Louis Sockalexis

By School Library Journal

This picture book offers a rousing introduction to the life of ‘the first Native American to play major league baseball.’ Hooked on the game from age 12, Sockalexis, a member of Maine’s Penobscot tribe, won an athletic scholarship to Holy Cross College and was signed by the Cleveland Spiders in 1897. Despite the disapproval of his father, who felt that his son should stay with his people instead of traveling the country with a ball team, Sockalexis was determined to play. Though he faced discrimination both on and off the field, his rookie season started strong. The narrative focuses on his first visit to the famed Polo Grounds stadium, home to the New York Giants and their ace pitcher, Amos Rusie. An afterword points out that though Sockalexis’s career was tragically shortened by an injury, his efforts opened the door for Native American players such as Charles Albert Bender and Jim Thorpe. Wise and Farnsworth collaborate to great effect in rendering this story both informative and poignant. The color-drenched paintings do an excellent job of bringing this period to life and capturing the intense emotion of the ballpark drama. This finely crafted look at a little-known sports pioneer should intrigue a wide audience of readers.