Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Syd Hoff's "The Witch, the Cat, and the Baseball Bat"

Here's a children's book that was published in 1968 by Syd Hoff (1912-2004), the author/illustrator of Danny and the Dinosaur and its sequels. Spoiler alert: This isn't a Glinda-esque good witch. Here's how the book opens:
"Once there was a witch who didn't like baseball simply because if there's one thing a witch doesn't like it's a game that gives people pleasure."
Of course, not all witches hate baseball. And it would be wrong to say that witches are against the idea of people being happy. Maybe this witch was a mid-century fan of the Chicago Cubs or Washington Senators and had her heart broken so many times that she became embittered against the whole idea of baseball. 

Anyway, the book is about a plot by the witch to ruin everyone's fun with baseball. Specifically, she thinks home runs spark the most joy in the game, and she weaves a spell to do away with them. But she is foiled at the end, of course. She ends up choking momentarily on a hot dog and the last line is: "And she never had anything to do with baseball again." Bummer.

The players in the book all look like New York Yankees. Hoff grew up in the Bronx, so I reckon that's no surprise. 

There aren't many mentions of this book online, and only a few lackluster reviews on Goodreads. Did it leave a lasting impression with anyone? Well, I nosed around and found a 2019 post on the blog CJ & Ink. CJ asks the question: "Did you have a favorite book, story, or movie that you loved as a kid?"

A commenter named Lady Caer Morganna replied: "My favorite book as a kid? Well, I guess I would have to say that would have been The Witch, the Cat and the Baseball Bat by Syd Hoff."

And who is Lady Caer Morganna? She describes herself as "a Solitary Eclectic Wiccan Priestess who leans toward the Celtic Wiccan tradition" and is from Reading, Pennsylvania. Her blog is The Wiccan Life. And that's just perfect. Also, maybe the Philadelphia Phillies should consult with her this offseason.

"Pick me out a winner, Bobby."

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