Bernard is a huge fan of the Boston Red Sox, but the young black boy wonders when they will field a player who looks like him.
Every year he and his family see a game at Fenway, though they don’t always feel welcome there. Jackie Robinson has retired, and all the other Major League Baseball teams have African-American players. Even basketball’s Boston Celtics and hockey’s Boston Bruins have integrated, but the Red Sox owners continue to resist. Spring training 1959 brings a ray of hope. Pumpsie Green has a chance at making the team. But he is deemed “not ready.” After fan protests, newspaper editorials, and a drop into last place, Pumpsie is finally called up to the Red Sox. Bernard attends Pumpsie’s first game at Fenway, acutely aware that he is witnessing history. Pumpsie will never be a star but has a solid journeyman career. Wittenstein is scrupulously accurate in his portrayal of time, place, baseball, and characters real and imagined, allowing Bernard to narrate in the language of the 1950s, speaking directly to readers in an earnest, joyous voice that resonates with emotion. Ladd’s wonderfully detailed acrylic-and–colored pencil illustrations powerfully and beautifully complement and enhance the events. The family glows with personality, and the baseball scenes are spot-on. Bernard is innocent, aware, and endlessly hopeful and will win readers hearts.
A grand slam. (author’s note, sources) (Picture book. 6-9)