The X Collection, Part 4: Baseball Books for Boys

What the literate youngster of yore was reading.

As I was whisked -- blindfolded, of course -- by underground jitney to my next destination within the collection's vast domain, I reflected on what I had already seen and wondered what might be left. When the jitney at last came to a stop, my hosts graciously fed me a generous portion of bread crust, with a bottle of water. My blindfold was removed, and I found myself standing in the middle of a cavernous library, the stacks of which stretched as far as the eye could see. Rows upon rows of shelves on both a lower level and three upper balconies bulged with books of every shape, size and color.

But I would not be allowed to roam its vastness. Instead, I was brought a box of books. These were some of the lesser-known titles aimed at readers both young and male. Many were extremely rare and most were decidedly obscure. I was not given time to read them fully, but gleaned what I could from their dustjackets, and with hurried skimmings of their text. Any additional notes provided come from research after the fact.

One Out Til' Happy Hour
"What boys really need is a hero who reminds them of their own fathers; a guy who doesn't mind refreshing himself with a frosty one now and again ... and again. A guy with a pack of cigarettes tucked into his uniform and one at the ready, behind his ear. A fellow who eats the wrong things and says the wrong things and thinks the wrong things; in short, a guy who succeeds on the ball field in spite of everyone's perceptions that he shouldn't. Let's have McCormick drop whatever he's doing and get right on this."

- Internal memo from the files of the Grosset & Dunlap publishing house, initiating the Beer-Gut Jones series

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No Hitter
Sure, the young all-around athlete Chip Hilton does in fact throw a no-hitter in the book's climatic game, but it is not without consequences.

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All Southpaws Are Sinister
The Correction Books for Boys series was published by Gates & Sniglash to eradicate flaws that undermined a young man's standing in society. Maladies such as slouching, nose-picking, flatulence, myopia and, of course, left-handedness, were all addressed in dedicated tomes. Throughout most of All Southpaws are Sinister, the central character, Southy Smith, insists on doing everything with the wrong hand, a practice which is leading him to no good end ... until, that is, he wises up and converts in the book's climax.

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The Russki: A Slippery Foe
According to the copy found in small ads placed toward the backs of comic books, "Only real American boys read Rick Rose, Red-Baiter stories!" In every book, Rick would antagonize and generally make life miserable for the "communists and their fellow travelers" he encountered -- and if that meant bending the rules in an international baseball tournament, then so much the better.

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There's No Such Thing as a Clutch Hitter!
"It wasn't that he was more likely to rise to the occasion than any other player because he had nerves of granite that they did not possess, it was that he was in general a better hitter and, therefore, simply more likely to come through in any circumstance."

- A description of the book's hero, as found on page 15

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The Flamboyant Hurler
The young 19th Century reader never knew where a Tight Trouser Adventure Story would take him next; whether to a long-lost temple, a haunted cave, a mysterious shipwreck, or onto the diamond in the relatively new sport of "base ball."

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Home Run Freud
The publishing house of Mayweather, Dwight & Lipscomb came out with a series of books aimed at interesting boys in a number of serious fields by portraying the practitioners of those professions as sports heroes. Sigmund Freud as a "powerful pitch puller" was preceded by Enrico Fermi, Gridiron Triple Threat, and followed by Niels Bohr, Crafty Cager.

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Bases Loaded
In the 1920s, there had been a series of books featuring Tom Freak, Sr., an "oddly constructed fellow" who got caught up in many sporting adventures. This was an attempt to revive the franchise 20 years later, featuring his son, Tom, Jr. "He was every inch his father's offshoot," read his description, "save for his impossibly small head, which was quite the opposite of his predecessor's outsized cranium."

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Flip's Flipped-Out Baseball Trip
"As he did every game, Flip Fillips was playing right field for the town nine down at the city park. Diving for a sinking line drive, he found himself face first in the clover with the ball in his glove. When he got up, he realized he had landed in a mushroom patch with his mouth open and that he had swallowed some of them! Soon he was crossing over to humanity's final frontier: his own mind!"

--From the flap copy of Flip's Flipped Out Baseball Trip, published in 1967

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Game Called
"Well looky there," exclaimed Coach Johnson.

"You mean Slug getting caught trying to steal home?" asked Timmy.

"No. More like that nuke-o blast cloud forming over Fort Wilson. Looks like trouble brewing."

"Yikes!" Timmy exclaimed.

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Jim Baker's latest book is The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History. You can follow him on Twitter @jimbaker1066. There are three previous entries in The X Collection.

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