Lipman Pike

America's First Home Run King
Gr 2—4—Michelson and Pullen offer a fast-paced introduction to a pioneering ballplayer and a rollicking glimpse of baseball's early years. In the late 1860s, leagues of teams were just forming and the practice of paying grown men to play a child's game was still new. Born to Jewish immigrants from Holland, Lipman Pike and his brother helped in their parents' Brooklyn haberdashery. As they studied for their bar mitzvahs, they found time to hone their baseball skills. Playing "Base" was a way to fit in with their neighbors. Eventually, word spread of Lip's batting prowess and speed, and he was invited to join a team. He was offered $20 a week to play in Philadelphia, much to his parents' disbelief: "Who ever heard of anyone being paid to chase a ball?" It wasn't easy to win a place on the team; his teammates were jealous of his salary, and noting that he was a Jew from Brooklyn, wondered if he would remain loyal to the Athletics. He was voted off the team, but found a place with another one and went on to a successful career. An author's note adds facts about this period in baseball history, along with background on the rise of Jewish immigration. Pullen's oil paintings capture all the lively goings-on. Large-headed characters, expressive and intense, crowd the pages. Young fans will enjoy this vivid glimpse into baseball's early years, and the story of an unsung hero of that era.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
In the mid-1800s, baseball in America was in its infancy when Lipman Pike, a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, began to play. Soon the boy's batting power and speed helped "Lip" become a sought-after homerun leader. The biographical story line is choppy at times; an appended author's note fills in some gaps. Caricaturish illustrations on sepia-colored pages capture the setting.

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