One thing about reading these baseball books Fred Bowen has written by the AllStar SportStory series is that if your Little League days are behind you then you are going to have memories of highs and lows coming back to you. While reading "T.J.'s Secret Pitch" I recalled the painful memory of our team losing a game to of the second division teams because the pitcher was throwing the ball so slow nobody could hit him. So when T.J. Burns' father quoted Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn dictum, "Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing," I know from painful experience that this is true. However, this excellent baseball story for young readers has another more important lesson that will help Little Leaguers even if they are not pitchers.
Like a lot of kids who play baseball, T.J. wants to be a pitcher. He is the team's second baseman, but he has been practicing pitching all summer long, learning how to move the ball around the strike zone. But he is also the shortest player on his team and when he is given a chance to pitch batting practice he cannot get anybody out. That night he watches his father pitch a softball game and win, throw great, high "meatballs" that nobody can hit. From that performance and talking with his dad afterwards, T.J. learns quite a few things about pitching with your head as well as with your arm. So in his back yard T.J. starts teaching himself to throw meatballs and when he pitches to his friends they are surprised to find out these are very hard pitches to hit. Now he just needs to have an opportunity to pitch in a real game.
One of the defining characteristics of Bowen's stories is the way he always works a little baseball history into the plot. In the case of "T.J.'s Secret Pitch" that would be the example of Rip Sewell and his infamous eephus pitch. In the back of this book Bowen tells the real story of Sewell's pitch, which he lofted as high as 25 feet. Besides Sewell's famous encounter with Ted Williams in the 1946 All Star Game, Bowen tells about Sewell's entire career and what happened to him afterwards, and I was surprised to learn Sewell only threw the pitch he made famous about 20 times a game, and never with runners on base (think about it).
"T.J.'s Secret Pitch" is illustrated by Jim Thorpe and should give young baseball players plenty to think about. To quote another Hall of Famer, Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra, "Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical." Young readers should certainly learn that important lesson from the examples provided in this excellent little story.
on June 12, 2014
Colonel Sanders makes the best fried chicken I have ever eaten. And so Kentucky Fried Chicken with its red and white striped buckets filled with crispy or original fried chicken was born. But how was it made? Only the Colonel and his closest associates know the secret recipe. Darn! Secrets arouse a lot of curiosity. Yes I know. The old saying goes that "curiosity killed the cat."
In this exciting baseball story T.J. wants to be a pitcher in the worst way, but he has a problem. He's a little guy, much smaller than the rest of his teammates and his pitch's don't have enough punch, i.e. enough power to reach home plate. But all is not lost when T.J. learns about Pittsburgh Pirate Rip Sewell's secret weapon. Naturally T.J.'s first inclination is to try it out. But is it too late to prove to his buddies that he can still pitch? And if so, will it help the team win the championship? Only time will tell in this delightful, action-packed baseball story.
Fred Bowen is a natural, using a baseball platform to lay out and interweave fact with fiction in a sports story that will keep every kid spellbound for many hours. I give T.J.'s Secret Pitch five stars, and I'm Marvin P. Ferguson, author of THE UNKNOWN BASEBALL PLAYER.