Archive for the ‘Because I can…’ Category


Perfect timing for a little SSP (Hank Greenberg project)

Posted on: January 2nd, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

(As in “shameless self-promotion.”) Actually yesterday would have been the perfect time as it would have been Hank Greenberg‘s 106th birthday. Considering that Tyrus Wong, illustrator for the classic Walt Disney flick Bambi, recently died at that age, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Hammerin’ Hank could still be with us.

As you may know, my new book, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War, is due out on April 4. As the title states, it focuses on that one season during which Greenberg was within a few long foul balls from wresting the single season home run record of 60 away from Babe Ruth. Ruth had set the mark in 1927, but there was no pressure, no competition: if he broke his former record, well and good. If not, no big deal. He was enjoying a fun ride.

But as Ruth grew into a fat old man, a new generation of sluggers — Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Rudy York, and Greenberg — were poised to usurp his place in the record books, although no one could replace him as a legendary character and the man who many credit with “saving” the game following the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Those guys felt the pressure, especially from journalists hungry for sensational story lines. And as the season wore on and time was running out, that pressure built even more.

Of course, baseball was just a minor matter compared with what was going on in Europe. Hitler was creating bigger headlines every day as he stepped up his goal of world domination. The book compares and contrasts, using Greenberg and Judaism as the focal points (not all the anti-Semites were in Germany).

Hank Greenberg in 1938 is entering the home stretch now, having gone through a couple of rounds of edits before the proofreading, followed by the bound galleys or ‘arcs’ (advanced reader copies) which will be sent to reviewers in advance of the release date.

With a couple of books in the bank, I know enough to both enjoy the bustle and excitement of the weeks ahead as well as not having grand expectations that this will wind up on the New York Times‘ best-seller list. (No false modesty, just keepin’ it real.) Anyway, it keeps me busy and from being too depressed about not having a full-time job yet.



Now wait just one minute

Posted on: December 12th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

It bears repeating, so I’ve pulled this section out of the previous weekend updated:

  • Daniel Levitt played a whole minute off the bench as Cleveland State lost to host #18 Purdue, 77-53.
  • So did Ky Feldman, who at least got off a shot in Syracuse’s 99-77 win over visiting Boston University.
  • So did Josh Wolf for Lehigh in their 90-71 win over host St. Mary’s.
  • So did La Salle’s Hank Davis but he actually scored two points on free throws in a 93-78 loss to host Georgetown.



Korner review: Jewish Sports Review

Posted on: November 15th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

http://jewishbaseballmuseum.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Jewish-Sports-Review-187x300.pngThe Jewish sports fan’s best friend arrived recently: The November/December issue of the Jewish Sports Review.

Among the topic covered:

  • A thorough look back at the 2016 baseball season, from the majors all the way down to the independent leagues
  • A look ahead at men’s and women’s college basketball for DI, II, and III schools. This is important because for some reason the major sports outlets like ESPN do a crap job of keeping up with the women’s game.
  • An addenda for college football and soccer
  • A glimpse at the 2016-17 college wrestling scene
  • And a grab-bag of info in the “Sports Shorts”
  • Special feature: Benjamin Chernuhin’s essay on “Twenty Best Jewish Soccer Players of the Soviet Period”
  • Neil Keller’s “Jews in Sports” alphabetical quiz

The holiday season is upon and I can’t think of a better gift for the hard core sports enthusiasts on your list. So why not get them a subscription of six bi-monthly issues for $36. You won’t find this information anywhere else. For more, visit Jewishsportsreview.com.

Shalom, y’all

Posted on: September 13th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan 4 Comments

This marks the final entry for Kaplan’s Korner, at least in this iteration.

The NY Jewish Week assumes control over the New Jersey Jewish News tomorrow. They have decided not to continue the blog (or my relationship with the organization).


With Bruce Beck and Ian Eagle.

It’s a business decision, and I get it. I foolishly thought that, as a niche publication serving a specific community, the Jewish News might be able to merrily roll along while papers like The New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, et al, were all suffering drastic changes, reducing personnel and output  to the point where the pages produced are barely enough to properly line our bird cages. Like I said, foolish. I thought that the fact the the Korner was the most all-encompassing Jewish sports presence out there might be worth keeping around. Evidently not.

When the Jewish News suggested a sports blog several years ago to take the place of a stand-alone sports section in the print edition, I was skeptical. Although I absolutely hate the joke about the thinnest book in the world (I think you know what I mean without my having to say it), I was worried about finding enough material to make this a viable and sustainable presence. How wrong I was.

With John Thorn, official historian of Major League Baseball

With John Thorn, official historian of Major League Baseball

Hosting Kaplan’s Korner (the name was not my idea, by the way) gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing people in the sports world, from executives, to writers, to athletes, to fans (thanks for all the phone calls and e-mails).

It afforded the opportunity to participate in synagogue discussions, academic conferences, and Yankees fantasy camp. I even made it into the Times as a source for a story about baseball and the Yom Kuppur dilemma.

The blog gave me enough of a standing in the community  — shameless self-promotion ahead: 2014 Best Blog of the Year as per the New Jersey Press Association — to publish The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games, which in turn led to my current project, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War.

My only regret is that I never got to interview Tony Kornheiser. Maybe next time. (No, seriously, if some one knows Mr. Tony, let him know I’ve been looking for him.)

Plans for what, if anything, happens next are up in the air; I hope to know more in the coming weeks. If anyone is interested in keeping informed if and when this happens, you can contact me at kaplanskorner@gmail.com.

So in closing let me just quote from one of the late Douglas Adams, one of my favorite authors, when he said.



Rachmones for A-Rod?

Posted on: August 12th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

So tonight is the final game for Alex Rodriguez. Unless it’s not. It will be for the Yankees. But at 696 home runs (he’s scheduled to play tonight but the likelihood of a four-homer game is doubtful, wouldn’t you agree?). That would be fine with the Yankees, who have been out of love with the controversial player for years. They certainly do not want him besting the 714 hit by Babe Ruth, one of the most beloved figures in the game (even if Ruth didn’t hit all of them in pinstripes). But maybe someone will want to pick him up for the possible ticket bump? Kind of like Tim Tebow announcing he wants to play pro baseball.

ARod was the topic of a segment on The Brian Lehrer Show which featured veteran sportswriter George Vecsey. basically it came down to Rodriguez screwed himself by denying and denying and denying and denying. Americans are great on second chances, but “fool me once…”

Lehrer and Vecsey speculated that Rodriguez might have an easier time getting into the Hall of Fame than Mark McGwire (even thoughm technically, he did nothing illegal), Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds because by that time PED may not be as big a deal as it was when voters were casting their ballots for the aforementioned quartet.

Makes no never mind to me in my life. Maybe MLB is just covering their collective butts for turning a blind eye on this for so long as long as it put money in their coffers. In the end, it literally is only a game. The consequences, for the most part, are trivial and effect only the parties involved. I’m sure Alex won’t lose a lot of sleep over it down the line.



Lookin’ good.

Posted on: August 8th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

From Israel21c.com

USA Today surprised many in Israel in ranking the Israeli uniforms No. 2 on its list of “17 best Parade of Nations outfits.” In effect, Israel won fashion gold from an American media outlet – its first of the Summer Games.

Hold the phone: If Israel came in second, should that be an ersatz silver medal?

Best dressed Olympians, or flight attendants? Israeli delegation poses for a photo before the Rio opening ceremony. Photo via Olympic Committee of Israel/Facebook

You can read the whole story here.

People of the book: The Dykstra debacle

Posted on: July 18th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

As you might have noticed from my weekly posting about baseball best-sellers, I’m not overly happy that Lenny Dykstra’s new memoir, House of Nails, is doing well. It came in at No. 11 on the most recent New York Times best-seller list for non-fiction.

This isn’t a case of schadenfreude. It’s that people are more interested in dirt from someone who many wouldn’t even consider a celebrity than more important issues from writers who toil so hard for such little return. As landsman Richard Sandomir, the Times‘ sports media columnist observes in his recent review, several interviewers — mostly, it seems, of the low-brow sports-talk radio shows, dote on Dykstra as if he was some sort of hero, kissing his butt with bro-praise, ignoring the terrible things he claims to have done to get ahead, including hiring private detectives to get dirt on umpires as possible blackmail material.

This is what holds our interest at a time when citizens and polic offers are being killed with sad regularity and the November elections portend such dire results?

In Sandomir’s considered opinion, House of Nails

… is not an eloquent autobiography, like Andre Agassi’s Open, and is more in keeping with the spirit of Jose Canseco’s Juiced. It is not explosive, unless his accusation that the former Mets manager Davey Johnson drank a lot is big news. It is rather a narcissist’s delight, so relentlessly focused on Dykstra’s ego and antics that you need to rest occasionally from the Lenniness of it all.

At least Canesco’s book served a purpose in bringing to light the reach of PED, even though many in the baseball hierarchy sought to turn a blind eye to the situation. What life lesson is Dykstra offering?

Add to that his firing of veteran author Peter Golenbock (another landsman) as his co-writer because, as Sandomir writes, “Dykstra said he had needed to take control of the book to preserve his singular voice, which is notably profane and blustery and as obsessed with sex as a pubescent boy.”

Arrested development (pick whichever meaning you will)?

(I’ve also lost some respect for Stephen King, whose blurb is featured on the cover. Unless it’s one of those situations where the publisher cobbled together words that King included in his assessment, although not necessarily in the order in which it appears.)

I often link the books in these entries to the Amazon page, hoping to earn a few coins if some of you readers decided to order the various merchandise. Not this time.

Reviewing the Review

Posted on: July 8th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

http://jewishsportsreview.com/images/jsr.jpgRecently received the July/August issue of the Jewish Sports Review. Highlights include:

  • 2016 College Baseball Teams, for DI, II, III, and NAIA schools
  • 2016 College Softball Review for DI, II, III, and NAIA schools
  • 2016 Men’s College Lacrosse All-America Team
  • 2016 Women’s College All-America Lacrosse Team (DI, II, and III)
  • 2015-16 Girls’ and Boys’ High School All-America Basketball Team
  • Sports Shorts
  • An updated all-time list of Jewish skaters in the NHL. Interesting to see that Andre Burakovsky is still included, despite all the kerfuffle he made a few months ago about not being Jewish.
  • A “Jewish in Sports – Letter “TS'” quiz

Subscriptions are $36 for one year, $60 for two. Given that this kind of information isn’t available in this format anywhere else, it’s a must-read for fans of Jewish sports. Visit their website for more information.

Lest we forget: Muhammad Ali

Posted on: June 7th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

There has been a ton of stuff written about the late champ, mostly about his status as a revolutionary athlete and cultural influence.

Here are a few items you might have missed:

Savvy sports photo fans know the name Neil Leifer. He’s taken some of the most iconic pictures across the spectrum, including the one below


Leifer spoke about what it was like to cover Ali on the latest Sports Illustrated podcast which you can hear here.

Ali was one of the topics on Slate’s Hang Up and Listen. HUAL is one podcast where it’s beneficial to visit the home page because of the great show notes and links they always provide.

Robert Lypsite provided the front page obituary for The New York Times over the weekend. In fact, it ran on both Saturday and Sunday, which I have never seen before. Richard Sandomir wrote this piece about the “Odd Couple” relationship between Ali and Jewish sportscasting legend Howard Cosell. “One man, Ali, understood racism; the other, Cosell, experienced anti-Semitism. And neither could stop talking,” Sandomir writes. (Their relationship was also the topic of Sound and Fury, by Dave Kindred.)


Leonard Schecter, who edited Jim Bouton’s watershed Ball Four, wrote “The Passion of Muhammad Ali” for Esquire in 1968. The profile was almost as famous for Carl Fischer’s photo as it was for the narrative. (Here’s a gallery of famous Ali snaps.)

NJ Jackals taking Stock

Posted on: June 1st, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Two, actually, as in Richard and Robert.

The Stock brothers Richard, right, and Robert are teammates for the first time since Little League.

The Stock brothers Richard, right, and Robert are teammates for the first time since Little League.

Richard, 25, is a catcher, originally signed by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005 and later by the Cleveland Indians after he graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 2009.

Robert, 26, originally a catcher,  was converted (you should pardon the expression) into a pitcher after being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009. Robert attended USC.

This year they’ll do something that haven’t done in ages: play together on the same team. In this case it’s the New Jersey Jackals in the independent Can-Am League. (Independent league clubs have no affiliation with teams in Major League Baseball.)

I had a chance to visit the with Stock brothers on what the late Mets announcer Bob Murphy would no doubt have called “a beautiful day for baseball” at Jackals Stadium on the campus of Montclair State University, right next door to the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. I spoke with Richard first while they rounded up Robert prior to their 11 a.m. game against the visiting Quebec Capitales which would be attended by a large number of students from local schools.

Richard came to the Jackals in a trade from the Sioux Falls Canaries in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Robert signed with the Jackals…independently. “It wasn’t a package deal,” said Richard. “[Robert] knew he wanted to play independent ball this year.” So far, it’s been “a ton of fun,” said Richard, who, as of this writing, was hitting .333 with three doubles, a triple, a home run, and six runs batted in.

This is the first time they’re playing together since their Little League years in Southern California. Richard said they enjoyed the local environs (the ballplayers live in dorms on the  MSU campus), which is a short commute away from the  excitement of Manhattan.

The boys’ education in Jewish baseball came from their grandfather who is a big fan  of Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax. Thankfully, the Stock brothers have never had to deal the anti-Semitism faced by some of their baseball brethren. These days, the clubhouses are filled with players from all over the world so it’s not unusual to still have teammates who have never met a Jew before.

It sounded a bit surprising to hear Richard classify the quality of indy ball as higher than the low minor leagues until you stop to think, the players here are older and further along than those who are beginning at the bottom as teenagers. “Low A is still developing, so this is a big step up,” he said.

At the relatively advanced age of 25, many players who are going to make it at the highest levels are already there, so why would a couple of guys in their mid-twenties still be doing this? “The hope is to have a job tomorrow… mostly to try and win baseball games,” he said, taking a live-in-the-moment philosophy. “I just want to play some good baseball.”

At this point, Robert joined us, complimenting me on my Dodgers cap, which I wear only on sunny days like this one. His early experience was a bit different than his brother’s because of his position situation. “I would have wanted to be  a catcher,” he said, but it’s not politic to fight against the organization when they want to make you change. “Once they decide they want you to change roles, the best thing is to embrace it right away because you’re only hurting yourself when you fight it.” Robert has appeared in eight games for the first-place Jackals, compiling a record of 0-1 over 11.1 innings in which he’s given up nine hits, walked nine, and fanned 16, a strikeout-to-innings rate of 1.44.

When the topic changed to the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifiers, the brothers perked up noticeably. We discussed some prominent names who were on the Israeli National Team in 2013, including the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, former Tigers and Astros pitcher Josh Zeid, and current Detroit manager Brad Ausmus. Richard leaned closer to the recorder and said “We haven’t gotten that call. We got to get it out there: we’re Jewish and we want to play! Someone make it happen!”

I asked if they had any thoughts about what it means to be a Jewish athlete and their answers were kind of reassuring. Robert said the attitudes of his teammates have been along the lines of “Oh, you’re Jewish? That’s cool. Let’s play baseball,” as in “No big deal.”

“No one really knows until you tell them,” he said. That’s a welcome improvement from Greenberg’s time, when several Jewish ballplayers changed their name to a) avoid the shande of abandoning a family’s dream of a better life for their kids which only came through education, and b) avoid the animosity of bigoted fans, opponents, and even teammates.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51he0RDU1GL._SY445_.jpg“I think historically, we were Weinstocks,” Robert said. “Our ancestors, during World War II coming over from Poland, chopped off the “Wein’.”

The Stock siblings join the ranks of Jewish baseball brothers that include Norm and Larry Sherry, Ike and Harry Danning, and Andy and Syd Cohen. Like the Stocks, the Sherrys were a pitching and catching combo who played together on the same team, in their case, the LA Dodgers from 1959-1962.


The main reason I was here today was to learn more about the Jackals’ Jewish Heritage Night game, which will be held on Wednesday, June 22, at 7:05 p.m. against the Rockland Boulders. (Richard remembered the Lake County Captains, one of his previous teams, held a JHN that featured a “Rabbi Home Run Derby,” where local clergy tried their hands at batting practice).

The Jackals’ event is the brainchild of Ira Jaskoll, an adjunct professor and director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Yeshiva Program. A hardcore baseball fan, Jaskoll was also the impetus for a special component of the New York Yankees fantasy camp in 2009 that catered to observant Jews. (You can read about my experiences there here.) He’s trying to coordinate several of JHNs for other minor and indy league teams in the NY-NJ area.


Ira Jaskoll, right, visits the training room at Yankee Fantasy Camp in 2009.

Jaskoll’s idea is to get Jewish day schools, shuls, and other organizations to come out to the park. He teaches courses in sports management at FDU so in return for his assistance in setting up these games, the teams provide guests speakers for his classes.

“I want everyone to come. Baseball is for everyone,” he said. “I used to go to Yankee games during Pesach; people would be eating matzo….

“True American baseball is minor league baseball,” he added, using Jackals Stadium as a prime example of the intimacy of the surroundings, the proximity to the field, and the accessibility of the players. “The [fans] have a great time.” Programs like Jewish Heritage Night brings out a community that might not otherwise be engaged. “I think once the Jewish community comes, they’ll love it and keep coming back.”



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