Short vignettes skim through the childhoods of a gathering of sports heroes.
The “True Tales” of the subtitle doesn’t necessarily mean riveting tales, as Stabler proves with these mostly ho-hum glimpses at sporting legends such as Jackie Robinson, Bobby Orr, and Danica Patrick (there are 16 personalities all told). The book is divided into three sections: future stars who had to battle money or gender issues; kids who got family encouragement; kids who learned it takes practice, practice, practice. There is no hope if you can’t coax a good story out of Babe Ruth, and Stabler can’t: “So when Little George was seven, his parents asked a local official to declare him ‘incorrigible’ and to send him to a reformatory”—and the bulk of the entry focuses on young George’s development of a moral compass under the tutelage of Brother Matthias. So what if Peyton Manning was traumatized by dancing a tango in a school play? Many readers will already have experienced greater embarrassments, and the implication that dancing is an activity not befitting a football player is positively retrograde. “When his father first strapped a pair of ice skates onto his son’s feet, four-year-old Bobby [Orr] promptly fell onto the ice.” Not breaking news. Horner’s line drawings are a minor relief.
Uneven to forgettable. (Nonfiction. 8-12)