Charles R. Smith, Jr. (Author), Shane Evans (Illustrator)
The combination of Charles Smith and Shane Evans adds up to a great piece of work, bringing to life the challenges faced and triumphs achieved by Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world.
Reno, Nevada was the scene of “The Battle of the Century” on July 4, 1910. After fifteen rounds, Jack made history defeating Jim Jeffries, “The Great White Hope,” and became the world’s first black heavyweight champion.
Crystal Hubbard (Author), Randy DuBurke (Illustrator)
Who do you think took Hank Aaron’s place on the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns when Aaron moved to the Major Leagues? It was none other than a female: thirty-two year old Toni Stone (born Marcenia Lyle). She was the first female member of an (otherwise) all-male professional baseball team. And before that, she was a little girl with a big dream. This charming book with wonderful illustrations tells the story of how Marcenia, as a very young girl, had no other wish but to play baseball. She achieved her dream: In 1985 Stone was inducted into the Women’s Sports Foundation’s International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. In 1990 she was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and in 1993 into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Matt Tavares (Author and Illustrator)
Growing up in Mobile, Alabama in the 1940s, Henry Aaron wanted to be a big-league baseball player. He didn’t even have a bat or a baseball; just his dreams. But his father told him “Ain’t no colored ballplayers.” The baseball diamonds in town all had signs that said WHITES ONLY. Then when Henry was twelve, a single park opened up that said COLORED ONLY, and Henry found a new home away from home. In 1947, when Henry was thirteen, Jackie Robinson crossed the major league baseball color line, and Henry’s whole world changed. Now he knew anything was possible. Henry first played in minors, and it wasn’t easy because of the prejudice he encountered. But he just kept thinking of Jackie Robinson and persevered. In 1954 his dream finally came true with the Milwaukee Braves, ironically, in a game against Jackie Robinson! This is an inspiring and exciting story with vibrant, realistic illustrations. At the back of the book, the author has included the yearly statistics for Aaron’s major league baseball career.
Ann Malaspina (Author), Eric Velasquez (Illustrator)
Alice Coachman was the first African American woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics, when she won the high jump (setting a new record) in 1948 at age 24.
During her career, she won thirty-four national titles and was inducted into nine halls of fame including the National Track-and-Field Hall of Fame (1975) and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame (2004). She was also the first black woman to endorse an international product when Coca-Cola signed her as a spokesperson in 1952. [Actually this was part of Coke’s effort to overcome its well-founded racist reputation and thereby increase market-share.] In 1994, she founded the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation to provide assistance to young athletes and former Olympic competitors.
Bill Wise (Author), Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)
This book tells the amazing story of William Hoy (1862-1961), nicknamed “Dummy,” who lost his hearing at age three after a bout of meningitis. Nevertheless, Hoy went on not only to become a major league baseball star, but still ranks today in the top twenty-five in a number of all-time career statistics.
After retiring, he coached and umpired in deaf baseball leagues. He was awarded a lifetime pass to major league baseball events, and attended games right up to his death at age ninety-nine.
Robert Skead (Author), Floyd Cooper (Illustrator)
In the winter of 1936, the manager of the New York Yankees wanted to test a 21-year-old prospect named Joe DiMaggio. He couldn’t think of any better way to see how he held up before a top pitcher than to call upon Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige. Paige was thought to be the greatest pitcher in the world, but he was excluded from major league baseball because of his race. But he wouldn’t turn down the opportunity for a game. On February 7, 1936, the Dick Bartell All-Stars, a white barnstorming team, met the Satchel Paige All-Stars in an exhibition game.
They went ten innings, with the score deadlocked 1-1, with Paige striking out fourteen major leaguers. Then at his fourth at-bat, DiMaggio bounced a hard ball to the pitcher’s mound. Paige knocked the ball toward the second baseman, who seemed to freeze. DiMaggio got to first base and Bartell, who had singled and then stolen two bases, made it home. DiMaggio was ecstatic to get a hit off of Satchel Paige, and the Yankees scout telegrammed the Yankees:
DIMAGGIO ALL WE HOPED HE’D BE. HIT SATCH ONE FOR FOUR.”
Matt Tavares (Author and Illustrator)
The book explains just how and why Ted Williams was so amazing – both on and off the baseball field. For example, Williams was a figher-pilot Marine hero both in World War II and Korea. His military service took almost five full years out of his career, nearly all when he was “in his prime,” yet he still managed to amass amazing batting numbers. Most modern statistical analyses place Williams, along with Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, among the three best hitters to have played the game. And his service garnered him accolades as well, including a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nancy Churnin (Author), John Joven (Illustrator)
Charlie Sifford was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1922. He loved golf, but only white people were allowed on private golf courses, so he got close to the game in the only way he could: by becoming a caddie at the age of 13. And he watched. And he learned.
In 2004 he became the first black golfer admitted to the World Golf Hall of Fame, under the Lifetime Achievement category for his contributions to the game.
Georgia Amson-Bradshaw (Author), Rita Petruccioli (Illustrator)
This illustrated book for readers aged nine and up is part of a series of books about “brilliant women” who have made their marks in fields traditionally seen as only appropriate for men. There are eight women who receive four-page profiles, and additional sporting heroines who have thumbnail sketches.
These stories of women athletes, selected from a diverse group of women around the world, are inspirational and awe-inspiring even if you have no interest in, or ability for, sports.
Ken Mochizuki (Author), Dom Lee (Illustrator)
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, fear and prejudice towards the Japanese reached a fever pitch. In 1942 Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. Under the terms of the Order, approximately 110,000 – 120,000 people of Japanese descent living in the US (of whom 70,000 were American citizens) were removed from their homes and placed in internment camps.
This book tells the story of a young Japanese-American internee nicknamed Shorty, who was trying to develop his own sense of honor even though he and his family had been sent to a “camp” in the middle of nowhere behind a barbed-wire fence.
His dad organized the kids to make a baseball field, and the moms used mattress covers to make the boys uniforms. Shorty wasn’t that good, but in one of the last games of the year he got motivated: Shorty belted that ball with a solid whack. He had the same sort of late-in-the-game success after they were finally released from internment. The crowds yelled “Jap” and Shorty felt inadequate. But then he slammed out a hit and not only gained the respect of others but he found a sense of self-respect; he showed that being Japanese didn’t mean he couldn’t be as brave or as talented as anyone else.