Genre: Sports/Historical Fiction
Age Level: 12 and up
# of Pages: 224
RAC Book: Yes
Award Winner: 2007 Iowa Teen Award
Charlie Nebraska lives in Holden, Iowa in the year 1952. Charlie loves to play baseball and wants to make the town team, but his tryout fails to impress and he is not chosen for the roster. An African American man had wandered by during tryouts and watched. On the way home Charlie meets Luther Peale, a former player in the Negro Baseball League. Luther offers Charlie some advice and Charlie asks if he will watch his friends play too so that they can improve their baseball skills.
The people of Holden, Iowa are a little nervous about an unknown African American man playing with their children, but the children persist until they allow it with the stipulation that one parent chaperone each game or practice. Charlie’s mom likes Luther and often has him over for dinner, but her boyfriend feels that it is inappropriate due to his race. Eventually Luther agrees to coach a new team with the players who didn’t make the first team, but that is overshadowed when Luther’s past catches up with him and Charlie learns why Luther is on the run in the first place.
This story shows how small town Iowans felt and still feel about change in their town. They eventually came around, but many of them do not trust what they do not know. At the same time, the presence of Luther in this setting shows how difficult life was for African Americans during this time. He was a former professional baseball player and often did not feel safe traveling alone due to his race. This story will help students understand how far we have come in race relations as well as being entertaining for all those baseball fans.