Willie and the All-Stars by Floyd Cooper


Willie is a boy with big dreams. His goal in life is to become a Major League ballplayer, just like the ones he hears about on the radio. He fantasizes about being at Wrigley Field as he and his friends play stickball on the streets of Chicago. But there’s a problem: it’s 1942, and Willie is African-American (Jackie Robinson will not break the color barrier for another five years). The truth crashes down around him when he hears a group of old men talking about players that Willie has never heard of: Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson…

“Why ain’t I ever heard of these players on the radio?” he asked.

“That’s because they’re Negro League players,” said Mr. Wilson.

“You mean all of these players you been talkin’ about aren’t even real Major Leaguers?” Willie asked. “How good could they be?”

Ol’ Ezra rose up from the steps and looked Willie right in the eyes. “Son,” he said, “being a Major League ballplayer is about a lot more than how good a fella is. It’s also about the color of his skin. And yours is the wrong color.”

But Ol’ Ezra finds a way to make him feel better. He gives Willie and his friend tickets to Wrigley Field. There, the Major League All-Stars will be playing an exhibition game against the Negro League All-Stars. What Willie sees will surprise him and restore his hope in his dreams.

Willie and the All-Stars, written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, shows us that no matter how big the obstacle is, it can’t stand in the way of our even bigger dreams.

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