Kids are fascinated by the Babe. He has the nickname. The baby face. The curse. Not to mention the legacy. He has inspired both picture book biographies and picture books in which he is a supporting character. Here is one about him...and one about the woman who struck him out.
Home Run by Robert Burleigh, ill. by Mike Wimmer (Harcourt, 1998)
I read the main text of this story to my son before school one day, and the supporting facts (written on baseball card insets) later. I loved this set up. It let us get a feel for the pace of the book, which both spans Ruth's lifetime and describes one at-bat. It also let us take in the art, which we loved. There is a shot of the fans that is just priceless.
At the same time, the insets provided those meaty facts that my boys and I love: how he held his bat so low that his hand cradled the bottom of the bat, and that he ate a dozen eggs and half a loaf of bread for breakfast (a fact I now like to repeat randomly to friends and family.)
This book beautifully sums up Babe's batting style and baseball career.
Of course, the great thing about baseball is that no team and no player is invincible. Sometimes, the underdog takes the cake. You could argue that the underdog is the whole reason the game is played. This relatively unknown player would certainly have been an underdog when pitching to the Babe.
Mighty Jackie, the Strikeout Queen by Marissa Moss, ill. by C.F. Payne (Simon & Schuster, 2004.)
Jackie Mitchell played for the Chattanooga Lookouts. During an exhibition game, she pitched to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Babe had said girls were "too delicate" to play baseball. And yet, Jackie struck out both men. Unfortunately, Major League baseball did deem baseball too strenuous for women, and her contract was voided the next day. But her legacy was not. For every Jackie, women's sports have moved forward a little.
Mitchell's character is drawn well, both in the words and illustrations. Her toughness is nicely juxtaposed with the notion that women are "delicate." Did anyone really believe that, I wonder? We were just as resilient and hard working then as we are now, and our toughness was just as stone cold.