.” Dixon took over at that point until he ran out of gas. He also made contact with Wilson, who accused Dixon of being “deliberate and blatant.” Pagenaud was furious with Power for making contact with him, saying: “I think we had a car to win and he pretty much ruined our race. We were friends until now. We won’t be going on vacation together, I guess.” Back in Long Beach for the third stop of this IndyCar Series season with five weeks to go for the Indianapolis 500, let’s see how many friendships are actually renewed.
THE BEST OF THE REST:
The Clippers have two more games — Monday vs. Denver at Staples Center (7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket) and Tuesday at Phoenix (7:30 p.m., TNT) — to determine whether they can actually take the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference before the playoffs begin on Saturday … The Lakers finish off trying to avoid a 60-loss season with a home-and-home against Sacramento (Monday on the road, 7 p.m., and Wednesday at home, 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet) … The Dodgers have Seattle in town for the annual Jackie Robinson Day/MLB Civil Rights Game on Wednesday (7 p.m., SportsNet L.A.) … The U.S. national men’s team faces Mexico at the Alamodome in San Antonio (Wednesday, 6 p.m., Fox Sports 1) … And even if the Kings are disinterested in defending their Stanley Cup title, the Ducks go into the NHL playoffs as the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed and start against Winnipeg on Thursday (Honda Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket). More at this link.