Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Sturm

When I saw this book at the new Drawn & Quarterly store on Bernard Street in Montréal last week, I knew that I had to have it. I'm not a very big baseball fan, but the idea of a well-drawn graphic novel telling a political story through sports struck me as something I'd like to check out. And I wasn't disappointed.

I knew very little about Paige before this, and if for no other reason, knowing a bit more about this charismatic figure's life was worth the ticket price. I was aware of the Negro League's popularity during the Jim Crow years, but I had no idea how big Paige had become by the time he played in the majors for the first time at the age of 42. He went on to play several more years in th majors, even becoming an all-star. This novel primarily tells the story of his Negro League and barnstorming days, all through the eyes of one of his former opponents.

Most of the story occurs in the sweeping panels that Rich Tomasso draws since there is very little dialogue at all throughout, which is both a strength and a weakness. More of the former perhaps, but I couldn't help but feel like I wanted more, I could've read this for hours, but instead had to contend myself with 30 minutes of pleasure.

It's a fun story that highlights the injustice of the Jim Crow south without sparing much detail. For those of us who see sport as a crass commercial exercise today, it points to a past where sport, and in the case of Paige, extremely popular stars, actually have an eye on social justice. If you are anything like me, you might find yourself googling Paige or the Negro League and checking out some biographies soon after reading this book.

Another exciting aspect of this graphic novel are the extras after the story. They were useful in describing some of the key terms and giving an historical overview that helped to place me in the story.

Check out the Center for Cartoon Studies' page with draft illustrations and commentary by Sturm and Tommaso.


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Katy Widrick said...

My company does video news stories on great people with awesome attitudes -- they don't get much better than some of the Negro League players who broke barriers in baseball!

You can see a video we did at MLB's recent symbolic draft of Negro League players, which includes Millito Navarro, Peanut Johnson, Charley Pride and Bill Blair as well as Ken Griffey and Dave Winfield.

I hope you enjoy it!

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