American Jews and America's Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball

Overview

Most fans don’t know how far the Jewish presence in baseball extends beyond a few famous players such as Greenberg, Rosen, Koufax, Holtzman, Green, Ausmus, Youkilis, Braun, and Kinsler. In fact, that presence extends to the baseball commissioner Bud Selig, labor leaders Marvin Miller and Don Fehr, owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Stuart Sternberg, officials Theo Epstein and Mark Shapiro, sportswriters Murray Chass, Ross Newhan, Ira Berkow, and Roger Kahn, and even famous Jewish ...

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American Jews and America's Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball

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Overview

Most fans don’t know how far the Jewish presence in baseball extends beyond a few famous players such as Greenberg, Rosen, Koufax, Holtzman, Green, Ausmus, Youkilis, Braun, and Kinsler. In fact, that presence extends to the baseball commissioner Bud Selig, labor leaders Marvin Miller and Don Fehr, owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Stuart Sternberg, officials Theo Epstein and Mark Shapiro, sportswriters Murray Chass, Ross Newhan, Ira Berkow, and Roger Kahn, and even famous Jewish baseball fans like Alan Dershowitz and Barney Frank. 

The life stories of these and many others, on and off the field, have been compiled from nearly fifty in-depth interviews and arranged by decade in this edifying and entertaining work of oral and cultural history. In American Jews and America’s Game each person talks about growing up Jewish and dealing with Jewish identity, assimilation, intermarriage, future viability, religious observance, anti-Semitism, and Israel. Each tells about being in the midst of the colorful pantheon of players who, over the past seventy-five years or more, have made baseball what it is. Their stories tell, as no previous book has, the history of the larger-than-life role of Jews in America’s pastime.

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Journal - Adrew P. Fleischer

"American Jews and America's Game is a highly personal, heartfelt collaborative exploration between the interviewer, his subject and its participants and devotees."—Adrew P. Fleischer, Jewish Journal
Baseballnation.com - Rob Neyer

"[American Jews and America's Game is] a tremendous piece of work, and we're lucky to have it."—Rob Neyer, Baseballnation.com
Jewish Book Council

"[American Jews and America's Game is an] edifying and entertaining work of oral and cultural history."—Jewish Book Council
Jewish Book Council - Maron L. Waxman

"When Ruttman describes his excitement at sitting with Ian Kinsler in the visitors' dugout at Fenway Park or receiving a phone call from Sandy Koufax, readers will share Ruttman's sense of wonder and joy. . . . This is a personal book, one man's immensely gratifying project."—Maron L. Waxman, Jewish Book Council
Rabbi Rebecca T. Alpert
“This book of intimate and revealing conversations with Jews who care passionately about baseball is a surprise and delight. . . . In the tradition of Studs Terkel, Ruttman’s warm and folksy style lets us feel like we’re in the room with them as they share their thoughts and feelings about Judaism, baseball, and life. It’s a great read. Ruttman has a gift for bringing people out and the results are fabulous.”—Rabbi Rebecca T. Alpert, associate professor of religion at Temple University and author of Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball
Jonathan D. Sarna

“There may well be more books about Jews and baseball than there are Jews who played professional baseball. But this one is different. Here baseball’s most interesting Jews speak in their own words about their lives, their love of the game, and above all about their Judaism. Informative, inspiring, historically significant, and a pleasure to read, this is a book that anybody who cares about America’s game or America’s Jews will cherish.”—Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History and chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History
Daniel Kurtzer
American Jews and America’s Game is a highly accessible book about the game America’s Jews love to love. The author allows his subjects great latitude to comment on their Jewishness and their association with the game. The interviewees range from baseball’s best to ordinary fans, united around their faith and favorite sport. This is an enjoyable read.”—Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel and the first commissioner of the Israel Baseball League
Allan H. Bud Selig

“The historian Jacques Barzun was right when he said, ‘Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.’ Larry Ruttman knows that too, and that is why I chose to write this Foreword to his book American Jews and America's Game. His stories cover almost one hundred years of American history and the place of American Jews in that history. . . . This is a book that celebrates family—baseball’s, yours, and mine.”—from the foreword by Allan H. “Bud” Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball
Martin Abramowitz
“[These] stories are a unique mix of baseball and reflection on [the interviewees’] lives as Jews. . . . These interviewees are for the most part conscious of the fact that although [their] values do in fact have roots in Judaism, they are also deeply rooted in the best of America’s culture and the American self-image.”—from the introduction by Martin Abramowitz, President of Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc.
Sol Gittleman

American Jews And America’s Game is as much cultural history as it is baseball, and there is nothing quite comparable.”—Sol Gittleman, Tufts University former provost and professor, and author of Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat: New York’s Big Three and the Great Yankee Dynasty of 1949–1953
Rabbi - Rebecca T. Alpert
"This book of intimate and revealing conversations with Jews who care passionately about baseball is a surprise and delight. . . . In the tradition of Studs Terkel, Ruttman’s warm and folksy style lets us feel like we’re in the room with them as they share their thoughts and feelings about Judaism, baseball, and life. It’s a great read. Ruttman has a gift for bringing people out and the results are fabulous."—Rabbi Rebecca T. Alpert, associate professor of religion at Temple University and author of Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball
Library Journal
Jews have played a key role in baseball history, as has been frequently noted. There is now a celebratory tone to the topic, and this book is firmly within the new tradition. It presents chapter-length profiles of notable Jews involved with the sport (e.g., Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, Bud Selig) The profiles are arranged by decade, from the 1930s to the present, and include not only the well known players and executives, but unexpected entries, such as notable fan and former Congressman Barney Frank. Current stars include Ian Kinsler and Kevin Youkilis.
VERDICT This is more a book to dip into than to read cover to cover. Some of the entries are home runs, such as the one on labor lawyer Marvin Miller, while others are bunt singles at best. For more in-depth and comprehensive coverage turn to the standard, two-volume Jews and Baseball , by Burton A. Boxerman and Benita W. Boxerman. —PK

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
An idiosyncratic collection of interviews with American Jews on, off and some barely near the field of baseball. By interviewing the descendants of Hank Greenberg, baseball's first Jewish superstar, and contemporaries of the famously reclusive Sandy Koufax, Ruttman (Voices of Brookline, 2005) checks off the two most important names on anyone's list of Jews who have made a mark in the national pastime. Of course, there's room for plenty more: MVP Al Rosen; Ken Holtzman, the Jewish pitcher with the most career wins; Ron Blomberg, the game's first designated hitter; today's stars like Kevin Youkilis and Ian Kinsler. Surely there's a place among these pages for baseball executives like Commissioner Bud Selig (who provides the foreword), owner Jerry Reinsdorf, longtime front-office man Randy Levine, and the youngest GM ever, Theo Epstein. It's also easy to make a case for many of the talented Jewish writers who've memorably covered the game, among them Ira Berkow, Roger Kahn and Murray Chass. More than a few of Ruttman's choices are eccentric, but prove worthy inclusions: for example, two women from the defunct All-American Girls Professional Baseball League or the man who came up with the idea of Jewish baseball cards. However, by the time the author gets around to Jeffrey Maier, who as a 12-year-old authored a tiny footnote by interfering with a ball in play during the 1996 ALCS, and certainly to the likes of merely well-known fans Barney Frank and Alan Dershowitz, Ruttman stretches the notion of Jewish "voices" in baseball about as far as it can go. Nevertheless, this longtime attorney remains a gentle, always enthusiastic questioner, interested in his subjects' love for the game, their experiences with anti-Semitism and their connection to their faith. Other subjects include Marvin Miller, Marty Appel, Donald Fehr and Gabe Kapler. Almost always charming, occasionally enlightening and sometimes just plain odd.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803264755
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2013
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 190,733
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry Ruttman

Larry Ruttman, Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, is the author of Voices of Brookline, a national finalist for the Award of Merit of the American Association of State and Local History. He has practiced law in Boston for more than fifty years and produces and hosts a television interview show in his hometown of Brookline, Massachusetts.
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