Sunday, August 28, 2022

Review of "Stumptown Kid," by Carol Gorman and Ron J. Findley

 Review of

Stumptown Kid, by Carol Gorman and Ron J. Findley ISBN 9781561453375

Five out of five stars

Great baseball book with healing over time

 The context for this novel is the timeframe of the early 1950’s in a small town in Iowa. Specifically in the area around Cedar Rapids. As a lifelong resident of that area, many of the location references are well known to me. When I was young, there was an area of Cedar Rapids known as Stumptown and my great uncle lived there.

 There are several themes to this book. There is love of baseball, the sense of loss when a husband and father is killed in the Korean War, and how sports can bridge the gap between the races. Charlie Nebraska is twelve and he wants two things in the worst way. The first is to get his life back to the way it was when his father was alive and the second is to make the Wildcats baseball team so that he can play baseball.

 The first is impossible and the second extremely unlikely until a young black drifter arrives. His name is Luther Peale and he is a former baseball player in the Negro Leagues. Peale arrives with almost nothing, yet Charlie is immediately drawn to him for his knowledge of baseball and his willingness to share. Charlie’s mother proves to be very enlightened in her thinking, even allowing the hungry Luther to eat supper with them.

 Since this is the early fifties and there were no black people in the immediate area and Luther is a drifter, there is some racism. Yet, it is surprisingly muted. Luther is very experienced in candling eggs, so he gets a job checking eggs at the grocery store and a room at a boarding house. At that time, locals brought their eggs to the store to sell them for cash. There is a touching scene when it is time to eat. One boarder refuses to eat with Luther, when Luther offers to leave, she tells him to please sit down and eat, immediately ending the ruckus.

 Luther beguiles Charlie with his stories of playing with the Negro League stars and he agrees to coach Charlie’s baseball team. Many of the parents express initial doubts, but once they see Luther in action and how well he teaches the kids, most of them express their approval.

 Luther also has a past that catches up with him, but with the help of Charlie, he manages to overcome it and Charlie’s team proves that baseball is a game where good coaching can overcome weaker natural skills.

 This is a great story about baseball, racial intolerance and how the less talented and differently colored can overcome their difficulties.

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