Jim & Me (Baseball Card Adventures) by Dan Gutman 2008
IQ "'Whenever I mess up, they say my brain isn't as smart as a white man's.' Jim said. 'And when I do good, they say I'm a savage who was raised with a fighting spirit. But I'm a man, just like any other.'" Jim pg. 143
In Jim & Me, Joey Stoshack (nicknamed Stosh) is approached by his arch-nemesis, Bobby Fuller for a favor. Bobby wants Stosh to take him back in time to meet his great grandfather, Jim Thorpe. Stosh can travel through time when he touches a baseball card, Bobby was an accidental witness to this (long story and this is the first book I read in the series even though it's not the first one). Bobby wants to clear Jim's name. Jim was considered the greatest athlete in the world, people didn't care that he was Native American. However, Thorpe lost all his 1912 Olympic medals in a scandal and people don't look too kindly upon him. Stosh puts aside his misgivings and agrees to help; only because he wants to meet Jim Thorpe, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw and all the other great New York Giants. But once they arrive, all the boys do is argue.
The story was quite enjoyable. I learned a lot about Jim Thorpe, baseball, and the state of athletic competitions in the early 1900s. It wasn't fair; Jim lost his medals because he wasn't considered an amateur since he had played baseball previously to participating in the Olympics and got paid for it. this made him a professional. The point is made in the book (and I completely agree) that this would never hold up today. Can you imagine only having amateurs participating in the Olympics? It would be interesting but not as exciting. Jim Thorpe was an amazing athlete; he ran track (he did everything from pole vaulting to running to throwing the javelin), played football, basketball and baseball. His reputation was ruined when his medals were taken away, except that baseball teams wanted to hire him to sell more seats. Jim ended up joining the New York Giants and it was not a good fit.
I was astonished and amused by the baseball games during the 1900s. It was basically a free for all and everyone broke the rules (well the rules we have today, there weren't really any rules back then). For example, during a game, John McGraw asks the pitcher if he can see the ball. The pitcher hesitates, but then throws McGraw the ball. McGraw doesn't touch it, he simply urges the runner on third to "go!" This was considered legal because "If you throw away the ball, you're a fool." This book also handles the issue of racism quite well. Jim faces derogatory remarks not only from the opposing side fans, but from his own fans as well (see the IQ above). Also, some coaches tried to pass African American players off as Native Americans since African Americans were barred from playing baseball at this time. Jim wasn't that great of a baseball player; he excelled at other sports, but baseball was not his thing. It didn't help that his manager, John McGraw was a jerk (not completely) and didn't work well with Jim.
Jim & Me is a satisfying read that immerses readers in the world of the 1900s through baseball, racism and the setting. Some facts shared may be lost on non-baseball fans or even people who like baseball but don't know the complete history of the game (like me). I also liked how the contemporary storyline did not get lost in the past, Stosh and Bobby have their ups and their downs. They make some pretty crazy accusations against one another, but they are entertaining to read about. "Boys" *shakes head in amusement* I decided to read this book because my brother really likes this series. He doesn't like to read and will only read books about sports AND they have to be a series. I know, he's weird. Anyway, I was curious to read a book in the series that got him reading and the series is pretty diverse (Stosh has other books where he meets Satchel Paige, Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson), so I was thrilled. 4th grade and up.
PS I think this review came off as a more of a history lesson. Sorry!