The best books about baseball players of color for little sluggers

Why am I passionate about this?

No one really knows who invented baseball. Games involving balls hit with sticks, runners, and bases are as old as time. By the middle of the 1800s, everybody in America was playing baseball. And I mean everybody—girls, boys, women, and men from all walks of life and heritage.  While researching baseball history for The House That Ruth Built, I read stacks of baseball books about baseball legends—for the most part, White players like Babe Ruth or Black players like Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier. I was surprised and delighted when I came across books about baseball players who represented the rest of everybody—hence this list.


I wrote...

The House That Ruth Built

By Kelly Bennett, Susanna Covelli (illustrator),

Book cover of The House That Ruth Built

What is my book about?

A historical non-fiction picture book celebrating Baseball, Babe Ruth & Yankee Stadium, the biggest, tallest, grandest stadium of its time. With true-to-event illustrations, reminiscent of Norman Rockwell, and facts on every page about the stadium, the teams, and baseball, The House That Ruth Built recreates the excitement—on and off the field—of that 1923 opening day game in Yankee Stadium. Prior to the game, legendary slugger Babe Ruth said he’d “give a year of his life to hit a homer” that day. In the bottom of the third inning, two on, two out, the big question was: Could the Babe come through? End notes include results of the game and Yankee Stadium history, along with places and websites to visit for more baseball!

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series

Kelly Bennett Why did I love this book?

There are lots of books about famous White and Black baseball players, but there are few books about Native pro baseball players, and definitely not about two! 

This dual biography of NY Giants power hitter John Meyers and Charles “Al” Bender, pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, who faced off in the 1911 World Series features realistic illustrations bordered with traditional designs, bookended with the play-by-play of the game.

More than baseball, Sorell’s text addresses the adversity both players overcame, along with the prejudice and injustices they faced, for the love of the game. Injustices, Sorell points out, Native players still contend with today.

Tracie Sorell is a member of the Cherokee Nation; Arigon Starr is an enrolled member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma. 

By Traci Sorell, Arigon Starr (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Contenders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

The true story of John Meyers and Charles Bender, who in 1911 became the first two Native pro baseball players to face off in a World Series. This picture book teaches important lessons about resilience, doing what you love in the face of injustice, and the fight for Native American representation in sports.

Charles Bender grew up on the White Earth Reservation in Northwestern Minnesota. John Meyers was raised on the Cahuilla reservation in Southern California. Despite their mutual respect for each other's talents and their shared dedication to Native representation in baseball, the media was determined to pit them…


Book cover of Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball's Negro Leagues

Kelly Bennett Why did I love this book?

Mamie Peanut Johnson loved baseball, and she was a good player. Really good. A pitcher.

Regardless of how good she was, because she was Black, Mamie was barred from playing on the All-American Girls’ Pro Baseball League. That might have stopped other players, but not Mamie! She didn’t let adversity, or the color of her skin, or gender stop her. 

Instead, when a chance to pitch for the Negro Leagues’ Indianapolis Clowns, a men’s professional team, came her way, Mamie stepped right up, thus becoming the first female pitcher to play professional baseball. 

By Leah Henderson, George Doutsiopoulos (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mamie on the Mound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Mamie "Peanut" Johnson had one dream: to play professional baseball. She was a talented player, but she wasn't welcome in the segregated All-American Girls Pro Baseball League due to the color of her skin. However, a greater opportunity came her way in 1953 when Johnson signed to play ball for the Negro Leagues' Indianapolis Clowns, becoming the first female pitcher to play on a men's professional team. During the three years she pitched for the Clowns, her record was an impressive 33-8. But more importantly, she broke ground for other female athletes and for women everywhere.


Book cover of She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story

Kelly Bennett Why did I love this book?

Baseball is for girls too!

A simple but lyrical picture book biography of Effa Manley, an African American baseball-loving girl who became the owner of a pro baseball team—and the only woman inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame, to date! Don Tate’s detailed, vibrant illustrations will cause readers to pause before every page turn.

By Audrey Vernick, Don Tate (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked She Loved Baseball as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

"A wonderful picture book biography. Little girls will be inspired."* This nonfiction picture book is an excellent choice to share during homeschooling, in particular for children ages 4 to 6. It’s a fun way to learn to read and as a supplement for activity books for children.

Effa always loved baseball. As a young woman, she would go to Yankee Stadium just to see Babe Ruth’s mighty swing. But she never dreamed she would someday own a baseball team. Or be the first—and only—woman ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

From her childhood in Philadelphia to her groundbreaking…


Book cover of Clemente!

Kelly Bennett Why did I love this book?

With vibrant realistic illustrations and rhythmic, lively dialogue a boy named Clemente, tells the story of his namesake, the Pittsburg Pirates right-fielder and slugger Roberto Clemente, a Puerto Rican kid who grew up to be the first Latin American baseball superstar and humanitarian.

The story’s fast-paced narrative and saucy voice make it a fun read-aloud while at the same time sharing the story of how an “anybody” can grow up to be a hero, and how being a hero is about more than just being good at baseball. 

By Willie Perdomo, Bryan Collier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Clemente! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Clemente! is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

A little boy named Clemente learns about his namesake, the great baseball player Roberto Clemente, in this joyful picture book biography.

Born in Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente was the first Latin American player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the only player for whom the five-year initiation period was waived. Known not only for his exceptional baseball skills but also for his extensive charity work in Latin America, Clemente was well-loved during his 18 years playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He died in…


Book cover of Baseball Saved Us

Kelly Bennett Why did I love this book?

Baseball fans of today, watching Shohei Ohtani and other players of Japanese heritage, might find it difficult to imagine how during World War Two, thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but that’s the world as it was.

Shorty and his father’s efforts to build a baseball diamond and form a league while imprisoned is the story of determination, overcoming adversity, and gaining self-respect, told simply and heartfully. 

By Ken Mochizuki, Dom Lee (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Baseball Saved Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Best Multicultural Title - Cuffies Award, Publisher's Weekly
Choices, Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)
Editor's Choice, San Francisco Chronicle
Not Just for Children Anymore Selection, Children's Book Council

Twenty-five years ago, Baseball Saved Us changed the picture-book landscape with its honest story of a Japanese American boy in an internment camp during World War II. This anniversary edition will introduce new readers to this modern-day classic.

One day my dad looked out at the endless desert and decided then and there to build a baseball field.

"Shorty" and his family, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, have been forced…


You might also like...

Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

By Kerry Aradhya, Kara Kramer (illustrator),

Book cover of Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

Kerry Aradhya Author Of Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Not long ago, while rummaging through old storage containers in our garage, I came across a board game I had invented during elementary school. But I hadn’t made it for a school project or because anyone had asked me to make it. I had made it simply because I was passionate about creating…and I still am. As a children’s author, science editor, and dancer, I am fascinated by the creative process. I chose these books because they depict many of the ups, downs, and often unexpected outcomes of the creative process, all within the context of inventions for kids!

Kerry's book list on nonfiction picture books with inventions kids love

What is my book about?

This picture book biography of Ernő Rubik, creator of the Rubik’s Cube, reveals the obsession, imagination, and engineering process behind the creation of this fascinating and sometimes frustrating puzzle.

A solitary child, Ernő Rubik grew up in post-World War II Hungary, curious about puzzles, art, nature, and their underlying patterns and structures.

As a young professor of architecture, and in a quest to help his students understand three-dimensional movement, he fashioned a cube made up of smaller cubes that twisted and turned without breaking, unexpectedly inventing the most popular puzzle in history!

Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

By Kerry Aradhya, Kara Kramer (illustrator),

What is this book about?

This first picture book biography of Erno Rubik, creator of the Rubik’s Cube, reveals the obsession, imagination, and engineering process behind the creation of a bestselling puzzle that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.

In 2023, the world record for solving the Rubik’s Cube was broken by Max Park, who finished in 3.13 seconds!

And then there’s you. Did you ever get so frustrated with a Rubik’s Cube that you wanted to pull it apart and put it back together in order? Were you to do so, you’d see how cleverly one of the world’s most popular toys is…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in baseball, Negro league baseball, and New Jersey?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about baseball, Negro league baseball, and New Jersey.

Baseball Explore 168 books about baseball
Negro League Baseball Explore 9 books about Negro league baseball
New Jersey Explore 73 books about New Jersey