A little-known episode in the careers of two baseball giants highlights the racial divide in the game.
In 1936, pitcher Satchel Paige was already a veteran hero in Negro League baseball, while Joe DiMaggio was a hot, young prospect under consideration by the New York Yankees. Yankee management’s plan was to have DiMaggio bat against Paige in a game between white and black barnstorming teams as a test of his ability to hit the best of the best. DiMaggio managed only an infield hit off Paige, but it was enough to prove himself to the Yankees. Skead details the events of the game with an air of excitement and expectancy, keying in on both men’s strategies and thoughts; Joe tells himself to keep his eye on the ball, and Satchel decides to throw his “wobbly ball” or his “whipsey dipsey do.” Underlying the narrative is sadness that DiMaggio would go on to an enormous career with the Yankees, while Satchel Paige, who had proven himself one of the greatest pitchers of all time, would not play for a major league team until he was over 40 years old. Cooper’s soft-edged brown, amber and green illustrations lovingly depict the action and emotions called forth in the text.
A loving tribute to Satchel Paige, who never looked back in anger. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book. 7-12)