Apr 3, 2016

Baseball Biographies: Who Makes the Line-up in Literature?

Baseball's Opening Day has finally arrived. Hooray!  

Baseball season stretches across six months, with enthusiasm waxing and waning from month to month, depending on the current standing of our favorite teams. When October looms, even the most devoted fans may find interest on a downward spiral if our team(s) are statistically eliminated.
At no point in the season do our fandom flames burn more brightly than on Opening Day. That's when the proverbial playing field feels truly level. Errors are excused. Batting averages are "tied" across the line-up. Players virtually vibrate with enthusiasm and their grins are enormous and contagious. Whatever the weather, open field or closed roof, spring has officially ended and sunny days stretch far into our foreseeable future.

Many little boys dream of taking that field on some far off opening day. But not every boy. Quite a few girls, little and otherwise, see themselves stepping up to bat, too. Mo'Ne Davis became an instant celebrity last year when she pitched her way to fame in the Little League World Series. 
Her participation was a far cry from that of Effa Manley nearly a century ago. Manley's story is told in the picture book biography, SHE LOVED BASEBALL: The Effa Manley Story, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Don TateHere's a book that's been around for half a decade and received nowhere NEAR the attention it deserves. There's more than a touch of irony in that, since Effa Manley's life was also largely ignored by anyone in the circles of power, meaning Major League Baseball. She was truly a woman ahead of her time in the arenas of sports, business, civil rights, and gender stereotypes. 

Balzer & Bray, 2010
Her integrity, ingenuity, and insistence on fairness changed lives and the face of American baseball. Long after the Negro League disbanded, Manley advocated successfully for long overdue recognition and honors for players, including assignment to baseball's Hall of Fame. 
On July 30, 2006, she became the first female affiliated with the Negro League inducted into the Hall of Fame on her own merits. As her tombstone says, She Loved Baseball.
If ever there were a biography begging to be made into a movie, this is it. Is anyone in Hollywood ready to take it on?
 This is a great candidate for promotion in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. I'm especially excited to share it today, in April, as a public reminder that "Black History" and "Women's History" are relevant all year long.

For more baseball biographies and stories rooted in history (and social justice) check out this collection of reviews on a new blog. (Click here.)

My post schedule on this blog has been slowed in recent months by writing and revision demands for a book due out later this year. I'm also one of four historical fiction writers authoring a new group blog, launching today:
It's a catchy title, but note that we are thestoriedpast.org, (not .com). We four (Sandy Brehl, Emily and Hilda Demuth, and Stephanie Lowden) write historical fiction, among other things. We look forward to offering reviews, interviews, reflections, and quotes. We also welcome suggestions for reviews and interviews  I hope you'll take a look, maybe even subscribe. 

We're celebrating the new endeavor and opening day by offering a FREE Kindle download of the latest Demuth sisters' title, HATTIE'S WAR. The Civil War and the earliest days of baseball feature strongly in Hattie's story, at a time when this nascent "gentleman's" sport was still called "base ball". Click here for your free download before the offer expires on on April 6. 

1 comment:

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.