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 50 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 75 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.
I teach a course on "Baseball & American Culture" and was really excited about this book. The subject needs more attention than it's had in the past and this seemed so promising. Unfortunately, the book is poorly structured, wandering all over the place, and is read by a plodding narrator who sounds like he's in his 70's (no slur on age -- I'm in my 60's -- but on his pacing (repetitive) and vocal timbre). I had to give up after three hours. Giving the disorganized structure, the written version will likely not be any better. Very disappointing.
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