Wednesday, May 21, 2014

She Loved Baseball by Audrey Vernick

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate

Rating: 4.5 stars

Have your kids ever watched the credits after a show or movie, and asked you who all those people are?  It's always a good moment for me when one of my kids gets to this stage of questioning.  I like helping them realize that it takes a lot of people to make one of their favorite shows.  It takes a team of people to do nearly anything, really, even if there's just one person who seems to get all the credit.

For that reason, I am grateful that we stumbled upon She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story. The book tells the story of a behind-the-scenes woman.  Young Effa moved to New York City after high school at a time when Babe Ruth and the Yankees were all people talked about.  She fell in love with the team, the sport, and with a young man who also loved the Yankees and baseball--Abe Manley.

After the two married they lived in Harlem.  During that time, even in black communities, most businesses were owned by white people, and white people worked in those businesses.  People told her "That's how things are, Effa," but she didn't listen. She organized rallies and protests and boycotts until black people were working in white businesses in Harlem.

Also after they married, they started a team--the Brooklyn Eagles--in the new Negro National League.  Despite the fact that women usually weren't usually part of a business, Effa did all the behind-the-scenes work: "organizing schedules, ordering equipment, arranging transportation." She took care of the men on the team; they called her their "mother hen."

In 1947, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers--the first black player in the major leagues.  This was a huge achievement, but…what did it mean for the Negro League?  Major league teams started to turn to Negro League teams for players.  They didn't bother asking whether or not these black ballplayers had contracts.  They didn't bother paying the Negro League team for the ballplayer.

Effa was outraged.  "That's how things are, Effa," people told her.  She refused to believe it, and talked to the press about it.  When Cleveland Indians owner knocked on the Brooklyn Eagles' door for one of their players, Larry Doby, she stood up to him and insisted the team get paid for his contract.  The Indians paid $15,000, and Doby became the first black player in the American League.  After that, Negro League teams always got paid.

Long after this turning point in baseball history, and probably because Effa wrote long letters to them about how much they added to the sport, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted many Negro League players.  And, in 2006, Effa Manley was the first woman to also be inducted.  "She was recognized for all she did for her players, for her civil rights work, and for getting the major leagues to treat Negro League teams with respect."  Pretty amazing, pretty cool.

There's so much kids can learn from this not-so-traditional baseball story… I would stick around to say more, point out the obvious here and there, but I've got to return this baseball book and all the others I've had on loan from our library.  It's baseball season and I think I've got them all!

P.S.  We like this book by Audrey Vernick.  But we love her Brothers at Bat even more!

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