Lip­man Pike: Amer­i­ca’s First Home Run King

Richard Michel­son; Zachary Pullen, illus.
  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
Lip­man Pike is a biog­ra­phy of the first Jew­ish pro­fes­sion­al base­ball play­er. Lip, as he was called, was born in 1845 to par­ents who immi­grat­ed to Amer­i­ca from Hol­land. His father owned a hab­er­dash­ery store in Brook­lyn. Lip and his broth­er Boaz loved to run around the store get­ting items for the cus­tomers as if they were run­ning the bases in a game of base­ball. They say Lip was so fast he could out­run a race­horse. The boys loved watch­ing the men play Base” as they called the game of base­ball then. They would even prac­tice bat­ting and throw­ing the base­ball when their par­ents weren’t watch­ing because Jew­ish boys didn’t play base­ball. It was con­sid­ered child­ish, accord­ing to their moth­er. In 1858, after Lip’s bar mitz­vah, he was invit­ed to join the junior base team and play his first ama­teur match. On his first up at bat, he hit a home run. When Lip turned 21 he moved to Philadel­phia to play for the Ath­let­ics and got paid $20 a week. Lip was the team’s best play­er, but when the team learned that he was the only one paid and he was a Jew they vot­ed him off the team. He then joined the New Jer­sey Irv­ing­tons and then the New York Mutu­als, when they formed pro­fes­sion­al teams, and even­tu­al­ly became cap­tain of the Troy Hay­mak­ers. At the end of the sto­ry there is a sec­tion called: The Rest Is His­to­ry,” which tells about the day in 1873, when Lip out­ran a race­horse in a hun­dred-yard sprint. He retired from base­ball and opened up a hab­er­dash­ery store like his father. He died in 1893 after play­ing base­ball for about 40 years. The Author’s Note tells about the begin­ning of base­ball and a lit­tle of its his­to­ry. The illus­tra­tions are large, appeal­ing, sepia toned images with over­sized heads that look like car­i­ca­tures. They help to impart the look and feel of the his­tor­i­cal era. Richard Michelson’s research shows in the inter­est­ing details he has includ­ed of the time peri­od. A child does not have to be a base­ball fan to learn a lot from this enjoy­able book. For ages 6 – 10.
Bar­bara Sil­ver­man had an M.L.S. from Texas Woman’s Uni­ver­si­ty. She worked as a children’s librar­i­an at the Cor­pus Christi Pub­lic Libraries and at the Cor­pus Christi ISD before retir­ing. She worked as a vol­un­teer at the Astor Juda­ic Library of the Lawrence Fam­i­ly JCC in La Jol­la, CA. Sad­ly, Bar­bara passed away is 2012.

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