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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

All Star Softball League: Janglo Breaks Good News, Noble Effort Pays Off

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Janglo was the bearer of good news, breaking into the winning column with an exciting 13-9 win, while Zach Noble’s patience at the plate was richly rewarded for Perl Pigments, in the “All Star Israel Sports Camp” Softball League.

Mickey Levinson homered, as Janglo outpaced Ossie’s Fish for the victory, behind the spirited leadership of Janglo captain Zvi Herman, and veteran Binyamin Miller’s turn-back-the-clock 3 RBIs.

Meanwhile, Lobos took over sole possession of first place with a win over heretofore undefeated Ziontours. Lobos opened up a 5-0 lead in the second, thanks to sharp hitting by Nussi Jacobovitz and Yanki Itzkowitz. Ziontours looked to rally, capitalizing on rare errors to tighten the game. However, Lobos pitcher Yaacov Ehrlich helped Lobos continued pursuit of their prelapsarian pace, banishing Ziontours from edenic perfection by a score of 11-4.

Chula Vista took a huge step toward the postseason, with a 6-0 victory over fellow playoff hopefuls, Jerry’s Kids. Yitzi Schwalb recorded the impressive shut-out on the mound for Chula Vista.

Jerry’s Kids second game of the week was perhaps the most exciting of the season to date, and resulted in the first tie of the campaign. The visitors, Perl’s Pigments, broke a scoreles draw with two runs in the fourth, only to see Jerry’s Kids answer with four runs of their own, to take the lead. The score remained unchanged until the final frame, when the Pigments’ Zach Noble came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, and gutted out a run-scoring walk. Akiva Lautman followed up with a game-tying sacrifice fly to deep center field, for the rare 4-4 final.

In other games with major postseason ramifications, Lakewood Heimishe Bake Shoppe defeated the RentACell Rollers 11-7, moving within striking distance of a playoff berth and putting the cell phone provider’s championship hopes in jeopardy. Pizza Larry, Shmikumaku and Kluger’s Sluggers also each stayed in the playoff hunt, the former with a win over Ossie’s Fish and the latter two with victories over Glenlivet.

A Hero When Jews Desperately Needed One: An Interview with Hank Greenberg Biographer John Rosengren

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

To his parents’ friends, he was “Mrs. Greenberg’s disgrace,” but to sports fans he is one of the greatest – if not the greatest – Jewish baseball players of all time.

Long before Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg excited Jewish sports fans with his prowess on the baseball diamond. Playing in the 1930s during the most anti-Semitic period in United States history, Greenberg served as daily proof that Jews were neither foreign nor inferior, and could in fact even excel in that most American of all sports: baseball.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with John Rosengren, author of “Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes” (New American Library, 2013).

The Jewish Press: Hank Greenberg is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Yet, you note in your book that fans in his day would routinely taunt him. Why?

Rosengren: Things were different back in the ‘30s and ‘40s when Greenberg played. First off, ethnic identification was much stronger. Also, anti-Semitism was much more widely practiced and socially acceptable. So Greenberg was singled out as a Jew and frequently derided with ethnic slurs and insults.

You write that many Jewish ballplayers at the time changed their last names to something that sounded less Jewish. Greenberg didn’t. Why?

Well, it wasn’t just ballplayers who changed their names. People in Hollywood and other professions changed their names too so they could become more socially acceptable.

Greenberg didn’t. He was proud to be a Jew. He was raised in an Orthodox household by his parents, and his heritage was very important to him as a young man. He’d go to temple on high holy days, and when he was in the minor leagues he lived in an Orthodox boarding house so he could eat the Seder meal on Passover. He didn’t want to deny who he was.

It’s interesting that of all cities to play in, Greenberg chose Detroit, home to some of America’s most notorious anti-Semites at the time.

It was certainly a hostile city. Henry Ford was the arch anti-Semite of America and his screeds against Jews in his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, were quite frequent. At the same time, the Roman Catholic priest, Charles Coughlin, was in suburban Detroit and had a radio show with an audience of ten million that eagerly listened to his rants against Jews.

Jews represented only five percent of Detroit’s population at the time, so there were a lot of people in Detroit who had never met or seen a Jew, so they didn’t have a point of reference to challenge these stereotypes until Hank Greenberg came along. He was 6’ 4”, 220 lbs. and as soon as he stepped on the field, he shattered any stereotype of Jews being weak or unathletic. Later on, he proved himself an intelligent, charming, charismatic guy and won over a lot of fans.

You write that Greenberg served as a tremendous source of pride to Jews. How so?

The ‘30s and ‘40s were very difficult times for Jews – not just in Europe but also here in the United States. Jews couldn’t practice at [many] law firms, couldn’t be treated at certain hospitals, and couldn’t attend the college of their choice. Greenberg actually had a scholarship to Princeton but wasn’t allowed to attend because the university had already fulfilled its Jewish quota, which was two percent. Additionally, there were ads in newspapers that said “gentiles only” and there were restricted communities where Jews could not live. The climate was very much against Jews.

And so at a time like this, Greenberg became a rallying point for Jews. They felt an affinity with Greenberg as one of their own and took a special pride in his accomplishments. If someone today tells you a certain baseball player is Jewish, you say, “Oh, nice,” but back then the fact that Greenberg was Jewish meant so much to people. Ethnic identification was much stronger then. The other night, I was in New York doing a book event and an elderly woman said to me, “We looked to him as such a hero.”

Interestingly, Greenberg wasn’t really comfortable at first in his role as a representative Jew, especially in 1934 when he was forced to decide whether or not to play on Rosh Hashanah.

Remembering Jackie Robinson’s Fight Against Anti-Semitism

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Moviegoers heading to see the new film “42” will see the story of how Jackie Robinson displayed legendary courage, class and talent in the face of immense pressure and racial hatred as he broke down baseball’s color barrier.

Less well known is Robinson’s commitment to fighting all bigotry, including prejudice emanating from his own community.

It was 1962, a decade and a half after Robinson first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and just a few years after he retired. Day after day, an angry crowd marched outside Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater protesting against its Jewish owner, Frank Schiffman, and his plan to open a low-cost restaurant with prices that potentially would threaten the business of a more expensive black-owned eatery.

The demonstrators carried anti-Semitic posters and hurled racial epithets, reportedly denouncing Schiffman as a Shylock who wanted to extract a pound of flesh from the black community.

Schiffman turned to several black leaders for help, but despite the increasingly hostile acts of anti-Semitism that were taking place, they all remained silent – except for Robinson.

“I was ashamed to see community leaders who were afraid to speak out when blacks were guilty of anti-Semitism,” Robinson wrote in his 1972 autobiography, I Never Had It Made. “How could we stand against anti-black prejudice if we were willing to practice or condone a similar intolerance?”

Never one to back down from a cause he believed in, Robinson used his syndicated newspaper column to condemn the protesters’ blatant use of anti-Semitism and compared their actions to events that had occurred in Nazi Germany, drawing the ire of many black nationalists in the process.

The nationalists, who had adopted a separatist agenda, retaliated by protesting in front of a nearby Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee shop – Robinson had worked for the chain after his 1957 retirement from baseball– and outside a dinner honoring Robinson’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In turn, several mainstream black leaders, including Roy Wilkins, the longtime leader of the NAACP, quickly came to the defense of Robinson and Schiffman.

“In their fight for equal opportunity, Negroes cannot use the slimy tools of anti-Semitism or indulge in racism, the very tactics against which we cry out,” Wilkins wrote in a telegram to Robinson. “We join you in your straight statement that this is a matter of principle from which there can be no retreat.”

Other leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Philadelphia Tribune publisher Dr. E. Washington Rhodes, also offered their support, according to Robinson.

Major League Baseball’s first black player also managed to pry a condemnation of anti-Semitism from Lewis Micheaux, the owner of Harlem’s National Memorial African Book Store, though Micheaux had sympathized with the marchers and denounced Robinson’s initial criticisms.

Soon after, the protests ceased.

Some Jewish communal officials have noted that Robinson’s strong stance during the 1962 Apollo incident stood in stark contrast to the silence from black leaders during the 1995 protests outside Freddy’s Fashion Mart on 125th Street.

For months, large crowds gathered in front of the Harlem store to protest the efforts of its Jewish owner, Fred Harari, to expand into an adjacent storefront that was occupied by a black-owned business.

The condemnations came only after one protester, Roland Smith Jr., shot and killed seven store employees before burning down the building and taking his own life.

Robinson was always quick to criticize anti-Semitism in the black community, according to Stephen Norwood, a professor at the University of Oklahoma who co-wrote a scholarly article on Robinson’s relationship with Jews.

In a 1997 interview timed to the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s integration of baseball, Norwood pointed out that Robinson was the first to condemn and call for the removal of a Congress of Racial Equality official in 1966 after the official shouted at a group of Jews, “Hitler made a mistake when he didn’t kill enough of you.”

While raising funds for the NAACP and bail money for imprisoned civil-rights marchers, Norwood said, Robinson witnessed the valuable contributions that Jews were making to the black community’s struggle. When Robinson took part in the legendary march on Washington and stood by King in Birmingham, Ala., he saw that some Jews also were placing their bodies on the line for civil-rights causes.

Museum Seeks Jews’ Memories of Baseball

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Josh Perelman is seeking kin — but not his own. Rather, Perelman is on a quest for families and individuals who will share memories, artifacts and pictures that help tell the story of the American Jewish relationship with baseball.

As chief curator for the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Perelman is mounting an exhibition that will open next March. Instead of focusing solely on American Jewish baseball icons such as Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, the exhibit is meant to be grass roots and personal, revealing how Jews connected to this country and to each other through America’s national pastime.

The connections need not be related to professional baseball, Perelman said. They could involve memories such as rushing through dinner to make Little League games, reminiscences of playing ball in Jewish summer camps and displays of team uniforms that were sponsored by Jewish businesses.

When a caller mentioned to Perelman a friend’s b’nai mitzvah at which guests were seated at tables named for Jewish Major Leaguers — including Lipman Pike, considered the first Jewish professional baseball player — Perelman expressed interest in obtaining a seating card from the event.

On a website launched last week by the museum, fans are encouraged to alert the museum to what items they might want to donate or lend, as well as to stories about the person’s connections to baseball.

Some items to be displayed in the museum might not relate to Jewish ballplayers at all but will help illuminate the exhibit’s theme, “Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Jews in America.”

For example, Paul Newman of Philadelphia posted photographs of two baseballs that were signed long ago by Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, stars on the Reds’ championship teams in the 1970s. The players personalized their autographs for Newman’s late father, Rabbi Max Newman, of Cincinnati.

Another photo shows former Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine posing in 2011 with a smiling Rebecca Alpert, a professor of religion and women’s studies at Temple University. Alpert wrote in the post that she “grew up believing that rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers was what Jews were supposed to do because the Dodgers integrated baseball and represented the working class.”

Many of the items that respondents mentioned, posted or offered to the curators relate, of course, to Jewish Major Leaguers: a brilliant color image of a very young Koufax wearing his Brooklyn cap as he delivered a pitch against a backdrop of trees and a blue sky; photos from the 1970s of Washington Senators first baseman Mike Epstein fielding and sliding; and a black-and-white shot of Greenberg with boxing champion Joe Louis, under which the unidentified emailer wrote, “Jews have long regarded themselves as a people on the outside looking in. African-American heroes like Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson have been part of ‘our crowd.’ ”

“The story of Jews in baseball has typically been told by focusing on Major League Baseball, and counting up how many Jews played in Major League Baseball and disputing who’s a Jew and who’s not a Jew: Was Elliott Maddox Jewish? Was Rod Carew Jewish?” John Thorn, the lead consultant for the exhibition, said by telephone. “To me, the far more interesting story was on the other side of the television set: What was the ordinary Jew’s experience with baseball? How did baseball become a binding, integrating, assimilating force in Jewish life?”

Aside from his professional qualifications as Major League Baseball’s official historian, Thorn is in a unique position to examine the issue. Thorn, who is Jewish, was born in a displaced person’s camp in Germany after World War II and settled with his parents in New York. Baseball, particularly the experience of collecting baseball cards, was how the young Thorn made his way in his adopted country — his “visa to America,” Thorn said.

“The story of baseball being more than a game, which is a cliche, of course, resonated for me particularly,” he said.

Up to 200 artifacts will fill the 2,400 square feet on the museum’s fifth floor. After closing at the end of the 2014 baseball season, the exhibit will tour nationally, with smaller versions visiting Jewish community centers, synagogues, historical societies, libraries and stadiums, Perelman said.

Besides the general public, items will come from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the American Jewish Historical Society and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, is among those serving on the advisory committee.

Anti-Semitic Vandals Paint Swastikas on LA School Baseball Field

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Vandals painted swastikas and the word “skinhead” on an elementary school baseball field in metropolitan Los Angeles, according to school officials.

Orange County’s Kaiser Elementary School Principal Deborah Granger told the Los Angeles Times that school staff saw the hate messages when they returned to school on Monday.

Swastikas were also were painted on trash cans.

 

The Jewish World Series: Home Run for Unison

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Baseball was on Rabbi Zvi Kahn’s mind as he headed from his home in Columbus, Ohio, to the nearby Jewish Community Center after Havdalah one Saturday night in May, three years ago. More accurately, a baseball tournament.

Rabbi Kahn is headmaster of Columbus Torah Academy, a Modern Orthodox day school (K-12) that was sponsoring a first-of-its-kind baseball tournament among four Jewish high schools over one long weekend in 2010. Earlier games on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon had drawn nice crowds of visiting parents and local fans, but the Motzaei Shabbat competition, starting at 10:30 pm, was the centerpiece of the tournament. Rabbi Kahn was worried that people wouldn’t show up.

He needn’t have worried.

As he drove up to the JCC, the site of the Columbus Baseball Invitational, he saw cars vying for parking spaces. “The parking lot was full,” he says.

“I had to park farther away, on a side street.”

The Saturday night crowd, the rabbi says, confirmed that the school’s decision to establish such a sports venture was a success, giving young frum athletes a chance to compete in a kosher atmosphere without Shabbat scheduling conflicts and with bleachers full of enthusiastic supporters.

KOSHER BASEBALL

The need for such a Shabbat-considerate—if not strictly shomer Shabbat—sports tournament was revealed last winter when the boys’ basketball team of Houston’s Beren Academy, a day school whose team had reached the semifinals in its league for small private and parochial schools, became the center of a national controversy. Beren nearly had to forfeit a game, and a shot at the championship, because the semifinal and final games were scheduled to be played on Shabbat. Following a firestorm of publicity, including support for the school from largely non-Christian celebrities and politicians, and sympathetic coverage by the Houston media, a Friday evening game was changed to Friday afternoon.

Beren won that semifinal; the final game was played Saturday night. The issue created a major kiddush Hashem, educating the wider public about the specifics of Sabbath observance and the sacrifices it sometimes entails.

“[The tournament] is very important to these kids and their families,” Rabbi Kahn says.

“If adults ignore what [teens] are interested in, we’re going to lose them,” says Dr. Tricia Rosenstein, a pediatrician and Torah Academy parent.

For most teens, especially in a Modern Orthodox milieu where athletics often plays a prominent role, competitive sports are a normal—and valued—part of adolescence. This is especially so in Columbus, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, one of college football’s most successful teams, and of fans who continue their rabid interest as alumni. On Friday night, Torah Academy students can hear the sound of fans cheering at high school football games in their neighborhoods.

The students, frum but worldly, want the excitement and recognition that surround other—non-Jewish—schools’ sports programs, family members of the day school students say.

“Kids need something a little bigger than themselves to feel part of,” says Dr. Rosenstein. “Now,” she says, “they get to hear their own cheering.”

“Athletics, like academics, provides the challenges that help shape both the mind and body,” according to the day school’s sports blog (ctaathletics.blogspot.com). “Many studies show that qualities such as commitment and desire drive our students to compete and excel in the classroom, on the field and later, in their chosen professions.” Which is why the school said yes when Steve Guinan, a baseball coach and English teacher at Torah Academy, asked whether a baseball tournament among similar Modern Orthodox institutions is feasible.

A TOURNAMENT IS BORN

Word went out over the Internet and several schools expressed interest.

First at bat were Chicago’s Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Manhattan’s Ramaz School and the Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, New Jersey. The initial Columbus Baseball Invitational—renamed the Jewish World Series—was born within a few months. The 2012 tournament included Ramaz, Ida Crown, Yeshiva Atlanta, Kushner and Rabbi Alexander S. Gross High School in Miami. A tournament is scheduled for this coming spring as well.

“We thought it would be more local, limited to schools closer to Columbus,” says Coach Guinan. To his surprise, more distant schools signed up for the tournament, which takes place after end-of-year exams are over.

ACHDUT (UNISON) ON AND OFF THE FIELD

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/the-jewish-world-series-home-run-for-unison/2013/03/12/

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