Reviews for Fair Ball : 14 Great Stars from Baseball's Negro Leagues


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 April 1999
Gr. 3^-5. Sometimes celebrated for their literary merit, baseball books seldom receive accolades for their artwork. Here, Winter's distinctive, painterly illustrations make the strongest statements in the book, conveying a powerful sense of the presence and personality of each man portrayed. This illustrated guide to the Negro Leagues features information about each player on the left-hand page; opposite are the portraits proportioned like a supersized baseball card. Players include Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, Satchel Paige, and Martin Dihigo. Though similar in concept to Lawrence Ritter's Leagues Apart (1995), this book covers only 18 players, allowing for fuller coverage. Each entry contains personal information as well as a player's career history and a few paragraphs describing his accomplishments, stats, and personal style. Evidently based on photographs, some posed and others capturing action on the field, Winter's highly individualized pictures make their statements through heightened contrast, broad areas of flat or textured color, and a sure sense of composition. Written in a colloquial style, this book conveys Winter's enthusiasm for his subject. A good link between Ritter's book for somewhat younger readers and longer nonfiction on the history of the Negro Leagues. ((Reviewed April 15, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1999 February #1
In this worthy packet of information about famous players from the Negro Leagues, Winter's narrative is marred only by a comic-book tone and exclamation points that detract from otherwise spectacular statistics and stories. Every player gets a page of text designed to resemble a baseball card, faced with a full-page portrait; some of these are close-up studies, others are fluid action shots. The illustrations have the deep contrasts and the sharp overexposed edges of antique, hand-tinted photographs. Winter provides highlights and quotations, and tells whether or not the player is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Readers will learn that Josh Gibson was the only player to hit a home run out of Yankee Stadium; that Bingo DeMoss always played second base with a toothpick in his mouth; and that Martin Dihigo is the only player to be elected to baseball halls of fame in four countries (the US, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela). He closes the text with his ultimate all-star teams for the American and National Leagues. (Picture book/biography. 5-8) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 May #2
Certain to be a hit with kids who take baseball history seriously, Winter's (Diego) handsome volume devotes a spread each to 14 stars of the Negro Leagues. Balancing stats with engaging trivia and anecdotes, the author will open readers' eyes to the injustices of segregated baseball: pitcher Satchel Paige, for example, completed some 2600 games, almost 2000 more than the official world champion, Cy Young. Winter also slips amusing lore into his conversational text, e.g., speedy Cool Papa Bell once "hit a ball up the middle then supposedly ran so fast, he was hit by his own ball and called out"; center fielder Oscar Charleston caught fly balls with his back to them and sometimes did a somersault before catching a ball. Reminiscent of baseball card pictures (baseball cards were never issued for Negro League players), Winter's full-page illustrations of his subjects run the gamut from sharp, almost photographic likenesses to less-defined images; and from seemingly posed portraits to on-field action shots. This picture book joins with such full-length nonfiction as the McKissacks' Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball League and William Brashler's The Story of Negro League Baseball to help set some records straight. Ages 7-10. (Apr.) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1999 March
Gr 3-6-Each of these Negro-League players is accorded a page of text and a full-color painting. While brief, the profiles do convey something of the character and significance of each athlete. Readers learn, for instance, that legendary New York Giants manager John McGraw considered Negro Leagues star Oscar Charleston to be the greatest player he ever saw, and that Cool Papa Bell was so fast that "he could turn off the light and be in bed before it was dark." Players who were positive role models for youngsters are duly noted, as are those who were not: it is made clear that both Charleston and Boojum Wilson were mean, ill-tempered individuals who loved to fight. There are points about which one could quibble (e.g., Winter's assertion that Rube Foster "invented" the squeeze play, hit-and-run, and double steal) but on balance this is a good, highly accessible introduction to a group of athletes who deserve to be as well known as their white counterparts.-Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT Copyright 1999 School Library Journal Reviews

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