“Waiting For Pumpsie” Gives Young Red Sox Fans Context About The Team's History With Race
Being a Red Sox fan is a birth right for many who grow up in the Boston metro area. I have been a proud lifelong Red Sox fan and consider Opening Day and Truck Day to be local holidays. However, problems with racism have plagued The Red Sox throughout the team’s history and must be reckoned with by all Red Sox fans. In the past year, there was a debate whether or not to rename Yawkey Way the iconic street next to Fenway Park named after the former Red Sox owner which eventually resulted in its change back to Jersey St. These discussions around Yawkey Way and the Red Sox history with racism will no doubt continue even after the street name change. Charlesbrdge Publishing’s new book “Waiting For Pumpsie” written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by London Ladd will help young Red Sox fans understand these discussions and debates.
Wittenstein’s book’s title is a reference to Pumpsie Green who was the first African American player to play for the Red Sox. The book is not a biography of Pumpsie but instead takes the perspective of a fictional boy Bernard who is a big Red Sox fan but also dismayed by the fact that all the other baseball teams have players that look like him and the Red Sox do not. Bernard and his family discuss other African American baseball greats of the time like Willie Mays and even the fact that even the Boston Bruins had a black player (Willie O’Ree) before the Red Sox further giving context to the time. The book also goes to a more macro level discussing how activists and others pressured the Red Sox which eventually led to Pumpsie’s triumphant debut on the team which Bernard’s fictional family attends. This book could be used by Elementary School and Middle School teachers as well as parents as a way to give context to and spark discussions about The Red Sox and The City of Boston’s history with racism.
Other aspects of the book are sure to delight Red Sox fans and Bostonians; London Ladd’s vivid illustrations done with acrylic paint bring late 1950s Boston to life. Ladd makes sure to depict Fenway Park as it was before its many renovations in the past 20 years and even includes an old style Boston bus in the background of one illustration. The author’s note at the end of the book clearly states that Bernard is a fictional character and gives sources such as article in the Dorchester Reporter about Pumpsie Green. This adds to the books usefulness as a teaching tool in the classroom because it can help students find further readings to pursue and possibly even as an introduction to the genre of historical fiction.