The following story overview comes from the picture book Something To Prove by Robert Skead.
Did you know in 1936 the New York Yankees wanted to test a hot prospect named Joe DiMaggio to see if he was ready for the big leagues?
It’s true. They knew just the ballplayer to put Joe to the test—Satchel Paige, the best pitcher anywhere, black or white.
Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio
For the game, Paige joined a group of amateur African American players, and they faced off against a team of white major leaguers plus young DiMaggio.
The odds were stacked against the less-experienced black team. But Paige’s skillful batting and amazing pitching—with his “trouble ball” and “bat dodger”— kept the game close.
I had the challenge to write about this game from an editor at Lerner Publishing several years ago, and I scratched my head and asked, “How am I going to do this?”
Fortunately, Paige brilliantly details the blow by blow of this game, practically inning by inning in his autobiography, which became my key source.
The book has stunning illustrations from Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Floyd Cooper.
Will the rookie DiMaggio prove himself as major league player? Or will Paige once again prove his greatness—and the inequality of segregated baseball? Well, you can guess, or read either book to find out. Or perhaps you already know the answers.
For me, this story was more than about race relations, it was about respect. The future Joltin’ Joe wanted to earn the respect of the greatest pitcher in the world, and Paige and his team wanted to earn the respect of the men they could normally not play against due to the color of their skin.
When I dreamed of writing a picture book I always knew I wanted to own a piece of the original art from the book. Floyd Cooper was happy to sell me any of the paintings that comprised the art of the book. My kids and I chose the illustration below, which hangs in my son’s room. It reflects a key moment – and yeah, it has to do with respect.
Here’s my spoiler, at the end of the game, respect was earned by all involved. One of many reasons we all love baseball. God bless.
Robert Skead is the author of several books for young readers, but Something to Prove is his first picture book. Skead has been a Yankees fan since he could swing a bat, and his love for the game deepened as he researched this story and learned more about Satchel Paige, barnstorming baseball games, and earning respect. Visit Rob online at www.robertskead.com.