Guest review: Beating the Odds: The Al Rosen Story

Posted on: September 23rd, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

The following comes courtesy of Peter Ephross

Jewish themes take something of a back seat in a new documentary about Al Rosen, Beating the Odds: The Al Rosen Story.

Rosen’s willingness to confront anti-Semitism with his fists is mentioned, but the focus is on Rosen’s exploits on the field, particularly, his 1953 season, when Rosen won the American League MVP, and on Cleveland Indians baseball. Indeed, Lou Boudreau, the Indians’ star who was player-manager for the 1948 World Series Winners (the last Indians team to win the championship), is mentioned admiringly several times.

The film was produced by Bill Levy, a former baseball writer in Cleveland, in conjunction with the Indians. Clips of interviews with Rosen — the oldest living Jewish Major Leaguer — are used throughout, including one from earlier this year, where, at 89, he still looks tough and displays a remarkable memory.

Perhaps the most fascinating issues to emerge from the documentary concern Rosen’s tempestuous relationships with both Larry Doby and Hank Greenberg. He apparently clashed with Doby, the first black player in the American League, when the latter sat out big games against the Yankees, while contract negotiations with Greenberg, the Indians GM during Rosen’s playing days, made their relationship difficult.

Rosen, left, with Greenberg.

Left unanswered in the film is a frivolous question I’ve had for a while about Rosen: he was born on Feb. 29 during a Leap Year, so when does he celebrate his birthday?

Peter Ephross is the editor, with Martin Abramowitz, of Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players, published by McFarland. His writing has appeared in the Forward, Village Voice,and Publishers Weekly.

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