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The 100 Greatest Jews in Sports: Ranked According to Achievement
     

The 100 Greatest Jews in Sports: Ranked According to Achievement

2.5 2
by B. P. Robert Stephen Silverman
 

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The 100 Greatest Jews in Sports takes the greatest Jewish athletes in all major sports from the past eleven decades and ranks them against each other, using a limited scope and quantitative criteria. Each decade has seen someone new emerge as the greatest Jewish athlete, from boxer Abe Attell to baseballs' Sandy Koufax and Ken Holtzman, to golf's Amy Alcott, to

Overview

The 100 Greatest Jews in Sports takes the greatest Jewish athletes in all major sports from the past eleven decades and ranks them against each other, using a limited scope and quantitative criteria. Each decade has seen someone new emerge as the greatest Jewish athlete, from boxer Abe Attell to baseballs' Sandy Koufax and Ken Holtzman, to golf's Amy Alcott, to footballs' Harris Barton. Sports profiled include baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, auto racing, boxing, soccer, football, swimming, and many others. Silverman takes a scholarly approach to ensure reliability and validity of the statistics given. The author identified the most common categories of statistics in which the highest paid athletes in all sports had excelled, and he assigned numeric values to reflect the performance categories. That provided a proportional representation of the most important individual accomplishments in sports. By applying those numbers to the records of selected athletes, each was ranked against the other. Additionally, the author asked selected experts of each sport to perform the same ranking with no specific criteria, and the results were the same. Filled with historic photographs of the athletes profiled, and interspersed with interesting tidbits of each athlete's personal life and career, this book is certain to be of interest to the casual to serious sports enthusiast alike.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Jewish Week
In addition to his ranking of athletes, the book contains short bios on each and covers related subjects such as unsung Jewish athletes, Jewish sports executives and milestones in Jewish sports history.
Forward
Silverman's book overflows with did-you-know factoids and is as broad in its coverage as it is compact.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810847750
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
09/22/2003
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
200
Sales rank:
811,351
Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.55(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

The 100 Greatest Jews in Sports

Ranked According to Achievement


By B. P. Robert Stephen Silverman

Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Copyright © 2003 B. P. Robert Stephen Silverman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8108-4775-0



CHAPTER 1

The Scope and Criteria of the Rankings


If such a vast number of Jewish athletes had not attained greatness in so many major sports over the past one hundred years, it would not require a complex methodology to rank them according to achievement. Every decade has seen someone different emerge as the greatest Jewish athlete.

Boxer Abe Attell held the distinction as the greatest Jewish athlete at the turn of the twentieth century and turned over that mantle to fellow boxer Benny Leonard in the teens. Then came football's Benny Friedman in the twenties, baseball's Hank Greenberg in the thirties, and football's Sid Luckman in the forties. Basketball's Dolph Schayes took over in the fifties, followed by baseball's Sandy Koufax and Ken Holtzman in the sixties and seventies, respectively. Golfer Amy Alcott emerged as the top Jewish athlete in the eighties. In the nineties, Alcott passed the title to football's Harris Barton.

Already, the first decade of the twenty-first century belongs to baseball's Shawn Green. Just comparing those eleven great Jewish athletes introduces a maze of extraordinarily difficult decisions. To meaningfully rank the greatest Jewish athletes in all major sports from those eleven decades against each other requires a limited scope and quantitative criteria. It also entails inevitable value judgments. Deciding whether to exclude Jewish athletes who converted to other religions became extremely difficult. Without distinguishing between Jewish athletes who married within the faith and those who never set foot in a synagogue, I decided that excluding converts out of the religion would have created an intellectually dishonest double standard.

Therefore, I knowingly included baseball's Lou Boudreau and Bo Belinsky, basketball's Nancy Lieberman, boxing's Mike Rossman, and golf's Corey Pavin despite their reported conversions out of Judaism. In making that value judgment, I reflected on an interview that I later read in which a great Jewish athlete was asked whether he had celebrated a bar mitzvah and whether his wife was Jewish. The athlete showed justifiable signs of intense discomfort in contending that he still planned to take Hebrew lessons and that his wife eventually would become a Jew.

An easy value judgment I made was to exclude participants in any activities that are cruel to animals. Bullfighting puts a positive spin on torture in an obvious way, and more than two thousand racing horses are put to death each year because of equally grotesque resultant track injuries behind the scenes. There is no sport in hurting animals.

However, I had no litmus test for political correctness. In the early 1990s, many newspapers reported that debate was briefly raised in Israel over whether to drop tennis star Amos Mansdorf from that country's Davis Cup team for his alleged speculation that he might have considered competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics had he been born fifty years earlier. I would have included Mansdorf anyway, but he primarily competed outside the United States.

I limited the scope of my All-Time Ranking of Great Jewish Athletes (chapter 3) to athletes who competed primarily in the United States since 1900. That enabled me to include 1960s Israeli soccer player Roby Young for his career with the New York Cosmos and 1920s British boxer Ted "Kid" Lewis, who got his fights in the United States; and to exclude Angelica Roseanu, Robert Cohen, Angela Buxton, Alphonse Halimi, Jody Scheckter, Martin Jaite, Mansdorf, and possibly David Beckham, if unconfirmed reports he is Jewish are true.

Roseanu emerged as the top woman table tennis player in the world in the 1930s. In 1954, Cohen decisioned Chamren Songkitrat to become bantamweight champion of the world, only to lose it the following year when Mario D'Agata knocked him out. Buxton reached the finals of the 1956 Wimbledon championship and shared a win in the doubles tennis competition before a wrist injury ended her career. The following year, Halimi scored a technical knockout over D'Agata with a Mogen David on his trunks to capture the bantamweight crown and held it two years.

In the 1970s, Scheckter gained prominence out of South Africa as a race car driver. Jaite, an Argentinean, defeated German superstar Boris Becker in 1986. Beckham is currently the best soccer player in Europe.

Current baseball catcher Mike Lieberthal made the 1999 National League All-Star Team and hit .300 that year with 31 home runs while winning a gold glove as best at defense of his position as well. In 2000, Lieberthal's home run total dipped to 15 in slightly fewer than 400 plate appearances, and he managed only 121 at bats the following year because of injuries. Lieberthal would warrant a projected place in the All-Time Ranking of Great Jewish Athletes but is excluded because of a Jewish heritage that extends only to his father.

With the exceptions of 1970s auto racer Peter Revson and tennis star Tom Okker, I excluded all athletes whose only Jewish heritage came from their fathers. The late Revson expressed gratitude in being included in my Jewish Athletes' Hall of Fame, and Okker reportedly supported many Jewish causes. The most accomplished excluded athlete with Jewish heritage was 1970s baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, whose adopted father has been reported and was described on a World Series telecast of a game that he pitched against Sandy Koufax as Jewish.

For knocking out Nazi Germany's sports idol Max Schmeling with a Star of David on his trunks, I included boxing champion Max Baer despite his having only an alleged strain of Jewish heritage. That was a no-brainer.

I did take, though, a scholarly approach toward ensuring reliability and validity by identifying the most common categories of statistics in which the highest-paid athletes in all sports had excelled. In each sport, it quickly became evident that athletes are collectively paid more for excelling in certain combinations of specific performance categories, so I assigned numeric values to reflect those.

That provided a proportional representation of the most important individual accomplishments in sports. By applying those numbers to the records of selected athletes, I ranked them against each other and asked selected experts of each sport to do the same—but with only general guidance and no specific criteria whatsoever. After repeatedly modifying categories and values, I achieved consistency between the applications of my numeric values and the experts' subjective rankings.

I compared points compiled by the highest-rated athletes of one sport against athletes of similar and substantially different standings in other sports. Then I further modified categories and values until I finally arrived at an apparent consistency in ranking athletes of different sports against each other. To ensure reliability and validity, I repeatedly tested and revised criteria until the rankings consistently had a meaningful order.

It took extraordinary means to quantitatively find similarity in such dissimilar records as those of Barney Ross in boxing, Harry Newman in football, and Issac Berger in weightlifting with those of Dick Savitt in tennis, Buddy Myer in baseball, and Max Zaslofsky in basketball.

I imputed the point totals of five Jewish superstars—Ken Holtzman, Dick Savitt, Benny Friedman, Buddy Myer, and Max Zaslofsky—to project what they likely would have accomplished had they not been forced into premature retirement or simply denied recognition they deserved, by apparent discrimination, and ranked them accordingly.

Absent symptoms of discrimination, I still would have imputed their point totals to compensate for statistical anomalies that resulted in lower rankings than they deserved. As an analogy, if Roger Maris had been Jewish, the 40 points his achievements warrant would include 14 points for induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame—even though he was never admitted—because of the gross inequity of his inexplicable exclusion. To account for a statistical anomaly that proved too advantageous, I adjusted the point total of Abe Attell downward.

I projected point totals to reflect what is likely to be accomplished by such current athletes as Shawn Green, Jay Fiedler, Mathieu Schneider, Gabe Kapler, Jason Marquis, and Scott Schoeneweis. I did the same to reflect an anticipated Hall of Fame induction for Harris Barton.

The differing number of Olympic medals awarded in various sports was first raised by an observation of 1964 Olympic swimming silver medalist Marilyn Ramenofsky. In a 1973 letter to me, she stated, "Medals are not given equally among all the sports; for example, there are many more medals given in swimming than in gymnastics." If I had simply awarded points for the number and types of Olympic medals won, as distinct from the number of Olympiads any number of a given medal was won, the great Jewish swimmer Mark Spitz would have been ranked on the basis of 67 points. Primarily for one monumental month in 1972 in a less popular sport, he would have then exceeded the 65 points that reflect Sid Luckman's legendary twelve-year career as one of football's greatest quarterbacks.

There are only eight categories in which male gymnasts compete for gold in comparison to twice that many for male swimmers, who have thirteen individual events—ranging from five lengths of freestyle swimming to two lengths each of backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and medley—in addition to three relay events that award swimmers individually.

Only one gold medal is awarded to each member of the winning basketball team and the champion of each weight class in boxing. I simulated the disparity under a hypothetical scenario that Teofilo Stevenson, the superheavyweight Cuban boxer, had been Jewish. He won gold medals in the 1972 Munich, 1976 Montreal, and 1980 Moscow Olympics with victories that included horrifying knockouts cited as among the most one-sided victories in Olympic history. If points had been awarded for the number of medals won, that would have left Stevenson, had he been Jewish, with 21 points, less than one-third as many points as Spitz—who captured two gold, one silver, and one bronze medal in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics before winning an amazing seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympics at Munich. Spitz was the greatest swimmer ever, but Stevenson was the best Olympian of a generation.

A meaningful comparison of the number of medals won could only be drawn if boxing had offered opportunities to win multiple gold medals in each weight class—perhaps for matches of three, six, nine, twelve, and fifteen rounds in the same mannerthat swimming awards individual gold medals for 50-meters, 100-meters, 200-meters, 400-meters, and 1,500 meters in just freestyle events alone.

Therefore, I awarded points for the number of Olympiads in which an athlete won any number of gold; silver, but no gold; or bronze, but no gold or silver medals. Stevenson's achievement of winning gold medals in three Olympiads warranted 21 points, compared to the 14 points reflecting Spitz's seven gold medals as a swimmer in two.

CHAPTER 2

The Quantitative Ranking Criteria

Points Baseball

14
Selection to National Baseball Hall of Fame
12
Each year with:
1. 450 at bats and a .400 batting average;
2. 56 or more home runs;
3. 170 or more runs batted in;
4. 30 or more pitching wins.
10
Each year with:
1. 450 at bats and a .380 to .399 batting average;
2. 40 to 55 home runs and a .340 to .379 batting average;
3. 25 to 29 wins and a 2.09 or lower earned run average;
4. 375 or more pitching strikeouts;
5. 82 or more games saved.
4
Each year with:
1. 25 to 39 home runs and a .340 to .379 batting average;
2. 40 to 55 home runs and a .300 to .339 batting average;
3. 25 to 29 wins and a 2.10 to 3.50 earned run average;
4. 19 to 24 wins and a 2.09 or lower earned run average;
5. 300 to 374 strikeouts;
6. 70 to 81 games saved.
3
Each:
1. perfect game pitched;
2. game with 4 home runs;
3. year with 450 at bats and a .340 to .379 batting average with less than 25 home runs;
4. year with 25 to 39 home runs and a .300 to .339 batting average;
5. year with 40 to 55 home runs and a .270 to .299 batting average;
6. year with 25 wins and a 3.51 or higher earned run average;
7. year with 19 to 24 wins and a 2.10 to 3.09 earned run average;
8. year with 55 to 69 saves.
2
Each:
1. All-Star selection;

2. imperfect no-hitter pitched;
3. World Series pitching win;
4. year with 450 at bats and a .300 to .339 batting average with fewer than
25 home runs;
5. year with 19 to 24 wins and a 3.10 or higher earned run average;
6. year with 15 to 18 wins with a 3.09 or lower earned run average;
7. year with 30 to 39 home runs and a .270 to .299 batting average;
8. year with 40 to 55 home runs and a .250 to .269 batting average;
9. year with 40 to 54 games saved.
1
Each year with:
1. 250 to 449 at bats and a .300 to .339 batting average with fewer than 25
home runs;
2. 15 to 18 wins with a 3.10 or higher earned run average;
3. 25 to 39 games saved.


Sample Application of Ranking Criteria

Hank Greenberg's record in Major League Baseball merits a total of 80 points:

14 Selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame
24 12 points each for 170 runs batted in during 1935 and 58 home runs in 1938
10 10 points for 41 home runs and a .340 batting average in 1940
4 4 points for 40 home runs and a .337 batting average in 1937
12 3 points each for 26 home runs and a .339 batting average in 1934; 36 home
runs and a .328 batting average in 1935; 33 home runs and a .312 batting
average in 1939; and 44 home runs and a .277 batting average in 1946
16 2 points for each of eight All-Star team selections
80


Points Football

14
Selection to Pro Football Hall of Fame
6
Each year averaging at least 3 touchdown runs or passes for every game
scheduled during the season
5
Each year averaging at least 100 yards rushing or 6 pass receptions for
every game scheduled for the season, or 1 interception for every other
game scheduled
4
Each All-Pro and College All-America team selection
3
Each Championship Game (or Super Bowl) touchdown run or pass
2
Each year starting in more than half of the regular season games on the
winner of the championship game (or Super Bowl)
1
Drafted in first round


Sample Application of Ranking Criteria

Ron Mix's record in professional football merits a total of 51 points:

14 Selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
36 4 points for each of nine times he was named All Prov 1
Drafted in first round
51


Points Basketball

14
Member of the Basketball Hall of Fame
3
Each professional year averaging a total of 40 or more points, rebounds,
and assists per game
2
Each professional year averaging a total of 30 to 39 points, rebounds,
and assists per game
1
Each All-Star team and College All-America selection; each professional
year averaging a total of 20 to 29 points, rebounds, and assists per game


Sample Application of Ranking Criteria

Dolph Schayes's record in professional basketball merits a total of 57 points:

14 Member of the Basketball Hall of Fame
9 3 points in each of three seasons for averaging totals of 40 or more points,
rebounds, and assists
20 2 points for each of ten seasons of averaging a total of 30 to 39 points,
rebounds, and assists
14 1 point for averaging a total of 20 to 29 points, rebounds, and assists in each
of two seasons and twelve All-Star team selections
57


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The 100 Greatest Jews in Sports by B. P. Robert Stephen Silverman. Copyright © 2003 B. P. Robert Stephen Silverman. Excerpted by permission of Scarecrow Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

B.P. Robert Stephen Silverman brings to the table a unique blend of a Ph.D. in Philosophy, and a sports commentator with a sense of humor. He is the author of The Jewish Athletes' Hall of Fame and Defending Animals' Rights is the Right Thing to Do. At the age of 19, he won a DCAAU gold medal in weight lifting. He is a journalist and graphics designer by profession, having published numerous articles in business and communications journals.

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The 100 Greatest Jews in Sports: Ranked According to Achievement 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Book did not include Jimmy Jacobs or Vic Hershcowitz.