Archive for the ‘For your viewing pleasure’ Category


Talking about Hank Greenberg at SABR Day

Posted on: January 29th, 2019 by Ron Kaplan

Posted this to my blog about baseball books, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m simply offering the link for the event which featured fellow MOT authors Howard Megdal (The Baseball Talmud) and Lincoln Mitchell discussing their work.

The entry includes the nearly one-hour video of the panel.

Shameless self-promotion: Upcoming Hank Greenberg events

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

I’ve been looking to participate in Gelf Magazine’s “Varsity Letters” program for years. The dream comes true July 24. Hope to see you there. Here are the details:

Varsity Letters logo Baseball Night

Varsity Letters is back at The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge on Monday, July 24, with four authors of recently released books about baseball:

• Sports Illustrated writer Jay Jaffe, author of The Cooperstown Casebook: Who’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Who Should Be In, and Who Should Pack Their Plaques

Ron Kaplan, author of Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War

• executive reporter Mark Feinsand, author of The New York Yankees Fans’ Bucket List

• Faith and Fear in Flushing blogger Greg Prince, author of Piazza: Catcher, Slugger, Icon, Star

Graphics by Mister Lister.

Event Details:

The Gallery at LPR (Official site, map)
158 Bleecker St. (between Sullivan St. and Thompson St.)
New York, NY 10012
Blocks from ACE/BDF/MNR/1/6 trains

Doors open at 7.
Event starts at 7:30.
There is no admission charge.
Attendees must be 21 or older, as per Le Poisson Rouge rules. (Email if you are under 21 and would like to attend. The farther in advance, the better; no guarantees.)

Baseball Hall of FameThen, on August 16 at 1 p.m., I’ll be serving as “closer” for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Annual “Author’s Series.” From the Hall’s announcement:

Our Authors Series brings noted baseball authors to Cooperstown for special lectures and book signings during the summer months. These programs are included with the cost of admission.

On Wednesday, August 16th at 1pm, the Hall of Fame will welcome author Ron Kaplan as he talks about his new book, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War.

From his first day in the big leagues, Hank Greenberg dealt with persecution for being Jewish. The Hall of Famer always did his best to shut out the bigotry, but in 1938, that would prove more difficult then he could have imagined.

Author Ron Kaplan examines Greenberg’s 1938 season in incredible detail. While Greenberg was battling at the plate, the Jewish people overseas were dealing with a humanitarian crisis. Adolf Hitler had taken direct control of the country’s military in February of 1938 and then began a methodic takeover of all neighboring countries, spreading Nazism and the Holocaust.

Hank Greenberg in 1938 chronicles the events of 1938, both on the diamond and in the streets of Europe. As Greenberg took aim at Babe Ruth’s home run record, Hitler’s “Final Solution” was beginning to take shape. Jews across the United States, worried about the issues overseas, looked to Greenberg as a symbol of hope. Though normally hesitant to speak about the anti-Semitism he dealt with, Greenberg knew that he was batting for so many of his own people, particularly those living with life and death on the European continent.

The program includes a presentation in the Bullpen Theater, followed by a book signing in the Library Atrium. Presentation at 1 pm. Book signing at 1:30 pm.

For more information call (607) 547-0362.

Honorable menschen: ‘Hank Greenberg in 1938’ at Bergino

Posted on: May 5th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Had a grand old time in my return visit to the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, Jay Goldberg, proprietor, to discuss the new book, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War.

Goldberg is a real mensch and a friend to the author. He holds these “salons” frequently and the audience that shows up is always welcoming, knowledgeable, and inquisitive (if sometimes challenging in the question-and-answer portion of the program).

Happy to say it was standing room only with new friends and old ones such as Perry Barber, a professional umpire and former Jeopardy champion, and Lee Lowenfish, educator and author of several baseball books including the award-winning Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman.

Not only did we sell out of books, but I came away with some lovely parting gifts. I feel like I want to write another baseball book just so I can go back to Bergino.

You can get an idea of the festivities from this video, which for the sake of brevity (and bandwidth) edits out a lot of the great Q&A:


JML update, Games of April 11, 2017

Posted on: April 12th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

A lot of MOT-on-MOT action last night.

Alex Bregman singled twice in five at-bats, striking out the other three times. He drove in the sixth run of the game for the Houston Astros (5-2), who beat the host Seattle Mariners (2-7), 7-3. Danny Valencia was 1-for-4 for Seattle with two strikeouts.

Ryan Braun was 1-for-4 with a walk in the Milwaukee Brewers’ (3-5) 4-3 win over the host Toronto Blue Jays. Kevin Pillar has hitless in four at bats for the home team. who have lost six of their first seven games. Pillar did contribute on defense, however, charging in and laying out to rob Jesus Aguilar of a hit in the top of the eighth.

Ian Kinsler was 0-for-three with a walk as the Detroit Tigers (5-2) beat the visiting Minnesota Twins (5-2), 2-1. Craig Breslow did not appear in the game for the Twins. Originally, I thought this piece was about Kinsler being a mensch…

Scott Feldman did not appear for the Cincinnati Reds in their 6-2 win over the host Pittsburgh Pirates. The score matches the Reds’ record for the season. Joc Pederson and the LA Dodgers had the day off.

In other (former) JML news, congrats to a couple of alumni of Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic (HT to Jeff F. for these):

Image result for nate freiman, Cody decker

And meow-zal of the day:



WBC OK by me

Posted on: March 10th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Israel defeated the Netherlands at the WBC on Wednesday, 4-2. It looked like it might start as another route, with the MOTs scoring three runs in the top of the first after scoring four to begin their 15-7 win over Chinese Tai Pei on Monday. But instead it turned into a nerve-wracking. Israel needed an inning-ending double play in the eighth with the basis loaded to get out of trouble.

The win made them the first team to go 3-0 in the first round after winning in the qualifiers.

One of the highlights of the game was the mano-a-mano between 7’1″ Netherlands pitcher Loek Van Mil against 6’8″ Nate Freiman; the first baseman, shown here with teammate Sam Fuld,  came away with a walk on a full count.

Israel used nine pitchers, including winner Jason Marquis.

I think their luck just might run out: they face the always-tough Cuban team in their first contest of the second round, which will take place at the Tokyo Dome on Saturday night at 10 p.m. EST (noon in Japan, so no Shabbat worries.) After that it’s the Netherlands again on Monday at 6 a.m. / 7 p.m. and Japan on Wednesday at the same times. A tiebreaker is scheduled for Thursday.

A few items for your interest:


  • Finally, here’s a documentary that shows how the interest in Holy Land Hardball got started, courtesy of Brett Rapkin, the film’s co-director and co-writer. Here’s my review from my days at the NJ Jewish News.

The White Shadow had one Jew; did he have to be a stereotype?

Posted on: January 3rd, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Some TV shows hold up well over time, others don’t.

I recently read David Bianculli’s The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific and am currently going through TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Seitz. Both feature the seminal cop show Hill Street Blues. I happened to catch an episode the other day and marveled at how it doesn’t hold up. Mind you, this came out in the 1980s and at the time was a giant leap forward. But in retrospect, with the advent of cable TV, it is woefully lacking in good writing, good acting, and believability, IMO.

What the heck are you talking about, you might ask? What does this have to do with Jewish sports?

Well, another show of the era was The White Shadow (1978-81), about a former pro basketball player who whose career was cut short by injury. With little to fall back on, he turns to teaching in an inner-city school in Los Angeles (if I recall correctly). The team is the usual conglomeration of urban youth: Most of the team is black, with an Italian, a Mexican, and a Jew tossed in for good measure. Jewish kid is Abner Goldstein (why not just name him Jewy McJew?). He is basically a bench-warmer and is considered the outsider. He’s socially awkward, a good student, and very sensitive; I’ve even seen one source which referred to him as having Aspbergers. Even the coach seems to have no patience for the poor schlub.

Goldstein, as played by Ken Michelman, was given two episodes as the central character. One of these was “Little Orphan Abner.” You see Abner lives with his very Jewish grandparents for some reason that’s never explained. I’m not sure if they were supposed to be survivors, but the were obviously European in origin. They are decidedly old-world and old-school and very unhip but Abner, being the nice Jewish boy, doesn’t mind it at all and seems perplexed when the guys make jokes about the situation.

Abner is a “good boy” — he has Shabbos dinner every Friday night and all that stuff — but he wants to be one of the cool kids. Naturally, it doesn’t work out. From the IMDB blurb for the episode: “Goldstein’s shyness makes him the forgotten man on the team. When his grandfather takes ill, the players show him partial compassion. But only til his grandfather comes home. Goldstein must grow out of his shell and command respect.” The “partial compassion” course, everything is nearly resolved within the 48-minute confines of the show. Here, watch it for yourself.

My main problem is, why can’t a Jew be cool? Why does he have to wear glasses, live a quiet life, be the brunt of jokes because he loves his family? Why can’t a Jew be the star of the team and get the girl? To be fair, Goldstein did end up joining the Marines in the Season Two finale, turning down a scholarship. But even so, did they have to make him such a nebbish?

The same thing could be said for another portrayal of a Jewish athlete: Rudi Stein. You may or may not recall him from the original Bad News Bears. Like Goldstein, he was an outcast on a whole team of outcasts. This kid was basically the guy who kept the score book. Because he was such a poor batter, his coach ordered him to get hit by a pitch in order to get on base. Needless to say, Stein didn’t appreciate his role.

On the other hand, there were a couple of Jewish athletes who were actually good. There was an episode of the old Bill Cosby show, where he played a phys ed teacher in — wait for it — an inner city school in Los Angeles. In one episode he was the coach of another lousy youth baseball team. A new kid who just moved to town joins and is immediately the star. The problem is that he’s Jewish and can’t play in the games because they take place on Saturdays. Here, the life lesson is, there are more important things than sports. (I wrote about that episode a few years ago.)

Pass the popcorn: On the Map

Posted on: December 9th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

I was an early adopter of this documentary about the Israeli National Basketball Team in 1977 over the overwhelming favorite, the mighty USSR. Here’s the article I wrote about a fundraiser for the film earlier this year.

Here’s the review from the Wall Street Journal, which is generally positive. I must say I was not thrilled with the NY Times review. Maybe it’s because I’m too close to the topic, but I found it a bit snarky. The critic asks “How much do you want to know about European basketball?” Kind of snarky, IMO. It was a major landmark for Israel, if not the rest of the world, so shut up.

The Olympic spirit, movie division

Posted on: August 18th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Esquire  posted this piece on Gold, Silver, and Bronze-medal “winning” sports films. I’m sure there are some you feel deserve consideration that didn’t make their grad. Enjoy.

(P.S. – None of these selections have any Jewish content, unless you consider Rudy Stein in Bad News Bears or Ira Lowenstein in League.)

“One of the great moments in the history of baseball”

Posted on: May 11th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Those of you who have been reading this blog or the Baseball Bookshelf know I hate hyperbole. The use of word’s like “greatest” or “Best” or phrases like “changed the game forever” drive me nuts.

But in this case, I would agree.

In case you’re unfamiliar with him, Bartolo Colon, a 43-year-old pitcher for the NY Mets, is the kind of guy who makes every fan say, “Look at him. I can do what he does.” Colon — who is listed at 5’11” and 285 pounds — looks like Jabba the Hut in baseball clothes.

But here’s no denying his talents on the mound. You don’t get to pitch this long without skilzzzz. Colon recently passed Pedro Martinez on the list for career wins by a pitcher from the Dominican Republic. He is a three-time All Star and won the A.L. Cy Young Award in 2005. And he’s amazingly agile “for a big guy.”

One thing Colon is not is a hitter. He sports a lifetime batting average of .092 (21-228) but it’s not for lack of trying. He takes some of the most entertaining swings in the game. As Ron Darling says in the  video below, there aren’t many guys who get cheers for hitting a foul ball.

But then there was this on Saturday:

Is there anyone who isn’t smiling about this? I love Gary Cohen losing his damned mind on the radio call. And he’s right: This was one of the greatest moments in the history of the game. I’m just waiting for Weird Al Yankovic to come out with “The Legend of Bartolo.”

Understandably, there has been a lot written about this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence:

Theo Epstein, Peter Gammons hold annual fundraiser

Posted on: January 6th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Brought to you as a public service announcement…

The legendary baseball writer/broadcaster Peter Gammons was on the segment preceding my appearance on the MLB Network’s Hot Stove last week. One of the things he discussed was this upcoming music event for charity.

Gammons, an avid guitar player, is getting ready for the 16th Theo Epstein and Peter Gammons’ Hot Stove Cool Music program, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 9, at The Paradise Rock Club in Boston.  Tickets are $40 and you can order them here.

The event brings together stars of music and baseball to raise money for Foundation To Be Named Later, a charity established in 2005 by Theo Epstein’s twin brother Paul, a Brookline social worker, which helps to serve disadvantaged youth in Boston and Chicago.

This year’s lineup includes a mix of former Red Sox players, Yankees players, musicians, and television personalities, including Bronson Arroyo, Kevin Youkilis, and Jake Peavy.

Here’s a promo for the 2014 event.

And a sample of Gammons on guitar. He released a music CD — Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old — in 2006 (you can hear audio clips by clicking the link).



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