"We are the ship; all else the sea."-Rube Foster, founder of the Negro National League The story of Negro League baseball is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. Read more...
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"We are the ship; all else the sea."-Rube Foster, founder of the Negro National League The story of Negro League baseball is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball. Using an "Everyman" player as his narrator, Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. The voice is so authentic, you will feel as if you are sitting on dusty bleachers listening intently to the memories of a man who has known the great ballplayers of that time and shared their experiences. But what makes this book so outstanding are the dozens of full-page and double-page oil paintings-breathtaking in their perspectives, rich in emotion, and created with understanding and affection for these lost heroes of our national game. We Are the Ship is a tour de force for baseball lovers of all ages.
- ISBN-13: 9780786808328
- ISBN-10: 0786808322
- Publisher: Jump at the Sun
- Publish Date: January 2008
- Page Count: 96
- Reading Level: Ages 9-12
- Dimensions: 11.26 x 11.36 x 0.56 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.07 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 56.
- Review Date: 2008-01-07
- Reviewer: Staff
In his first outing as author as well as illustrator, Nelson (Ellington Was Not a Street) delivers a history of the Negro Leagues in a sumptuous volume that no baseball fan should be without. Using a folksy vernacular, a fictional player gives an insider account of segregated baseball, explaining the aggressive style of play (“Those fellows would bunt and run you to death. Drove pitchers crazy!”) and recalling favorite players. Of Satchel Paige, he says, “Even his slow stuff was fast.” As illuminating as the text is, Nelson’s muscular paintings serve as the true draw. His larger-than-life players have oversized hands, elongated bodies and near-impossible athleticism. Their lined faces suggest the seriousness with which they took their sport and the circumstances under which they were made to play it. A gatefold depicting the first “Colored World Series” is particularly exquisite—a replica ticket opens from the gutter to reveal the entire line-ups of both teams. And while this large, square book (just a shade smaller than a regulation-size base) succeeds as coffee-table art, it soars as a tribute to the individuals, like the legendary Josh Gibson, who was ultimately elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame without ever playing in the major leagues. As Nelson’s narrator says, “We had many Josh Gibsons in the Negro Leagues.... But you never heard about them. It’s a shame the world didn’t get to see them play.” Ages 8-up. (Jan.)
Remembering larger-than-life heroes of black history
I love the careful, almost photographic style of illustrator (and now writer) Kadir Nelson and was thrilled to hear that he was working on a history of Negro League baseball for young readers. We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball was well worth the wait. Everything about this book is beautiful, even the copyright and dedication pages, which are lightly printed with quotations from Negro League greats such as Satchel Paige and Buck O'Neil. In my town, there was a baseball card store where former Negro League players used to sit around and tell stories over coffee, while adoring fans looked on. This book has the feel of a grandfather telling stories from way-back-when, during Jim Crow. And what stories they are! In nine chapters, called innings, of course, the stories flow with the cadence of the spoken word . . . and some of the bravado that often goes along with oral storytelling. "Some of those guys would spike their mother if she were blocking home plate." Can't you picture the old guys nodding their heads in agreement?
Though the stories flow in We Are the Ship, it's the artwork that is absolutely stunning. Nelson frames most of the illustrations from a perspective slightly below the level of the subject, as sports photographers often do. That allows the players to appear larger than life, towering over the reader. With its fascinating details about life as a black person in America, from Jim Crow through the current baseball era, this book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of baseball, African Americans and race. With all the talk of steroids and drugs in baseball this year, Nelson reminds us of another time, a time when players played for the love of the game.