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Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words:…

Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players (2012)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words by Peter Ephross with Martin Abramowitz

I confess—I am a major fan of baseball. When I picked up this book, though, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to find inside. Generally, books by athletes don’t rise to high literary standards. But I found something completely unexpected within the pages of this collection of interviews and memoirs. I found a history of the United States, through the lens of Judaism and baseball.

This book collects interviews, some done well in the past and some more recently, and edits them to put them into a more linear, readable form. Ephross does a good job of explaining his method and process in his preface. The book gives us the voices of players ranging over almost a century of time, and in the process shows how much we as Americans have, and in some cases have not, changed.

The earlier players talk to varying degrees about the sorts of discrimination they faced as Jews in baseball. Their responses to provocation also show a range of how different people of different temperaments respond – some felt moved to fighting, some just took in stride, and some made clear the pain they still felt many years after an incident happened. Later players also talk of the struggles they felt, but it was clear that attitudes began to shift once baseball was integrated racially. Again, some players favored and supported integration, some opposed it for personal reasons – it meant a bigger pool of players and a slimmer chance of making it to the majors.

I found these stories fascinating on many levels. I would encourage anyone who loves baseball stories to try this book. It gives a different insight into our history. ( )
  LibraryLady90 | Aug 17, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Jewish players have been a part of Major League Baseball since the late 19th century, and this book profiles some of them in their own words. The oral histories are edited versions of interviews conducted under the auspices of Jewish Major Leaguers, an organization dedicated to celebrating the lives of those men who have played and are now playing in Major League Baseball. Although each man's circumstances and story is different, running through them all is the love of the game and their joy in being a part of America's pastime. The interviews are light on play-by-play and concentrate more on the circumstances of how player got his start and then his time in the game. Even for non-baseball fans the stories are interesting and reveal the variety of their baseball experiences.
  mbkhlibrary | Jul 23, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
36. :Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words : Oral Histories of 23 Players by Peter Ephross with Martin Abramowitz (Editors) (2012, 213 pages, read June 24-30) – Early Reviewer

Before I review, it occurs to me the confined extent of the appeal…but then at least it is baseball.

Anyway, I have read a few “oral histories” books and found them fascinating in ways never expected. This fits that category…despite the editing.

So, first the editing. It seems that Ephross had a goldmine of information, but it came in all sorts of various lengths and formats, and, importantly, were unequally distributed through time. The sources include interviews conducted by various journalists, scholars and whatnot between 2005 and 2007 and a series of interviews conducted by Elli Wohlgelernter in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This later series was apparently a gem, and apparently unpublished.

Editing this down to one book was no easy challenge, and the result is a little awkward. In each section the questions have been edited out, and the answers reworked by Ephross to form something like a narrative. This means that each paragraph essentially answers a different question. Also, the book covers a very thorough collection of players from 1940’s and 1950’s, but very sparse coverage for the next 50 years. For the former you won’t find reticent Sandy Koufax, but there is Hank Greenberg and Harry Danning. But for the recently players, there are a lot of misses. You won’t find Brad Ausmus, Ian Kinsler, Mike Leibertahl, Kevin Youkilis, or Ryan Braun. Instead there is Jose Batista and Adam Greenberg, the later famous for getting hit in the head in his only major league plate appearance.

Despite these kinds of problems, there is fascinating stuff throughout. It was interesting to learn that most baseball players in the 1940-1950’s era were southerners and then to see what kind of variations of harassment and support the Jewish players received. Almost every player interviewed from the 1940’s-1950’s era has some kind of turning-point fight regarding anti-Semitism. But then some of these players were picked up by teams to attract Jewish fans in New York and elsewhere. Other gems of information include the relationship and experiences with the black players, especially when teams traveled south and black players were unable to eat at restaurants or stay at hotels. The mainly northern Jews experience this kind of racism for the first time in shock...but a helpless shock. One player talks about his experiences when his minor league when bankrupt, and his team got their income by playing through the astonishingly talented negro leagues. And then there are all the variations of success and failure, players struggling to make the big leagues, or, on the opposite end of things, turning down major league teams and going to the minor leagues by choice – another 1950’s oddity. These typically aren't success stories. Most of these players spent most of their careers in the minor leagues. So, the stories they share are quite different from those experienced by the baseball greats who typically get biographies. (One player walked out of the movie Bull Durham, because Kevin Costner's character was too close to his own life)

Overall, a mixed bag. Recommended only to baseball fanatics who either are Jewish or don’t have a better book to read. ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Jul 19, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I live in Detroit, a place where, in the Jewish community, Hank Greenberg is still considered as close to God as any one human being could be. "Did you know he refused to play on Yom Kippur?" I've heard the story at least 100 times since I moved here 25 years ago.
So I couldn't wait to read his account here and, quite honestly, I was surprised. Greenberg in no way comes across as a hero - a man who stood up and did what was right because he knew it was right and it was important to do it - but just a guy who just did what the rabbi recommended. Nor, alas, is Greenberg especially articulate.
Some of the others interviewed here provide a bit more insight, but readers looking for meaningful reflections about religion, or any in-depth observations about anti-Semitism in baseball, are likely to be disappointed.
A great deal here depends on the quality of the interviewer, and without a doubt this would have been a better book had it been carefully edited. (As a former journalist I wouldn't tamper with direct quotes, but paragraph after paragraph of pretty mindless talk does not make for good reading. Instead of simply letting each player ramble, the author would have done well to break down each player's comments to the very best.)
This is an all right book, but it could have been a very good one had it been more carefully managed. ( )
1 vote Eliz12 | Jul 14, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a very unevenly edited book, mainly taken from interviews of Jewish major league players. These interviews had occurred over many years, and were conducted by at least eleven interviewers. Peter Ephross used the interviews, many of which had conducted in question-and-answer form, to write narratives of the players. These occur in 22 chapters; one chapter is devoted to two brothers, Larry and Norm Sherry, for a total of 23 players. The arrangement is roughly chronological, by years played in the major leagues, starting with the earliest.

As a whole the earlier stories are not well edited; there tends to be a lot of repetition. Words such as “you know” used repeatedly do not add to the story. The first really smoothly written account is that of Ron Blomberg, which was taken from his ghost- written autobiography instead of an interview. Several of the other stories following his are also well written.

At the beginning of each chapter, the player’s name, teams with years played, and birth or birth/death dates are given. It would have been useful to have the total number of games played, and a listing of the minor league teams given, especially since many of the accounts describe the player’s minor league experience. Many of the players played relatively few games in the major leagues.

Some of the questions addressed included whether or not a player played on religious holidays, the amount and kind of discrimination experienced, and the players’ relationship to other players. Many of the players discussed allied themselves with black players; they had something in common both were experiencing discrimination.

The brief introduction to the book is very interesting, giving an analysis of the findings along with statistics. An appendix alphabetically lists every Jewish major league player from the beginning through 2010 providing such information as position, years, and teams. ( )
  sallylou61 | Jul 1, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786465077, Paperback)

Between 1870 and 2010, 165 Jewish Americans played Major League Baseball. This work presents oral histories featuring 23 of them. From Bob Berman, a catcher for the Washington Senators in 1918, to Adam Greenberg, an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs in 2005, the players discuss their careers and consider how their Jewish heritage affected them. Legends like Hank Greenberg and Al Rosen as well as lesser-known players reflect on the issue of whether to play on high holidays, responses to anti-Semitism on and off the field, bonds formed with black teammates also facing prejudice, and personal and Jewish pride in their accomplishments. Together, these oral histories paint a vivid portrait of what it was like to be a Jewish Major Leaguer.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:44 -0400)

This work presents oral histories featuring 23 Jewish major leaguers who played major league baseball between 1870 and 2010.

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