THE JEWISH IMPACT ON BASEBALL ON AND OFF THE FIELD

By Marvin Glassman, Special to the Journal

Originally published in the Florida Jewish Journal, November 27, 2013. Copyright © 2013, South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Reprinted by permission of Marvin Glassman.

Despite the fact that only two Jewish baseball players, Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax (if you discount—as most do—playing manager and shortstop, Lou Boudreau, whose mother was Jewish), have been honored in the sport’s Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, author Larry Ruttman details the significant impact Jews have had in baseball in his book “American Jews and America’s Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball.”

Ruttman will be discussing his book in a discussion titled “For The Love Of The Game” at the Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida, on December 3 as part of the ongoing JCC Book Fair through January. Joining Larry for the event will be David Samson, the feisty president of The Miami Marlins, Steve Hertz, who followed up a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues with one of the best ever college coaching records at local Miami-Dade College, and Wayne Stofsky, who teaches baseball fundamentals at his Broward Baseball Academy.

“We wanted to feature an author on baseball because the Posnack JCC will be hosting the 2015 Maccabi Games. Each year, we send a team of baseball players to host cities across the country,” said Isa Joseph, chair of the JCC Book Fair. “The talk is titled ‘For The Love Of The Game,’ because it is an honor to hear about all the Jews who contributed to the history of baseball.”

Along with sharing anecdotes of Hall of Fame players Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, as well as other noteworthy players, such as Brad Ausmus and Kevin Youkilis, Ruttman also writes about the many Jews who made contributions to baseball off the field, such as Theo Epstein, current President of the Chicago Cubs, who was the youngest general manager in the history of baseball when the Boston Red Sox hired him at age twenty-eight.

The theme underlying the book is how Jewish values helped the careers of the Jews who chose baseball as their profession.

“What is common is that all the Jews in baseball owe their success to their upbringing, even in cases in which they were raised with only one Jewish parent, as well as their athletic talent,” said Ruttman.

Ruttman, a longtime attorney from Boston, loves baseball and compiled interviews with over fifty Jewish ballplayers and executives on and off the field for over five years for his book, published in March, 2013 by the University of Nebraska Press.

Included among the profiles in his book are labor economist, Marvin Miller, who shaped the players union to effectively challenge baseball’s reserve clause to achieve free agency for the players, and thus bring about the modern game; and the innovative Bud Selig, the current and only Jewish commissioner in baseball history, who also wrote the foreword for the book.

“The book is about celebrating all that the Jews contributed to baseball, which I believe still is America’s national pastime,” said Ruttman. He continued that, “As the book’s subtitle suggests, there is a growing presence of Jews on and off the field in baseball which appears to run counter to all the other major professional sports in America.”

The best chapters in the 550 page book detail the lives of Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, and Marvin Miller. Ruttman documents through many interviews the pride felt by Jews when Greenberg in 1934 and Koufax in 1965 chose not to play baseball on Yom Kippur.

“To me Greenberg was the most important Jew who lived in the twentieth century. He was a hero to the many immigrant Jews in the 1930s for saying he won’t play on the highest of Jewish holidays at a time when American Jews faced anti-Semitism within and without America,” added Ruttman.

Author Larry Ruttman will discuss his book “American Jews and America’s Game” in a discussion titled, “For The Love Of The Game,” December 3, 2013 at 7:30 PM at the Posnack Jewish Community Center, 5850 South Pine Island Road in Davie.

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