Waiting for Pumpsie
By Barry Wittenstein
Illustrated by London Ladd
(Charlesbridge, 2017, Watertown, Massachusetts, $16.99)
In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play for a major league baseball team. But Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers didn’t mean the sport was instantly desegregated. Twelve years passed before the final holdout, the Boston Red Sox, hired Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, its first black player.
In Waiting for Pumpsie, Barry Wittenstein and illustrator London Ladd explore one fictional African-American family’s emotions as they await the day a black player will join their beloved Sox. Through the eyes of Bernard, a baseball-obsessed boy, readers experience the conflicting emotions many Red Sox fans felt: “We always want the Sox to win. But Mama says we gotta root for all the colored players, no matter what team they’re on.” Bernard’s voice feels real and timeless, while Ladd’s illustrations bring late 1950s Boston to life.
Waiting for Pumpsie is an introduction to Pumpsie Green and an important chapter in sports history. It is also a very human look at a family’s complex relationship with the sport they love.
-Dorothy A. Dahm