an excerpt from a review from the sleeping bear press
Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King
By Richard Michelson; illustrated by Zachary Pullen
Sleeping Bear Press, Feb. 2011, $16.95
Early in Ernest Thayer's poem Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888, a "sickly silence" has fallen on the patrons of the game. But when "mighty Casey," with his "sneer curled" lip and defiance gleaming in his eye, comes to the plate, 5,000 throats and tongues cheer for him and 10,000 eyes focus on his every move.
Casey is such a fan favorite that when he takes the first two pitches - both called strikes - spectators yell out "kill the umpire!" and "fraud!" Casey has to silence both chants and motions to the pitcher to ensure that the game can proceed. Casey confidently stands his ground, as his scorn turns to hate. But however beloved and intimidating he may have been, Casey ends the game by striking out.
The same could not be said of the figure of Lipman Pike - Lip - illustrated by Zachary Pullen in Richard Michelson's new book, Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King.
On page 17 of the 32-page picture book, Lip, born Lipman Emanuel Pike in 1845, holds a bat in his hand as he poses in front of a dramatic sky worthy of the Hudson River School. Lip, who incidentally bats left, is mustachioed and dressed in the palette of a park ranger (rather than a Texas Ranger). With his black socks pulled up and hunched over to greet the incoming pitch, Lip - though his knuckles are not lined up properly on his bat - is sure to deliver on that much anticipated hit that would later elude Casey.
However many words Pullen's illustration of Lip is worth, Michelson's words beside the picture are quite sobering. Though Lip helped the Philadelphia Athletics win 23 of 25 games, and though he hit six home runs in one game and was the team's best player, Lip's teammates scorned him for being a professional athlete - perhaps the league's first paid player. The left fielder added, "I hear that Pike's a Jew. How can we trust him when we play against Brooklyn?" So, Michelson writes, the Athletics voted Lip off the team.