July 4, 2016
Teammates by Peter Golenbock, illustrated by Paul Bacon
by Peter Golenbock
illustrated by Paul Bacon
HMH Books for Young Readers
Early in 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers traveled to Ohio to play the Cincinnati Reds. The Dodgers had one black baseball player, Jackie Robinson.
The Dodger’s manager wanted to bring Brooklyn baseball fans the best possible baseball. To do this, he scouted the best players, even those who played in the Negro Leagues. That was where they found Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play on a major league team.
Not everyone was happy to see Robinson. They didn’t see a talented first baseman. They saw a black man where no black man had been before. Robinson put up with taunts, threats and hostility from not only fans but some of his teammates as well. When some of the players circulated a petition to throw Robinson off the team, they expected short stop Pee Wee Reese to sign it. After all, Robinson had been a short stop on his previous team. What if he took the job away from Reese?
Reese had something to say. “I don’t care if this man is black, blue or striped. He can play and he can help us win. That’s what counts.” He has already decided that if Robinson was good enough to take his job, than that’s the way it should be. He wasn’t going to act out of hate or fear.
When fans in Cincinnati shouted hateful things at Robinson, Reese had had enough. He walked from his place on the field to first base. He hated hearing what these people were shouting because he had ground up in the South and knew that these people could have been his friends and neighbors. He walked up to Robinson and smiled. Then he put his arm around Robinson’s shoulders. The two stood together for all to see.
The illustrations in this book combine historic black and white photos of the Dodgers with art work by Bacon. The text and illustrations work well together to tell this historic story. That said, there were two things that I would have liked. First, in the team photo of the Dodgers, I would like to have had the players labeled — Robinson is easy enough to pick out but Reese is not. Second, I would love to have had an author’s note or other back matter telling more about the background including the Negro Leagues and Major League baseball at that time.
Share this with young sports lovers as well as any reader curious about social justice. This book, originally published in 1990, tells a story that will still resonate with readers today.