While doing the research that led to my biography of Hank Greenberg, I discovered another Jewish baseball player – Lipman Pike. Hank Greenberg was the first Jewish player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but Pike was the first Jewish player to be paid for playing baseball. And then, coincidentally, Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King by Richard Michelson was published this past spring – around the same time my biography of Hank was released. A bonanza for young readers who want to learn about two notable Jewish ball players!
After seeing our books reviewed together in several places, I ordered a copy of Michelson’s book and read it today. Hank and Lip (as Lipman was known) both grew up in Brooklyn as sons of Jewish immigrants, but they lived in different eras. Lip Pike was born in 1845. Hank Greenberg was born in 1911. In 1866, Lip earned $20.00 a week when he played for the Philadelphia Athletics. According to Michelson’s engaging picture book (written for readers a bit younger than my book), Mrs. Pike asked her son: “Who ever heard of anyone being paid to chase a ball?” Over 60 years later, Greenberg’s parents were shocked to learn that their son was offered nine thousand dollards to sign with the Detroit Tigers. Both men also faced challenges related to their religion. Lip Pike was voted off the Athletics after only one year because the other players questioned his loyalty. Greenberg battled anti-Semitism both on and off the field.
Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King is a delightful and informative story for young baseball fans. Michelson’s blend of fact and fiction will inspire young baseball fans to learn more about Lip Pike, Hank Greenberg and the other Jewish players for whom they paved the way.