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Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing

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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 l 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.


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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 l 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.

30 review for Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: The story of the 1968-69 East High School Tigers championship basketball and baseball teams at a black high school in segregated Columbus, Ohio during the tumultuous aftermath of the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. 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 Summary: The story of the 1968-69 East High School Tigers championship basketball and baseball teams at a black high school in segregated Columbus, Ohio during the tumultuous aftermath of the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. 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. ____________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I was looking forward to this book, but I was a little disappointed. I loved the portrait of the East High principal Jack Gibbs, I was surprised to learn a few facts about Jackie Robinson that I didn't know, and I was definitely cheering for both teams, especially the under-rated and ignored baseball teams but considering the tension of the times, the tone of the book seemed a little light. Haygood had a different perspective than Tim Tyson in Blood Don't Sign My Name, that's for sure.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andre

    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 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Singer

    As a basketball fan and someone who grew up in Columbus I enjoyed this book. I liked the juxtaposition of sports and politics. I was aware of the Columbus East team (greatest of all time in Ohio per many fans). I was a suburban pre-teen white male during this period and was mostly unaware of the racial issues. His recounting of these times and how they affected all black Columbus East High (in 1969 no less) were not known to me and I appreciated the way he recounted them against the back drop of As a basketball fan and someone who grew up in Columbus I enjoyed this book. I liked the juxtaposition of sports and politics. I was aware of the Columbus East team (greatest of all time in Ohio per many fans). I was a suburban pre-teen white male during this period and was mostly unaware of the racial issues. His recounting of these times and how they affected all black Columbus East High (in 1969 no less) were not known to me and I appreciated the way he recounted them against the back drop of the sports teams and students at East High.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marion Tilley

    Reading "Tigerland" took me back fifty years ago to my junior year in high school. In 1979 I lived in Bexley, a wealthy suburb, which bordered the east side of Columbus. I thought I was fairly sophisticated at the time, but after reading "Tigerland," I now realize that my view of Central Ohio was quite narrow. I had little idea of the level of social turmoil that was going on throughout the USA and almost no understanding of the social ills in the Black community so near to where I was living. "T Reading "Tigerland" took me back fifty years ago to my junior year in high school. In 1979 I lived in Bexley, a wealthy suburb, which bordered the east side of Columbus. I thought I was fairly sophisticated at the time, but after reading "Tigerland," I now realize that my view of Central Ohio was quite narrow. I had little idea of the level of social turmoil that was going on throughout the USA and almost no understanding of the social ills in the Black community so near to where I was living. "Tigerland" issn't just a nostalgic look at two sports teams during one school year. Instead, it is a kaleidoscope of stories--tales of mothers who got up early, rode busses to the suburbs to clean houses of the rich; stories of Black men, who coached Little League without pay after their own dreams of professional sports careers had been wiped out due to segregation; remembrances of both white and black coaches who poured all their love and energy into the teams they coached. Wil Haywood's telling of the wildly successful Columbus East High School basketball and baseball teams in the 1968-1969 school year is both a David and Goliath tale and a social history of one black community. Many athletes at East High were from single-parent families where food was often in short supply. Players' families were part of the Black Migration from the Deep South to the industrial North following WW II. The deaths of Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, and JFK had shaken up everyone in America, especially Afro-Americans who believed the cause of social equality had been dealt a horrible blow. After finishing this sports story, I'm glad I discovered the personal stories of Jack Gibbs, the East High school principal; Ed Ratliff and all the other basketball and baseball players; Bob Hart and Paul Pennell, the varsity coaches; and David Duncan, the federal judge who forced the city to integrate its schools. On the other hand, my youthful idealism regarding other Ohio hometown heroes no longer exists. I'll never think of Fred Taylor, Jack Sensenbrenner, and Gov. James A. Rhodes as I had when I was just a young girl. My thanks to Will Haywood for getting this story onto paper. I may now live in the Pacific Northwest, but memories of the Midwest, especially Columbus, will stay with me always. I'm glad my memory bank now includes the story of Tigerland.

  6. 5 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    While I have little interest in basketball, I am highly interested in race issues, particularly civil rights matters of the 1960s, so decided to read this book, thinking I could skim over detailed sports stories. End up skimming, I did, but not just sports, because this book ended up being a bit of an overwhelming smorgasbord of sports, schools, coaches, principals, local race issues, national race issues, etc. The main problem was the author jumped around from topic to topic, going back and for While I have little interest in basketball, I am highly interested in race issues, particularly civil rights matters of the 1960s, so decided to read this book, thinking I could skim over detailed sports stories. End up skimming, I did, but not just sports, because this book ended up being a bit of an overwhelming smorgasbord of sports, schools, coaches, principals, local race issues, national race issues, etc. The main problem was the author jumped around from topic to topic, going back and forth, to the point that it all seemed too choppy and cluttered. (I had an ARC, however, so maybe the final copy has a tighter storyline.) There are some very interesting stories about some very interesting individuals; and lots of sports for you sports fans, particularly basketball and baseball; but by the end of the final chapter, I had reader's fatigue. (Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Don Gorman

    (1 1/2). I lived through all of the events that are the main focus of this book. Up close and personal, right here in Columbus, Ohio. I guess I naively expected this narration to focus more on the sports angle of things, but they are just a part of the story. Their is a large portion of it directed to the history of civil rights, for some of the featured individuals and Central Ohio in general. There is also (it feels like to me) a lot of filler in here, as I do not think this book should ever h (1 1/2). I lived through all of the events that are the main focus of this book. Up close and personal, right here in Columbus, Ohio. I guess I naively expected this narration to focus more on the sports angle of things, but they are just a part of the story. Their is a large portion of it directed to the history of civil rights, for some of the featured individuals and Central Ohio in general. There is also (it feels like to me) a lot of filler in here, as I do not think this book should ever have been almost 400 pages. Not a great piece of non-fiction, just worth exploring for my local interest.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    Great story & great history with captivating writing, but just way too long. However, easily skimmable, especially sections devoted to history that I was already well versed in. This book is about an all black high school in Columbus, OH in the aftermath of the King assassination. How a principal, some coaches, and some dedicated athletes made a run at a basketball state championship & a baseball one all in the same year. Interwoven throughout is lots of history about the individuals, th Great story & great history with captivating writing, but just way too long. However, easily skimmable, especially sections devoted to history that I was already well versed in. This book is about an all black high school in Columbus, OH in the aftermath of the King assassination. How a principal, some coaches, and some dedicated athletes made a run at a basketball state championship & a baseball one all in the same year. Interwoven throughout is lots of history about the individuals, their ancestors backgrounds (what brought them to Columbus) and the civil rights movement.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    When I arrived in Ohio (Dayton) 30 years ago from a lifetime I the NE US, I felt like I had arrived in the South. After reading this book, I realize that this was the case. In addition to an education on Black/White relations in the 50's, 60's and 70's, I learned a lot about Black Ohioans. Note: Singer Nancy Wilson who recently passed was from Chillicothe. I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway.

  10. 5 out of 5

    susan insley

    A Story Very Well Told and a Must Read Will Haygood continues to mesmerize the reader with his story telling abilities. He deftly weaves the stories of a number of people and puts their stories in the context of the times. I hope he continues to give us more and thanks to Knopf for publishing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Really a three star read, but I live in Columbus so the local content boosted it for me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alice Fleury

    Some of this was mesmerizing about the people and history of a time I remember. But there was too much other stuff for it to hold my interest.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Inspiring and informative look at a black basketball team and how the era in which it played (the 1968/69 school year) affected the players then and after. Perfect for bringing to life the events of 1968 and how people reacted. ARC provided by publisher.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Becky Spratford

    Three Words That Describe This Book: Intertwined Narratives, Inspiring, Strong Sense of Place The plot summary says just about everything you need to know about what happened in this book, but I would like to write about how the story is told. It is written in a very journalistic manner. So at times the writing is more reporting-- like the long passages about the games, describing what happens in each game in detail. However, for me there were also times when the story came alive-- the intimate po Three Words That Describe This Book: Intertwined Narratives, Inspiring, Strong Sense of Place The plot summary says just about everything you need to know about what happened in this book, but I would like to write about how the story is told. It is written in a very journalistic manner. So at times the writing is more reporting-- like the long passages about the games, describing what happens in each game in detail. However, for me there were also times when the story came alive-- the intimate portrays of the key players. The book is filled with asides. We learn about a player and then get his family's story. How they came to Columbus from the South. We learn about a teacher, and then same. We learn every details about the people and the places that are in Columbus and across Ohio. You fell like you are there by the end, despite the fact that it is a place you probably haven't been to and was in the past. You also get a lot of Civil Rights Movement info in general. The story of the town, the people, the schools, the Civil Rights movement, and the teams are all intertwined, trapped up around each other, in a way that they cannot be untangled. I think that is a strength of this book. If you like one part of it more than another, it doesn't matter when you are in the parts you enjoy less, because the other parts are coming back. I read this book as part of a training for the Toledo Lucas County Public Library system and led them in a sample discussion before they led a series of discussions as part of their 1 Book program. I created discussion questions for them. You can click here to see them: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18.... These questions also get into a little more details about the appeal of this book. Readalikes: It depends what you liked about this book. There are plenty of great books about sports history and others the Civil Rights Movement. But to combine the two, one of the better and more recent ones is-- Breaking the line: the season in Black college football that transformed the sport and changed the course of civil rights by Samuel Freedman. It uses a different sport-- football-- and takes more of a national point of view to tell a similar story. Details: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Yingling

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amanda SF

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steve Moehl

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phil

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kevin J.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ena

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Zamacona

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  23. 5 out of 5

    DeWayne Mason

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Grigsby

  26. 5 out of 5

    Barry Alcock

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Keener

  28. 5 out of 5

    Julia

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

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