Monday, July 20, 2015

Mighty Jackie The Strike-Out Queen   
by Marissa Moss
Illustrated by C.F. Payne

Awards-Many!   2005 IRA Teachers' Choices for 2005-2006,  2004 ALA Notable, 2004 Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, 2004 Starred Review, Booklist, 2004 Top Ten Sports Books of the Year, Booklist 2004.

The 2015 US Women Soccer Team, Champions of the World Cup, have captured the hearts of our country this summer.  What an inspiration for young women and girls to follow their dreams—no matter if their dreams are: sports, arts, science, medicine, politics…or anything!!!

As inspiring as this team is, credit must also (and always!) be given to the many women who blazed the trail ahead of them and opened the path for them.

Jackie Mitchell is one of those trailblazers.

Mighty Jackie is a narrative biography about a 17 year old young woman named Jackie Mitchell, who in 1931, did something absolutely remarkable as a member of a minor league baseball team, the Chattanooga Lookouts (which, of course, was dominated by male players). Jackie’s story is phenomenal, but not well known, as often is the case in women’s sports and with female athletes of her era.  Yet, her accomplishments chipped away to open sports opportunities for women and girls in the years ahead—including the young women who just represented the US at the Soccer World Cup.

In 1931, Jackie Mitchell, using her special pitches (especially her deadly sinker: “the Drop”) struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in a baseball exhibition game in Chattanooga. 

By doing so, she shocked and infuriated the two famous Yankee players and absolutely thrilled the Chattanooga fans.

On the heels of the incredible championship by the women’s soccer team, Mighty Jackie would be a great mentor text to add to your list of biography mentors this coming school year.  Students will also be motivated to further research her story.

I dedicate this review to another mighty Jackie—brave, courageous and incredibly talented.

Book Talk
From a very young age, Jackie Mitchell’s father saw her potential as an athlete—especially as a baseball pitcher.  He worked with her, encouraged her and built her self-esteem and confidence by telling her that she could be good at anything-as long as she worked hard at it.  As luck would have it, the Mitchell’s next door neighbor was a major league pitcher named Dizzy Vance. Dizzy worked with and mentored Jackie-teaching her many different styles of pitches.

Jackie signed to play with the Chattanooga Lookouts, a minor league baseball team.  The team owner had arranged for an exhibition game with the New York Yankees as they traveled from New York to their spring training in Florida.  News got around that a new player for the Lookouts-a girl-was probably going to pitch in the game!

A huge crowd of people-4,000--showed up that day to watch the Yankees vs the Lookouts and their female pitcher.  And indeed, after the starting pitcher was taken out of the game in the first inning—Jackie Mitchell was put into the game to pitch.

A favorite line: ‘She stood tall on the field and looked back at the crowd in the bleachers. They were waiting for her to make a mistake, and she knew it. They were waiting for her to prove that baseball was a man’s game, not her game. “It is my game,”  she muttered to herself and bit her lip.’

The next batter was none other than Babe Ruth—the home run king—already a legend, even as an active player.

The story goes through the pitching sequence--and Jackie's thoughts and 'self-talk' as she pitches to the Babe.  Jackie holds onto her courage, confidence and belief in herself…and delivers strikes to Babe Ruth.  He is shocked, angry and throws down his bat.  The crowd absolutely goes nuts with cheers for Jackie.

Lou Gehrig was next up to bat and Jackie easily strikes him out!  Again, the Chattanooga crowd is thrilled and Lou Gehrig is angry.  Jackie stays in the game for a while more and if finally pulled out.

Another favorite line: Back to back, Jackie had struck out two baseball’s best batters, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. She’d proven herself and now the fans loved her for it. But Jackie didn’t hear them. She was too proud and too happy. She’d done what she’s always known she could do.’

The story ends with Jackie glowing in her accomplishments that day. She was able to how the world that ‘throwing like a girl’ indeed is a very good thing!

The author’s note on the final page tells readers that later that week the commissioner of baseball declared that women could not play with and against men in the major or minor leagues claiming that baseball was ‘too strenuous’ for women.  This echoed a comment by Babe Ruth before the game against Jackie Mitchell where he was quoted as saying that women are “too delicate” to play baseball.  Regardless of the commissioner’s decision, Jackie Mitchell did continue to play in the minors for a few more years.

And no one could take away the fact that she had struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Biography (Narrative)
Reading Workshop strategies: Summarizing, Visualizing, Inferring, Synthesizing
Writing Workshop genre and strategies:  Informational ( Biography), elaboration, flashback
Curricular themes: Female accomplishments, Strong female

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