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Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King

Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King

By: Richard Michelson
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: February 2011
ISBN: 978-1585364657
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: February 19, 2011

Lipman Pike wasn’t the type of boy to sit still and study like his brother Boaz. When he worked in his father’s store, he had an anxious look on his face as he “shook out his left leg, and then his right” as he waited for a customer to come in. When Mrs. Kaufman came in she barely had time to say what she wanted and the boys began their race to the window display. “My son is in need of …” Lip knew exactly how far it was to those boy’s stockings and how long it would take him to get there. It was “exactly the distance between home plate and first base.” Boaz’s eyes flashed and his long hair flew behind him as he beat out his brother. Ah, but there was always a next time.

The boys, like almost everyone in Brooklyn, loved to watch the neighborhood Base team, but Mrs. Pike disapproved. “Not my sons!” A few years later and only “seven days after his own bar mitzvah,” Lip dreamily held his face in his hands as Boaz pled with the junior club team captain to take him on. As he stepped up to the plate for his first time at bat, “he forgot all about being nervous, and he hit the first pitch high over the right fielder’s head.” He had daydreamed about crowds watching him and little did he know that one day they would. His reputation began to grow and more and more people stopped by the haberdashery, “just to talk about Base” and buy those stockings. When Lip was 21 he decided to leave home to play Base with the Philadelphia Athletics. Would he be able to make a living at it or was this only a pipe dream that would evaporate before it began?

This is a novel, exciting view of Lipman Pike, a baseball player in the mid 1800s. The Pike family, a family of Jewish Dutch immigrants, were anxious to assimilate and although Mrs. Pike preferred education over chasing a leather ball around, she lost her battle. The excitement and passion the boys had for the game oozed from the pages and I could almost picture that mad competitive dash to get the stockings on the counter first. The historical overview of the game and, "America’s first home run king", the long forgotten Lipman Pike was fascinating. The artwork was bold, flashing, and historically accurate. It meshed perfectly with the tale and made the book come alive. In the back of the book is additional biographical information on Pike, baseball in the 1800s, and the assimilation of Jews in the “new national pastime.”

Quill says: If you love baseball as much as Lip did, this is one book you just might not want to pass up. Swing batter, batter, swing!

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