Highpockets, by John R. Tunis
Five out of five stars
Cecil McDade is a lanky and very talented athlete playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He is called “Highpockets” because his legs appear unusually long. Highpockets is from a poor farm outside a small town in North Carolina, so he is uncomfortable in the big city. He is also focused on earning money so that he can make the farm prosperous and take care of his relatives. Therefore, he comes across as self-centered and unfriendly, although he is very polite, uttering many “Yessirs.”
Tunis authored a series of books featuring a fictional Brooklyn Dodgers team, in this one Spike Russell is the manager and is struggling to understand why Highpockets is not more of a team player. Since he is a strong pull hitter from the left side, opposing teams move the shortstop to the right side of the infield when he is at the plate. A power hitter that is too proud to cross them up by hitting to the left side, Highpockets would be much more valuable to the team if he were to do so.
This story is primarily a lesson in being a team player in the sports sense, letting your personal statistics suffer in order to improve the chances of the team winning. When Highpockets hits a boy with a car, he also discovers that not everyone is obsessed with sports. He spends a great deal of time with the boy when he is in the hospital and learns a lot about how to interact with people that do not share his interests.
People familiar with the history of baseball will recognize the references to the great Ted Williams. His plate appearances are the among the first recorded instances where extreme shifts were used. At first, Williams also refused to beat the shift by hitting to left. Williams has also gone down in history as a man that spent a great deal of time visiting children in the hospital. In the end, McDade proves his worth to the Dodgers as well as to a boy that gets well with the help of some valuable attention.