Keystone Kids, by John R. Tunis
Five out of five stars
This book introduces Spike and Bob Russell, brothers, orphans and a superb shortstop/second base combination. The story opens with them toiling in the minor leagues but making a very good impression on their manager Grouchy. With their skills and confidence, the brothers move up to the major leagues and begin playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. When they arrive, the team is that in name only, there is no cohesion among the players, and they are mired in the second division, with little hope of rising.
In a move that seems to be one of desperation, the owner of the team elevates the older brother Spike to be a player-manager. Since he is so young, Spike is met with initial skepticism from the veterans, yet it appears that he wins them over.
However, when the Jewish catcher Jocko Klein offends some of the veterans, ethnic hatred flares up and Spike finds it necessary to chastise some of the players, including his brother Bob. Yet, when some fans ride Klein unmercifully, it is Bob that leads the counterattack. Tunis does a very good job in setting the context for battling anti-Semitism using the premise of standing up for a teammate.
This book is yet another demonstration that Tunis was a superb writer of sports fiction. This story grabs your attention in terms of the sports action as well as giving the reader a lesson in social activism. It is also a prequel to another quality Tunis book featuring the Russell brothers, “Rookie of the Year.”