With publishers poised to pitch nearly a score of baseball-themed books this spring, it's a winning season for young baseball buffs. For readers eager to enjoy some preseason armchair ball, we've spotlighted some of these titles.
Legendary slugger Babe Ruth is at the center of several books. Due from Holiday House is Say-Hey and the Babe: Two Mostly True Baseball Stories by Neil Waldman, which rounds up two interrelated tales based on fact—one involving Babe Ruth and the 1927 New York Yankees and the other focusing on Willie Mays and the 1951 New York Giants.On a boy's first trip to the ballpark, his father tells him all about the Babe in The Baseball Card by Jack Siemiatycki and Avi Slodovnick, illustrated by Laura Watson (Lobster Press). Dan Shaughnessy's The Legend of the Curse of the Bambino explores the renowned baseball legend, speculating on the repercussions of the Boston Red Sox's 1920 sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, which kicked off an 86-year World Series dry spell for the Sox (S&S/Wiseman).
Another baseball great, Jackie Robinson, makes an appearance in a trio of titles. Carole Boston Weatherford's A Negro League Scrapbook pays tribute to Robinson as well as Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and other heroes of the Negro Leagues. Buck O'Neil contributes a foreword to this Boyds Mills Press book. Rachel Isadora's Luke Goes to Bat, a Putnam release,tells of an aspiring young ball player from Brooklyn who longs to hit a home run like his hero, Jackie Robinson. In Dad, Jackie, and Me by Myron Uhlberg, a boy and his deaf father experience the thrill of watching Robinson play in his 1947 rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Colin Bootman has illustrated this Peachtree book. The Dodgers also take the field in a new release from Simon & Schuster, Phil Bildner's The Shot Heard Round the World, with art by C.F. Payne, which recounts the team's third, tie-breaking game against the Giants to determine who would play the Yankees in the 1951 World Series.
A baseball star who hailed from Puerto Rico is the focus of a picture-book biography, Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates by Jonah Winter, an Atheneum/Schwartz title featuring art by Raúl Colón. Andy Oyler of the Minneapolis Millers—the shortest player in the league—in 1903 hits the shortest home run in baseball history in Matt Tavares's Mudball, due from Candlewick next month. Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven relates the story of an all-black Little League team that in 1955 won the South Carolina tournament by default when the other all-white teams refuse to play them, and then were not allowed to participate in the national championships. Chris Ellison has illustrated this Sleeping Bear Press release.
Fans whose reading tastes run to fiction will appreciate a trio of spring titles. Just out from Scholastic Press is Out Standing in My Field by Patrick Jennings, a novel about a boy who can't play ball nearly as well as his sister, yet can't quit—because he loves the game, because his father is coach andbecause he's named after Ty Cobb. A girl who was the star player on her former Little League team sets out to avenge the girl-hating boys on her new team in My Thirteenth Season by Kristi Roberts, a middle-grade novel from Henry Holt. In Peachtree's Stumptown Kid, Carol Gorman and Ron J. Findley tell of an unlikely friendship between a white boy and a black baseball player in the 1950s.
Ball players looking for hard-hitting practical advice will appreciate Play Ball Like the Hall of Famers: Tips for Teens from 19 Baseball Greats by Steven Krasner, illustrated by Keith Neely, a Peachtree release. From Little Simon comes a pop-up celebration of baseball's favorite sing-along, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Jack Norworth's 1909 song, illustrated by John Stadler with paper engineering by Gene Vosough. And anyone who has rooted for the home team in any of this country's stadiums—past and present—will find themselves on familiar turf while perusing Lynn Curlee's Ballpark: The Story of America's Baseball Fields, an Atheneum title. The bookshelves are obviously full; readers need only supply the peanuts, Cracker Jacks and hot dogs.