Baseball and Comic Books

by Greg in

satchell-paige.jpgCodBall has reviewed a lot of baseball books because Andrew and I love to read about the sport. My little home library probably has 40-50 baseball books in it, and when I go to a library or a bookstore (which is often) I go first to the baseball section to see if there is anything I haven't seen.

I know a lot about baseball books, but I finally stumbled upon one (in fact an entire genre) I hadn't seen before. It's a book full of pictures and narrative. In fact, it's a comic book about one of the most important characters in baseball -- Satchel Paige.

It is a wonderful book -- which happens to be a comic book -- about Satchel Paige, and I found it just days after reading an interesting editorial in The New York Times. The editorial credits The Comic Book Project for helping to engage kids in reading. Here's a quote from the editorial:

"The point is not to drop a comic book on a child’s desk and say: 'read this.' Rather, the workshops give groups of students the opportunity to collaborate on often complex stories and characters that they then revise, publish and share with others in their communities."

As a parent, I can attest to the fact that comic books engage young minds. My son, a baseball nut, has created his own comic book brand and has both written and illustrated several volumes of comic books on a variety of topics -- many of them very silly. I continue to marvel (no pun intended) in the creative energy comic books seem to inspire.

"Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow" is a fabulous first person account of a Negro League player who facted Satchel in the batter's box (just once, successfully) and then fades quickly from professional baseball, only to meet the Great Satchel later in life during one of his barnstorming tours. The illustrations and narrative is worth the $10 I plopped down at Zanadu Comics in Seattle's University District. I have to confess that I had never understood the draw to high-end comics until I invested in this book, produced by The Center for Cartoon Studies. Now I'm sold because baseball and comics have always have a rich history together. The illustrations are not only captivating, but the book explores each illustration with a "panel discussion" at the end of the volume.

Another experiment designed to attract sports fans to comic books, BASEBALL COMICS starred pitcher Rube Rooky and was narrated by the grizzled Pop Flye, manager of the Jaguars baseball team. Many of the comic's pages featured baseball trivia questions printed across their bottoms. Beautifully executed, the comic's interiors were written and laid out by Eisner and finished by Jerry Grandenett.

It was interesting to me that when you Google comic books it often turns up stores that sell both baseball cards and comic books. Go figure.