Tigerland by Wil Haygood

Tigerland

Wil Haygood

Wil Haygood tells the story of the Tigers of segregated East High School in Ohio winning the baseball and basketball championships in the context of the racially charged late 1960s.

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From the author of the best-selling The Butler--an emotional, inspiring story of two teams from a poor, black, segregated high school in Ohio, who, in the midst of the racial turbulence of 1968/1969, win the Ohio state baseball and basketball championships in the same year.

1968 and 1969: Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy are assassinated. Race relations are frayed like never before. Cities are aflame as demonstrations and riots proliferate. But in Columbus, Ohio, the Tigers of segregated East High School win the baseball and basketball championships, defeating bigger, richer, whiter teams across the state. Now, Wil Haygood gives us a spirited and stirring account of this improbable triumph and takes us deep into the personal lives of these local heroes: Robert Wright, power forward, whose father was a murderer; Kenny Mizelle, the Tigers' second baseman, who grew up under the false impression that his father had died; Eddie "Rat" Ratleff, the star of both teams, who would play for the 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball team. We meet Jack Gibbs, the first black principal at East High; Bob Hart, the white basketball coach, determined to fight against the injustices he saw inflicting his team; the hometown fans who followed the Tigers to stadiums across the state. And, just as important, Haygood puts the Tigers' story in the context of the racially charged late 1960s. The result is both an inspiring sports story and a singularly illuminating social history.


Advance Galley Reviews

Thank you for an advance copy of “Tigerland” - written by Wil Haygood in exchange for an honest review. I have to give kudos to the author for bringing this book to life by providing so much detail intto the “real” life and times behind the scenes in Ohio and sharing the good, the bad and the abyss somewhere in between it all. We travel back to very difficult times and we experience how things really were back in the late 1960’s. With this book he has given us plenty of history about communities within Ohio, basketball, baseball and how things were directly affected by immense tragedies in our times by racism, etc. The author also manages to shine the light on how many stars were born and overlooked as well. All of this was during the worst of times but for these teams you could not hold them back. The true heroes here were many.. (Coaches, teachers, students, mothers, etc.) The story begins by taking us back to a highly tumultuous time during the late 1960’s specifically after the highly volatile murders of both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Robert F. Kennedy. As we presently are living in the 21st century now and it seems that we are at present living in tumultuous times again, I personally had difficulty reading with out seeing this correlation. It saddens me to see such things going on and the feeling of being taken backwards with our society. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look into the players lives and found it very enlightening to see how they managed to remain focused on their sport thru the worst of times and how their communities were supportive in certain situations and less in others. It is a journey of over 400 pages which I did not finish as the loan expired but it is a quick read as you become entranced in wanting absorb everything. I do feel that the book would be enlightening and inspiring to many especially during our present times. There will be something to be gained by reading it for sports fans, history buffs, inspiration, etc. Some tidbits about Kareem Kabul Jabbar, 1968 Olympic boycott with great details and many other pieces of sports history. Watching these teams ultimately become Divisional Champions in basketball and baseball was quite an accomplishment. Thank you for taking us down this journey behind these Ohio teams and these amazing athletes lives along with their brave coaches and moms, etc. Thanks for writing this Mr Haygood. I received this advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

I didn't get to read the whole book because the app cleared everything but I felt I learned something. Such as the society's issues with our hair is a mainstay. We are told our hair isn't civilized when it is part of our identity. I enjoyed the narrative of the three leaders of the school and the Tigers. It is an inspiring sports story.

I’m a Columbus, Ohio transplant, and like many, know little of the city’s history, even sports history, beyond Ohio State football. But I love history, and sports, and so when Wil Haygood’s new book on the legendary East High School Tiger basketball and baseball teams came up for review, I snagged a copy. Columbus, Ohio in 1968 had a segregated school system. And it was far from equal. Facilities, text books, and sports facilities at black East High School were inferior to other schools. The death of Martin Luther King, Jr. hit the community hard. King had preached regularly at Union Grove Baptist Church. What would happen among the students in the high school that was the centerpiece of that community? This book tells the story of the leadership of three men at East High School. Jack Gibbs was the black principal of the school, Bob Hart, the white basketball coach, and Paul Pennell, the white baseball coach. All three were marked by a deep concern for their students and players, and their families. Gibbs tirelessly advocated for the school, and even found a way to transport families to the basketball championship against Canton McKinley. Both coaches recognized the raw talent of the black athletes and convinced them they could be champions. The book also is a narrative of the championship season of each team, divided into Part One for the basketball team, and Part Two for the baseball team. Two of the basketball players, Eddie “the Rat” Ratleff and Bo Pete Lamar were later college All-Americans in the same year and Ratleff played on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team. Personal stories of the players mix with game accounts leading up to the state championships for each team (Ratleff played on both). He tells us the story of the subsequent lives of a number of these figures–both good and painful. Haygood, who has written biographies of Thurgood Marshall, Sammy Davis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and a family memoir on growing up in Columbus, brings his knowledge of the city and the history of race in the U.S. together in this work. He sets the story of the Tigers against backdrop of the racial segregation in the city, including the court ruling by Black judge Robert Duncan, upheld in the Supreme Court desegregating Columbus schools. He narrates a challenged, yet vibrant Black community centered around churches, the schools, and Mt Vernon Avenue businesses. He weaves enough of the national history in–from King to Jackie Robinson to give context. There is a tendency on the part of some to want to isolate sports from the issues of race in our country. There is also a tendency to focus our discourse on race at a national level and forget that real progress has to find expression in each of our local contexts. Heygood weaves sport and racial history together, as well as the challenges we face as a nation and the possibilities in our local communities. He makes us consider who will be the Jack Gibbs, the Bob Hart, the Paul Pennell of our day.

A look back at the East High School run to the championship in basketball and baseball in the 1968-69 season. East High was on the east side of Columbus, OH. The east side in those days was predominantly Black and so the high school mirrored that demographic. 1968 was the year Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down and Black neighborhoods were extremely tense. And Columbus was no different. So, the author being a native of Columbus thought that the triumph of East High over all competition and racial turmoil would make for an interesting tale. He was right. Wil Haygood does a marvelous job of bringing East High to life. With vivid descriptions of Columbus along with details and statistics from games. He managed to build drama in the game narratives and I often found myself peeking down the page to see what the final score was of the game being discussed. We meet a host of characters that labored to make a difference in the lives of the kids from east Columbus. From the deeply involved principal to civic, church and business leaders. While skillfully weaving and recounting the story of the basketball and baseball teams championships, Wil Haygood succeeds in keeping the history of those turbulent times never far from the pages. It’s a well done mix and brings to light how a community can rally behind a High School team and temporarily put pressing social concerns on the back burner. These young athletes served as a welcome distraction for the larger community and in some small way may have helped to alleviate some tensions. It’s a winning read for sports fans and really all readers who enjoy inspirational stories while learning some history of the Black side of town, the side that is far too often left out of published narratives. So kudos to Wil Haygood for bringing this story to the public. I enthusiastically recommend this book. Thanks to Penguin Random House First to Read program for an advanced digital review copy. Book will hit shelves 9/18/2018.

 


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