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Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King

Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King

5.0 2
by Richard Michelson, Zachary Pullen (Illustrator)

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In the mid 1800s the sport of baseball was working its way across the United States. Amateur teams were springing up and in 1858 the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed. Young men were eager to show their prowess on the field and in the batter's box.

Lipman Pike's father, a Dutch immigrant, runs a small haberdashery in Brooklyn, New York, though


In the mid 1800s the sport of baseball was working its way across the United States. Amateur teams were springing up and in 1858 the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed. Young men were eager to show their prowess on the field and in the batter's box.

Lipman Pike's father, a Dutch immigrant, runs a small haberdashery in Brooklyn, New York, though Lip is more interested in watching the ball players than working behind the counter. His mother doesn't approve -- Jewish boys should be paying attention to more sensible matters. But when Lip is barely a teenager, he's invited to join the Nationals Junior Club and play first base. When he hits his first pitch over the right fielder's head, Lip knows baseball is the sport for him.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Michelson and Pullen recreate a slice of immigrant life in mid–19th-century Brooklyn in their story of Jewish baseball player Lipman Pike, one of the first "professional" athletes. The son of a Dutch haberdasher, Pike discovered an early knack for playing ball, and, despite ethnic discrimination, he was invited (by Boss Tweed) to play for the New York Mutuals before joining the Troy Haymakers, a professional league. Pullen's expressive paintings feature lots of mid-action moments and exaggerated angles, and are populated by characters with facial expressions that feel like affectionate caricatures. Readers should gain a vivid picture of Pike and the fledging days of baseball. Ages 6–10. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Maggie Chase
The first aspect of this book that draws the reader in is the art. Almost as if the pictures were first rendered with a fish-eye lens, the heads of the characters are disproportionally big, helping us focus on the expressions of the "players" in this brief account of Lip Pike's stunning baseball career in the nascent stages of the sport. Not only did he pursue a dream that was unheard of by his immigrant parents, but he also dealt with prejudice and doubt about his loyalties and religion. The text is brief, leaving big chunks of his life for further investigative pursuits. Some of the story that is told offers the chance to use inference skills, beginning with the opening scene that is set in Lip's father's store, which looks like a candy or apothecary shop. It is only when we read on the next page (another paragraph that also requires inference skills,) that socks are also sold in the store. Much later in the story, we are introduced to the word haberdashery. There are other places where the reader must make some great leaps to fill in the missing information, but it's not necessarily a bad thing; inference skills are part and parcel to the whole of reading comprehension and the story of this man's life is engaging and compelling. The two sets of end notes provide some of the information not included in the fictional account, such as descriptions of a few more of Lip's feats, and an historical look at the sport and the era. This book briefly touches upon the anti-Semitism of the time as well as the life of an immigrant to the U.S. Reviewer: Maggie Chase
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Michelson and Pullen offer a fast-paced introduction to a pioneering ballplayer and a rollicking glimpse of baseball's early years. In the late 1860s, leagues of teams were just forming and the practice of paying grown men to play a child's game was still new. Born to Jewish immigrants from Holland, Lipman Pike and his brother helped in their parents' Brooklyn haberdashery. As they studied for their bar mitzvahs, they found time to hone their baseball skills. Playing "Base" was a way to fit in with their neighbors. Eventually, word spread of Lip's batting prowess and speed, and he was invited to join a team. He was offered $20 a week to play in Philadelphia, much to his parents' disbelief: "Who ever heard of anyone being paid to chase a ball?" It wasn't easy to win a place on the team; his teammates were jealous of his salary, and noting that he was a Jew from Brooklyn, wondered if he would remain loyal to the Athletics. He was voted off the team, but found a place with another one and went on to a successful career. An author's note adds facts about this period in baseball history, along with background on the rise of Jewish immigration. Pullen's oil paintings capture all the lively goings-on. Large-headed characters, expressive and intense, crowd the pages. Young fans will enjoy this vivid glimpse into baseball's early years, and the story of an unsung hero of that era.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Pamela Paul
Pullen's painted portraits beautifully capture character and emotion…
—The New York Times

Product Details

Sleeping Bear Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.60(d)
900L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

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Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
Lipman Pike wasn't the type of boy to sit still and study like his brother Boaz. When he worked in his father's store, he had an anxious look on his face as he "shook out his left leg, and then his right" as he waited for a customer to come in. When Mrs. Kaufman came in she barely had time to say what she wanted and the boys began their race to the window display. "My son is in need of ." Lip knew exactly how far it was to those boy's stockings and how long it would take him to get there. It was "exactly the distance between home plate and first base." Boaz's eyes flashed and his long hair flew behind him as he beat out his brother. Ah, but there was always a next time. The boys, like almost everyone in Brooklyn, loved to watch the neighborhood Base team, but Mrs. Pike disapproved. "Not my sons!" A few years later and only "seven days after his own bar mitzvah," Lip dreamily held his face in his hands as Boaz pled with the junior club team captain to take him on. As he stepped up to the plate for his first time at bat, "he forgot all about being nervous, and he hit the first pitch high over the right fielder's head." He had daydreamed about crowds watching him and little did he know that one day they would. His reputation began to grow and more and more people stopped by the haberdashery, "just to talk about Base" and buy those stockings. When Lip was 21 he decided to leave home to play Base with the Philadelphia Athletics. Would he be able to make a living at it or was this only a pipe dream that would evaporate before it began? This is a novel, exciting view of Lipman Pike, a baseball player in the mid 1800s. The Pike family, a family of Jewish Dutch immigrants, were anxious to assimilate and although Mrs. Pike preferred education over chasing a leather ball around, she lost her battle. The excitement and passion the boys had for the game oozed from the pages and I could almost picture that mad competitive dash to get the stockings on the counter first. The historical overview of the game and, "America's first home run king", the long forgotten Lipman Pike was fascinating. The artwork was bold, flashing, and historically accurate. It meshed perfectly with the tale and made the book come alive. In the back of the book is additional biographical information on Pike, baseball in the 1800s, and the assimilation of Jews in the "new national pastime." Quill says: If you love baseball as much as Lip did, this is one book you just might not want to pass up. Swing batter, batter, swing!