Strike Him Out! by Harold M. Sherman
Four out of five stars
Published in 1931, this book of adolescent sports fiction reflects a different time, one before television, when baseball was almost exclusively local. While people followed their favorite teams in the newspapers and on radio, if you wanted to see live baseball you were restricted to the local teams.
The premise here is the oldest one in sports, that of a personal rivalry between opposing players. Speed Durgan is a pitcher for North High and Bimbo Bailey is a superb power hitter for South High. The rivalry is intense and extends beyond the baseball diamond, there are serious consequences if people from the north side go to the south side and vice versa.
While Speed is a superb pitcher, Bimbo is his nemesis, able to get the key hit that wins the game several times. It becomes a head game, even extending to their betting dates with the girl that both of them are attracted to. The rivalry extends into their college days and leads to a final confrontation between the two men with the game and much of their season on the line.
Although the premise is about baseball, the main theme is about facing the challenges of life, most of which are not about baseball. Speed is a very successful man, on and off the diamond, but he has one serious failing, his dealings with Bimbo. Facing and overcoming that fear is a universal theme independent of baseball. In that way, this book is timeless, even if many of the other aspects are dated.