Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book Review: Jewish Major Leaguers in the Own Words

Paperback: 227 pages
Publisher: McFarland (March 5, 2012)

Written by Peter Ephross with Martin Abramowitz, this book is a oral history of 23 former major league baseball players.

When you think of Jewish ballplayers, the first three that people tend to think of are Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, and Shawn Green. At least, that's how it is in my case. There have been well over 100 Jewish baseball players and appendix of the entire list follows at the end.

Sandy Koufax gets mentioned a lot, especially from Larry and Norm Sherry, but that's about it. He was not interviewed for the project as he's become somewhat of a recluse since he retired.

Peter Epross, a longtime editor for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, did a superb job editing down what probably could have been 1000 pages into 227 pages. We get more of a "what's it like" for Jewish ballplayers than anything else.

Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc. sponsored many of the interviews that were provided by president Martin Abramowitz.

While I think that there could possibly have been room for a Shawn Green, I can see why they limited to 23 players. Most of the players were from the pre-70s although there were some that made their debut later like Jesse Levis. He shared a funny story about Shawn Green wishing him and umpire Al Clark a "Happy New Year" on Rosh HaShanah.

That's another thing that's brought up. Taking off for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. One player, who had a Jewish coach, said he had no interest in taking off for Rosh HaShanah but then the coach talked him into it.

We get a sense of how players responded to anti-Semitism both on and off the field. We also see how they developed a rapport with the African-American players who were dealing with the restrictions in the Deep South.

In reading, I could not believe the numbers that played for the Chicago Cubs but also that Jose Bautista, a player who came from the Dominican Republic, is a member of the tribe.

Jesse Levis also shared a story of being invited to Bud Selig's house for Rosh HaShanah dinner.

If you are Jewish and a baseball fan, this is a very good book and I highly recommend it. In fact, I give it the following grade: A+

You can purchase the book directly from McFarland at 1-800-253-2187.

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