Super-Sized Slugger, by Cal Ripken, Jr.

Browsing the young adult section of the library last week, I came across Super-Sized Slugger, by Cal Ripken, Jr. (with Kevin Cowherd).  I had a vague awareness that Ripken had broken onto the young adult author scene, though I never made a point to explore his novels.  Even though Ripken is, hands down, my favorite player of all time, a lot of my hesitation in checking out his novels has been due to the byline-plus-“With [actual writer]” line.  I imagine that even novels like these are written a la Players’ Tribune articles, in which the athlete gives an interview and has final approval, but does not actually do the writing.  That’s not to say that no athlete ever does any of his or her own writing ever, but it’s difficult to tell in these cases.

Coming face-to-face with a copy of this particular novel, however, I felt compelled to check it out and give it a read.  Super-Sized Slugger is actually the second book in the Cal Ripken, Jr.’s All Stars series, though it appears that each book is written to stand on its own.  To date, the series comprises of six books, the most recent of which was published this past March.

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In Super-Sized Slugger, Cody Parker’s family has just moved from Milwaukee to Baltimore, where he tries out to play third base for the Orioles in the Babe Ruth League.  Even though he knows he plays a mean third base, he worries that his weight will prompt the coach to stick him in right field, and “[e]veryone knew … right field was for fat guys.  And slow guys.  And guys with thick glasses and big ears and bad haircuts” (3).  To compound his worries, the kid who started at third base the year before, Dante Rizzo, also happens to be the school bully, who warns Cody that he needs to find another position.

Nevertheless, Cody beats out Dante for the starting third base job, which incites Dante to terrorize Cody every opportunity he gets.  Meanwhile, a string of thefts sweeps through the school, and Cody’s life becomes more complicated when he finds himself the prime suspect in the crime wave.

The summary on the inside of the book jacket concludes with the query, “Will Cody ever succeed in getting people to see him for who he really is?”  Really, there aren’t a lot of surprises to be found in this novel.  For me to state that yes, Cody successfully resolves his issues with Dante, and that yes, the true culprit behind the thefts is uncovered in the end — it’s really not much of a spoiler.  The novel was written with an audience of eight-to-twelve-year-olds in mind, and the plot works very well for that age group.

That’s not to knock on the book, by any means.  Even if the plot proves predictable, I love the fact that this book, with a protagonist of such strong character, is out there for kids to read.  It’s also a well-written baseball book.  The influence of a former Major Leaguer’s input on the book shines throughout, and Ripken’s specific influence comes through in details about Baltimore and in the fact that Cody plays third base.  His knowledge of the position and the game as a whole makes it truly enjoyable to a fan of the game.  If all you’re looking for is a little bit of baseball mind candy, this book serves that purpose perfectly.

This day in baseball: Babe’s walkless marathon

Babe Adams of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched an entire 21-inning game without issuing a single walk on July 17, 1914.  It was the longest game pitched by a single pitcher in big league history in which that pitcher did not concede a base-on-balls.  In the top of the 21st inning, Larry Doyle’s home run proved the deciding hit, giving the New York Giants the 3-1 victory.  Rube Marquard of the Giants, who also went the distance in the game, allowed only two walks and gained the victory.

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Babe Adams (Wikimedia Commons)

Vince DiMaggio playing lunch-hour softball

Poking around at some Library of Congress photos, I encountered the photograph below.  In it, we see Vince DiMaggio sliding into home as George Stovall signals “safe.”  The picture was taken in February 1943, during the off-season when DiMaggio had worked in the California Shipbuilding Corporation shipyards since the previous fall.  George Stovall was a former Cleveland Indians manager and had been working in the shipyards as a checker for over a year at the time of this photo.  I’m curious as to where the rest of the playing field is, in relation to the action in this picture — it’s difficult to discern.  Nevertheless, I do enjoy what this photo represents: a culture in which a love for baseball runs so deep that these men take advantage of every moment they can to indulge in a quick pick-up game.

Vince DiMaggio
Library of Congress

Infographic: Defensive positioning

What I like about this infographic is that it’s a great depiction of how many different looks can come out of a team that employs the defensive shift.  It’s also a reflection on how much thinking and studying goes into a baseball game.  At this level, especially, a team can’t just show up and play, there’s a considerable amount of pre-planning involved.

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This day in baseball: Ruth’s debut

Babe Ruth made his major league debut on July 11, 1914, taking the mound for the Red Sox against the Indians.  The Boston Red Sox just purchased nineteen-year-old Ruth’s contract the day before from the Baltimore Orioles.  He pitched seven innings in the game to lead the Sox to a 4-3 victory.

Babe Ruth pitching for Boston, c. 1914-1919 (public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Take MEOW Out to the Ball Game

I came across this story this morning, and I feel like it would be a crime not to share.  The Lakewood BlueClaws, a Class A affiliate of the Phillies, will be wearing these jerseys for this Saturday’s game against the West Virginia Power.

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Admittedly, these kind of look like something a grandma would wear, but being a cat person, it does make me happy to see something like this.  Additional information about the CATurday event can be found on the BlueClaws website here.

But the best part about that first story from Cut4 (at least, in my opinion) is at the end of the story text.  Back in March Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals meowed his way through an in-game interview.

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Enjoy!