Hey, all you swinging dudes in blogland! (Baseball--bats--swinging----heh, heh, heh!!!!! Oh, me, how do I keep coming up with all those knee-slappers??!!??) I told you I'd write a post soon about baseball fiction and here it is. Actually, this post is a Blast From the Past because I'm recommending books that have been reviewed before. They were terrific then and they're still terrific now.
These books are about the early days of baseball. I just love reading about that period in the game because the stars were larger-than-life figures. They were more than heroes; they united the country by the great admiration and love people had for them. Baseball truly was the national pastime and everyone followed it. Here are some good reads about those days, with one contemporary story thrown in.
The first one is Bill Penant, Babe Ruth, and Me by Timothy Tocher. You can read the original review here but it's halfway down that page. I'll reprint the relevant part for yout:
It's the 1920 baseball season. Young Hank Cobb spent the last summer
working for John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants. After the
season, McGraw sent Hank off to Anson Academy so the boy could get an
education, but Hank absolutely hates school and doesn't see why he needs
to be there. His great dream is to be a ball player; he can learn all
he needs on the ballfield. Imagine his joy, then, when McGraw calls him
out of school to work for the Giants again. But then imagine his
surprise when he finds out his new job will be taking care of Bill
Penant, the team mascot. And Bill Penant is a baby wildcat--a real wildcat,
totally untamed! But that's not all; he also discovers that he must
also "take care" of the Yankees' new player, Babe Ruth, who is rather
untamed himself. (The Giants and Yankees shared a ball park back then)
Can Hank work for both the Giants and Yankees? And what happens when
this baby wildcat grows up? And will Hank ever go back to school or stay
in the ballpark all his life? Want to know? Then you have to get this
book and find out!
I tell you, if you get
this one, you'll enjoy it for sure. It's funny, funny, funny--especially
with all the scenes of Hank and the wildcat! But then, just as you
think it'll be all fun and games, something serious happens that changes
Hank's whole life. He has to face up to his fears and decide his
future. Is he a coward? Or does he have what it takes? All guys have to
answer that question at some point. Read it and see how Hank gets his
The next one is the contemporary story. It's the terrific book Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta, first reviewed on 3-12-09. Let me reprint some things I wrote about it.
It's hard to believe that this is Mr. Scaletta's
first book because it's so good. The basic idea is that these kids live
in a town in which it has rained for 22 years!! Then, one day, it
stops!! And it may have something to do with a baseball game 22 years
ago, a foster brother, and Native American mysticism. I didn't talk
about this book nearly enough when I reviewed it on 3-12-09. The
characters act like real kids, the situation, strange as it is, iis
totally believable, the story gets a big hold on you, and there's quite a
twist at the end. You'll like it a lot!
And here's my interview with Kurtis Scaletta.
Then we have Lucky: Maris, Mantle and My Best Year Ever by Wes Tooke. I really enjoyed this one and here is what I said about it on 6-10-09:
It's 1961 and young Louis May lives with his father, stepmother, and
stepbrother in White Plains, a suburb of New York City. Louis loves
baseball and has a huge collection of baseball cards. In fact, he has
memrozied all the information and statistics on all those cards.
Imagine, then, his surprise when he gets to be a batboy for the Yankees!
He gets to be friends with his two heroes, Mickey Mantle and Roger
Maris, and watches with anticipation as they try to break Babe Ruth's
record for the most home runs in one season. Louis's stepbrother is
jealous, however, and seems determine to ruin his life--even attempting a
very low trick with Louis's baseball card collection. Will his
stepbrother actually win? And do Maris and Mantle get to break the
Babe's record? You can find out only by reading this terrific book!
And if you'd like to read my interview with Wes Tooke, click here.
Finally, we have the Sluggers series (some of the books were originally issued as the Barnstormers series) by Phil Bilden and Loren Long. This is still one of my all-time favorites. It would be hard to tell about all of them since there are six in the series but I'll repeat what I wrote about the third book on 4-25-08:
It's about the Payne family; the three kids Griffith, Ruby, Graham and
their mom. Where's the father? He didn't come back from the
Spanish-American War (the books are set in 1899) The father's friends
from the war (they were all in Colonel Theodore Roosevelt's Rough
Riders) formed a baseball team called the Travelin' Nine. They plan to
go around the country and play exhibition games in order to raise money
for the Payne family, who owes ten thousand dollars! The father left them his baseball, but when the kids put their hands on it, strange things, and I mean really strange
things, happen during the games. Could the baseball be magic? And who
is this creepy guy called The Chancellor and why does Uncle Owen tell
the kids to beware of him? Why does Uncle Owen tell them that they are
in very great danger, particularly young Graham? And, whatever they do, don't let the Chancellor know about the ball!!!You got to read these books!!! They'll suck you into the story and make you want to get the next one right away!!
If you want to find out more, click on the "Barnstormers" or "Sluggers" tabs under this post.
OK, guys, the World Series starts this week. Good time to find these books. And be sure to tell us what you think of them. Baseball and book fans are waiting to hear from you!