Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review of "Outfield Orphan" by Joe Archibald

Review of
Outfield Orphan by Joe Archibald

Three out of five stars
 Since Archibald is the author, this cannot help but be a good book of sports fiction. However, it is not one of his better ones. Although readers that know the history of major league baseball will recognize the proper reference. The book was first published in 1961, not long after all major league teams were finally integrated. It is a bit ironic that one of the northernmost teams, the Boston Red Sox, was the last team to put a black player on their roster, doing so in 1959.
 Benjie Sadler is a black baseball player that is very talented. The story opens with him at the Spring training camp of the Boston Pilgrims major league team and fighting for a position on the roster. Benjie is extremely talented, there is no question that he has the skills to excel. However, when the club veterans shut him out, he takes it personally and racially, unable to realize that rookies are traditionally shunned by the veterans trying to keep their jobs.
 This sets the tone for most of the book. Sadler was raised in an orphanage, hence the origin of the title. Throughout his time with the Pilgrims and then with the other teams, he is always making excuses for himself and taking everything with a racial and personal bias. This is what reduces the quality of the book. I have read autobiographies by black stars such as Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron, men that started in the Negro leagues and then went to the majors. While they expressed their reactions to the racial responses of other players and the fans, they rarely ever expressed the kind of self doubts and excuse making that Sadler does. A player with such doubts would be unlikely to ever succeed at that level.

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