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Three Baseball Autobiographies Score a Hit With Young Readers!

Cal. Sammy. Nomar. Three new baseball bios! Cal Ripken, Jr., Sammy Sosa, Nomar Garciaparra -- three great names in baseball in the year 2000 -- three new biographies for young readers!

Book Cover Image Pitchers have thrown the first pitches of the new baseball season. Though it's much too early to tell how the contending champs will do, who the league leaders will be, or which stars will emerge, it's the perfect time to capitalize on the interest millions of kids have in "America's favorite pastime." During read-aloud time this week, why not throw in one of three new biographies about baseball's current heroes? Share the stories -- and the lessons -- in these new bios of Cal Ripken, Jr., Sammy Sosa, and Nomar Garciaparra!



Cal Ripken, Jr., has earned the nickname "Iron Man." His amazing record-breaking consecutive-game streak of 2,632 games stands as a lesson in stick-to-itiveness and endurance for young and old.

Now Ripken's hard-learned lessons are available for young readers. Play Ball! a new book from Dial Easy-to-Read, pitches the values of hard work and persistence.


"I played through some good seasons and some that were not as good," wrote Ripken. "I had hitting streaks and slumps. But I kept going. I kept playing my best. I kept doing my job."

Play Ball! is an unusual biography in that it is an easy-to-read adaptation of a best-selling adult autobiography, The Only Way I Know. Gail Herman's adaptation retains many of the hard-hitting lessons of the original -- in nine brief chapters.

Ripken's early years were focused on family and baseball. The Ripken family traveled to 14 different towns before finally settling in Baltimore. Meeting new friends wasn't always easy, but the Ripken kids always had one another, remembers Cal.

The value of hard work on the baseball diamond carried over to Cal's schoolwork too. Ripken tells the story of a particularly difficult math problem that he was able to solve -- even though he had to stay up half the night to do it!

Readers will get a good sense for the drama of the days leading up to Ripken's breaking Lou Gehrig's record of consecutive games played. Cal was genuinely embarrassed by all the media attention. In a speech to the crowd that day, he thanked his mother, father, wife, and kids -- and then he added:

"Whether your name is Gehrig or Ripken ... or that of some youngster who picks up his bat or puts on his glove, you are challenged by the game of baseball to do your very best, day in and day out, and that's all I ever tried to do."

Ripken wrote that life on the diamond wasn't always easy but that perseverance helped him through the inevitable slumps. Perseverance -- whether on the field or in academics or in life -- is the central theme of Play Ball! It's a theme that can serve as a valuable classroom lesson too!




Book Cover Image As much as Sammy Sosa is a household name today, he was hardly an overnight sensation. Author Caleb MacLean recounts those early days in Sammy Sosa, Cubs Clubber, one of the latest additions to the Sports Star series from Children's Press (a division of Grolier Publishing).

Sammy Sosa grew up in poverty. In San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic, most kids were too poor to own baseball gloves. As substitutes, they fashioned gloves out of old milk cartons! But dreams of a career in baseball -- perpetuated by the successes of hometown players such as Rico Carty, Pedro Guerrero, George Bell, and Tony Fernandez -- kept many kids going.

Few would make it. And none would make a mark as Sammy Sosa has!

As baseball's reigning home run king -- a title he shares with Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals -- Sosa is well known for using his success to help his native people. A baseball stadium in San Pedro de Macoris, built with Sosa's money, bears his name. The 1998 home run title might have gone to McGwire in part because of Sammy's preoccupation in the last days of that season. Sammy spent most of his off-the-diamond time raising money to help the people of the Dominican Republic recover from a devastating hurricane.

Sosa's early career was marked as much by slumps as his current career is by headlines. And Sosa hasn't forgotten the lessons learned during those low periods -- or the lessons learned while shining shoes or selling fruit to help his mother support himself and six siblings.

"It wasn't so long ago that Sammy Sosa was a nobody," Sosa likes to say.

That message and many others are good reasons for adding Sammy Sosa, Cubs Clubber to your school or classroom library!



Book Cover Image Last year, Nomar Garciaparra was the American League batting champ. His league-leading average of .357 helped earn the Boston Red Sox a berth in the American League championship series.

Now, hot off the press, Mark Stewart offers a new biography in the Baseball's New Wave series (Millbrook Press) -- Nomar Garciaparra: Non-Stop Shortstop.

Garciaparra learned valuable lessons early in life -- lessons that he carries with him when he takes the field at Fenway Park. Of Nomar's early years at home, Stewart wrote:

"[A]s a child, Nomar already had the intense focus of a pro. When he began competing in tee ball as a six-year-old, the coach kept telling the kids to relax and have fun. Nomar never listened. ... The father of one of his teammates even nicknamed him "No-Nonsense Nomar." ... That kind of discipline came from Sylvia Garciaparra. In her home, the first priority was finishing homework and the second was doing your chores. Only then could Nomar play sports. He took out the garbage, cleaned up the yard, and even did some laundry. This routine helped him organize his time."

Stewart's bio tracks Garciaparra's life from his Little League days to his days on the diamond in high school and college (where he was a First-Team All-American as well as an Academic All-American) and to his role as a member of the U.S. baseball team at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Today, Garciaparra is known as one of baseball's most superstitious players. His routines as he dresses for games -- right down to which sock he puts on first and his ragged cap, which he has worn every day since making the big leagues -- and as he steps into the batter's box are often talked about. So is his willingness to be coached and to set aside time to sign autographs for young fans.

One of baseball's most affable and kind players, Garciaparra is a role model for youngsters in Boston and around major-league ballparks.

These three new books are available in bookstores. If you are unable to locate any of the titles, ask your bookseller to order them for you or contact the publisher directly.

  • Cal Ripken, Jr.: Play Ball! written by Cal Ripken, Jr., and Mike Bryan, is published by Dial Books for Young Readers (a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.), 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.
  • Sammy Sosa: Cubs Clubber, written by Caleb MacLean, is published by Children's Press (a division of Grolier Publishing), Danbury, Connecticut.
  • Nomar Garciaparra: Non-Stop Shortstop, written by Mark Stewart, is published by Millbrook Press, 2 Old Milford Road, Brookfield, CT 06804.


Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2000 Education World