________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 9. . . .October 29, 2010


Big League Dreams: Baseball Hall of Fameís First African-Canadian, Fergie Jenkins. (Recordbooks).

Richard Brignall.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2010.
151 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55277-486-1 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55277-487-8 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Jenkins, Ferguson, 1943--Juvenile literature.
Black Canadian baseball players -
Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Rosemary Hollett.

*** /4



In Canada, kids dreams of careers in pro sports, too. Canadians love to play hockey. Every young hockey player dreams of one day playing in the National Hockey League (NHL). But in some small towns across Canada there are young ballplayers with big-league dreams of their own.

At one time these young Canadian didnít have many homegrown baseball heroes. Instead they looked up to American stars. That all changed when Ferguson Jenkins became a major-league pitcher. The player nicknamed Fergie became Canadaís baseball superstar.

Every Canadian sports enthusiast and sports fan knows how difficult it is to make it to the big leagues. It is especially difficult to be a Canadian baseball player breaking into the American professional leagues. Add to that, the fact that you are a black player and your story becomes the stuff of legends.

That player, Fergie Jenkins, is the subject of a new book aimed at middle school readers by Kenora, ON, author Richard Brignall. Brignall is a former sports reporter who has written several sports biographies, including ones about NHLer, Lionel Conacher and Canadaís boxing champ, George Chevalo. In Big League Dreams, the author traces Fergieís journey from his family life in Chatham, ON, to the adversity he faced becoming one of the dominant pitchers of his time.

     Growing up in Canada, Fergie was not aware that being black meant being different. He had no real concept of bigotry and separation. It wasnít until he became a pro that the reality of being a black man in the southern United States hit home. He was refused service at restaurants along with other black players. They also could not room in the same hotels as the white players. The experience ruined some of Fergieís teammates.

     However, because Fergie was there to play baseball, he didnít let the discrimination bother him. He kept his eye on the prize. Fergie went on to pitch six straight 20 game seasons in the majors. He is best known for his time with the Chicago Cubs, and he became the first Canadian ball player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The author has penned a very readable account of Jenkinsí life. The chapters are short, fast paced and written so as to be accessible to middle grade readers. The photos and captions add depth to the book and put a real face on the legend. A glossary of baseball terms and an index have been thoughtfully added for young readers. As well as telling Jenkinsí story, Brignall has given readers a snapshot of American social history. The attention to both achievements and social climate makes a compelling read.


Rosemary Hollett is the librarian at St. Emile School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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