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The Desperado Who Stole Baseball Hardcover – March 5, 2009
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A prequel of sorts to The Boy Who Saved Baseball (2003), this novel dials back the time period to the Wild West. Twelve-year-old Jack Dillon, the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest baseballist in the ’tire nation,” befriends Billy the Kid on the trail to California. Ritter depicts the famous outlaw as a lightning-reflexed, misunderstood loner looking to fade into obscurity in Dillontown, while the brash Jack intends to join his uncle’s renowned amateur baseball squad. The Dillontown Nine have challenged the mighty Chicago White Stockings (run by a low-down, scheming coal baron) to a high-stakes game, with the future of the town riding on the outcome, and sure enough, Jack’s unbridled enthusiasm and Billy’s natural athleticism figure to play a role in that outcome. The story lopes along on the strength of its delightful and articulately brusque dialogue and Jack’s far-fetched innovations (his “convolutionary secrets” include the hit-and-run and suicide squeeze plays). Although Ritter overshoots the wholesome-versus-greedy America angle—Dillontowners literally just want to play baseball and make apple pie—that’s small shakes in light of this wildly entertaining yarn. Grades 5-8. --Ian Chipman
[F]ans of baseball will chortle all the way through every impossible moment. --Kirkus Reviews
Ritter writes in an idiom-laden, mock-epic style full of bombast and bravado...[a] tall-tale page-turner. --School Library Journal
Top customer reviews
I give this book a 10 out of 10. This is an amazing book. I loved most of it. I couldn't put it down when I had to quit! If you like westerns and/or baseball, then this book is definitely for you!
Part tall tale, part historical fiction and COMPLETELY enjoyable -- think Mark Twain describing a showdown on a baseball diamond in a Wild West town where the "church" is in an abandoned gold mine -- "Desperado" is a fast-paced story starring young Jack Dillon and his new companion, Billy the Kid. Yes, that Billy the Kid, "wanted, dead or alive."
Jack heads west to follow his dream to play for the Dillontown Nine Baseball Club, led by his long-lost Uncle Long John Dillon, a black man. (Jack is merely dark-skinned, a minor detail he talks his way around. Jack is a VERY good talker.) African-Americans were barred from professional baseball until the mid-20th century (grrrrr), but in Dillontown, anyone can play the game - including Jack and Billy. John Dillon has challenged the National League champion Chicago White Stockings to a game with an enormous winner-takes-all jackpot. Jack and Billy are drawn into the contest with surprising - and enormously satisfying - results.
Can a baseball book steal your heart? This one does.
(A version of this review appeared in the Palo Alto Weekly.)
This one is no different. An unlikely pair, fifteen year old Jake and Billy the Kid, join forces reluctantly and that's where the adventure starts. "When the game ends, you either had a good life or a bad one or a hobgoblin of both. But it's over, right? You move on...Because Tomorrow -- and here's the best part -- tomorrow you are born again."
Not only is John's Desperado entertaining, but his tradmark "musicality of language" makes this book an excellent suggestion for classroom studies. Teachers can use Desperado to introduce the late 19th century West,African-American studies, social studies discussions of freedom, and certainly writing models of good word choice.
All in all, I'd say this one is another home run! If you like this book you'll enjoy the rest of John's books The Boy Who Saved Baseball][[ASIN:0698119312 Over the Wall,Under the Baseball Moon, and Choosing up sides.