Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow

James Sturm, Rich Tommaso
Illustrator:  Gerald Early 
Graphic Novel
For ages 9 to 12
Hyperion, 2007   ISBN: 978-0786839001

An eighteen year old sharecropper called Emmet is leaving his wife and child to go and play baseball with the Red Sox, a Negro team. He plays very well until his team comes up against the Black Barons. Satchel Paige, the famous black baseball player, will be pitching. Emmet is determined that Satchel Paige will not get the better of him. And, sure enough the young man does very well indeed - Satchel Paige does not strike him out. But the sharecropper from Alabama blows out his knee as he comes into the home plate. As he lies there he sees Satchel Paige standing above him. Satchel Paige gives Emmet the ball that they just played.

Back in Tuckwilla, Alabama, the former baseball player is working in the fields again. He tries to ensure that his little soon Emmet Jr. goes to school even when the cotton needs picking, but the landowners, the Jennings twins, make sure that Emmet Jr. is in the fields. First they threaten Emmet and try to intimidate him. Then they hurt Emmet Jr. There is nothing that Emmet can do - he has make sure that his little son is in the fields during the cotton picking season.

Then the Tuckwilla All-Stars, the local baseball team run by the Jennings twins, sets up a game against the Satchel Paige All-Stars. It is obvious that the Jennings - who played baseball for a while - hope to show everyone that their team is better than the Negro team. Even after the game begins Satchel Paige does not show his face. His team begins to lose and the white players are feeling cocky. Then Satchel Paige begins to pitch and everything changes. Satchel does not care that the team he is playing against is white. He plays around and goofs off just as he always does. Then one of the Jennings twins uses the N-word. Now the game takes a serious turn and Paige sets about showing everyone what a brilliant baseball pitcher can do.

This remarkable book not only tells the story of two games which have a profound effect on a poor sharecropper from the south. It also gives readers a picture of what it was like to live in the United States in the 1930's. It shows readers how cruel the Jim Crow laws were and how all pervasive racism was. It is hard to imagine today how anyone could force a man to make his little son work in the fields rather than go to school, and yet such things were done. As we read we also find out what Satchel Paige was like as a player and as a man. He was quiet and had a sense of humor. He liked to play with the minds of the people he pitched against. He also wasn't willing to let white players intimidate and insult him. He found his own way to fight back - by pitching them out of the inning.