I'm waiting for a copy of a new novel by my friend and colleague, LeAnne Howe. Her new book, called Miko Kings, has much to pique my interest. As you can discern from the photograph on the cover, it is about a baseball team. Not just any team, however... The subtitle is "An Indian Baseball Story."
Here's the blurb for the book:
It is 1907 in Ada, the queen city of Indian Territory. While white settlers are making plans to turn the Territory into the state of Oklahoma, the big story is Henri Day's all-Indian baseball team, the Miko Kings. Just as the team is poised to win the 1907 Twin Territories' Pennant against their archrivals, the Seventh Cavalry Soldiers, Miko Kings' Choctaw pitcher Hope Little Leader sees a storm blowing in. As the series heads into the ninth and final game, emotions (and betting) rise to a feverish pitch. Only Ada's quirky postal clerk, Ezol Day, understands that the outcome of this game will affect Indians' and baseball' for the next four generations. As Henri Day says, "This is where the twentieth-century Indian really begins, not in the abstractions of Congressional Acts, but on the prairie diamond."At a PBS website about LeAnne's work on the documentary, Indian Country Diaires, there is a page about Miko Kings. Below are some excepts from that page that capture why I'm especially excited about this book.
"The story of Miko Kings began for me when the contractor remodeling my house found a dusty mail pouch hidden inside a lathe and plaster wall he was tearing out. The pouch was stuffed with papers..."
"..., and a 12 x 12 black and white photograph of an Indian baseball team. The words "1907 Miko Kings" were scrawled across the front.
"...The faces of the men in the picture revealed none of the frustration, none of the anger one attributes to the racism of the Allotment Era."
Filled with questions about the players, the protagonist began to search for answers. In that search, she looked again through the contents of the mailpouch and found a newspaper article from the Ada Weekly News, dated July 16, 1904.
Here's the text of that article:
"Indian-owned ball club Miko Kings took the MKT train northwest for an exhibition game against the El Reno Sharpshooters in a lavish July 4, 1906 celebration, at which the Kiowas killed a jersey cow in mock-rodeo-style, then barbecued and devoured the remains in front of the grandstand. But there was no ball game. Pitcher Hope Little Leader objected to an umpire named John Coffee, citing this man's ancestor as having forced the Choctaws on the infamous "Trail of Tears." Little Leader refused to pitch and El Reno, in turn, refused to pay Miko Kings' bill at the Lightfoot Hotel."
"There was considerable commotion on El Reno's side. Finally, the sheriff was brought in to umpire the three-game series. He called the game with two six-shooters, one in each holster laced to each leg. The first two games went to El Reno 14-5, and 11-2. Miko Kings had better hitting, and as owner Henri Day reported, perhaps "better" umpiring, as the sheriff was called away. The last game went to Miko Kings, 10-3."
Baseball fans and/or history buffs will be interested in this book, and both will learn a fair bit of Native history as they read. Though not published for the YA market, I do think it will work well in a high school literature or history classroom.
Miko Kings is published by Aunt Lute, a not-for-profit, multicultural women's press. LeAnne's touring schedule is posted there. She'll be in Virginia, Texas, and Minnesota in Sept and Oct.