Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King

Written by Richard Michelson; Illustrated by Zachary Pullen

 

Lipman Pike is a real person from the mid 1800s when the sport of baseball was just progressing from a boy’s game to be played in leisure to a professional sport. Lip was known in his neighborhood for his fast deliveries from his father’s small haberdashery in Brooklyn, NY. His father boasted, "My boys could beat a racehorse in the home stretch." While his parents were Dutch immigrants who wanted their sons to think about continuing in the business, Lip wanted nothing more than to play baseball. In those days, baseball was called simply "Base."

 

As a teenager, Lip was invited to join a junior club and played his first official amateur game. Then, at 21 years of age, Lip told his parents that he was moving to Philadelphia to play "Base" for the Athletics for $20 a week. His parents were shocked that he would be paid and at the amount he would receive. They thought it was great that they could pay him $2 a week for working in their store.

 

Lip was the best player on the Athletics team. That year they won 23 matches and lost only twice. Lip had 6 home runs in one game! Lip was voted off the team because the other players thought it was unfair that he was paid to play the game … and he was Jewish.

 

Lip was determined to play so he joined the New Jersey Irvingtons until Boss Tweed invited him to play closer to home with the New York Mutuals. "Of course, we can’t pay you," Boss Tweed explained. "That would be against Base Ball Association policy and, as New York’s Commissioner of Public Works, I would never break the rules." But, he did offer Lip a job in a government office where he "would have little work to do and plenty of time to play ball." Even though it was against the rules, many of the better players were secretly paid to play ball.

 

As they say, the rest is history. Lip became known as the first "professional" baseball player. Within two years of Lip secretly being offered a job so he could play ball, the rules were changed and players were permitted to accept payment. Lip played for several teams and always either led the league or tied the league in home runs. On August 16, 1873, Lip proved he could outrun a racehorse in a hundred-yard sprint.

 

What a great book about the first homerun king of baseball! You will also love the Author’s Note at the end of the book that gives the history of baseball and of Lipman Pike.

 

While all baseball lovers will enjoy this story, I think this would also be a great discussion starter for whether athletes should be paid to play and if so, how much. 

 

So, why should you read aloud this book?

     To engage your students who are baseball fans

     To entertain all students

     To build background knowledge in all students

     To spark a discussion on a person’s monetary worth with regard to baseball

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