Archive for the ‘Jewish sports media’ Category


Lest we forget: Ray Robinson

Posted on: November 2nd, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Ray Robinson was among the last of his generation of sportswriters and authors. I had the pleasure of speaking with him on several occasions in my capacity as sports editor for the NJ Jewish News. He passed away yesterday at the age of 96.

Among his many books, Robinson published High and Tight: Hank Greenberg Confronts Anti-Semitism in Baseball in 2012.

Marty Appel, shown with Robinson (right) at the dedication of a plaque at Lou Gehrig’s birthplace, was kind enough to allow me to use his tribute, posted on Facebook yesterday.

A special friend….and a New York treasure, author/editor Ray Robinson passed away at 5 pm today at New York Hospital, a day after suffering a stroke at his apartment on East 90th Street, where he lived for 63 years. As some of you may recall, his wife Phyllis died on March 13 at 92. Ray’s devotion to her care as she suffered through Alzheimer’s Disease was perhaps his finest hour. They were married for 68 years. Ray would have turned 97 on December 4.

Ray was sharp to the end, and he looked forward to every phone call that kept his mind alert and active. Loved to talk politics, media, and of course, baseball. He was a Columbia graduate and graduation day was the day Lou Gehrig died in 1941. Gehrig was special to him — he met Lou, and wrote a classic biography of him, as well as books about Knute Rockne, Will Rogers, Yankee Stadium, Christy Mathewson, Tim McCarver, and many more. He was the editor of the great annual paperback, “Baseball Stars of 19XX” which were must-have books back in the day. There, he employed the likes of Jimmy Breslin, Dick Schaap, George Vecsey, Al Silverman, Arnold Hano, Al Silverman, Charles Einstein, and many more – often for $20 an article! He was, improbably, the editor of Seventeen and Good Housekeeping magazines for many years, as well as the long defunct Pageant and Coronet.

He was an EIGHT DECADE author, published from the 1940s to the 2010s. He did an ebook on baseball and US Presidents in this decade. Everyone wanted a column from him each year on Gehrig — he was in the bleachers on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day in 1939. (He probably wrote a dozen Gehrig guest columns for the Times). He was on the Board of Directors for the New York (Lou Gehrig) Chapter of the ALS Association.

I knew him for some 45 years. We used to have lunch at Billy’s (no longer there) on First Avenue. He was a vital part of our monthly “Larry Ritter Lunch Group” which is now in its 26th year and we have met in recent years near his home — so he wouldn’t be away from Phyllis for long. Otherwise he was always happy to walk to wherever we met.

We did events at Columbia together and attended a plaque dedication at Lou Gehrig’s birthplace some years ago. Ray was old enough to have lived through and experienced the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, World War II, the Kennedy assassination, a few more wars, 18 presidents, and the computer/internet age (which he managed to ignore, still working his typewriter).

I take pleasure in believing that there were no questions I neglected to ask him. Remarkable to get first hand accounts of almost everything that has mattered in the US for the last century.

Bob Costas texted me today: “What a life. What a good man.”

Ray and Phyllis had three children – Nancy, Tad and Steve ….. plus his family of admirers who had the pleasure of his company on a monthly basis — at least — for all these years.

Lest we forget: Al Picker

Posted on: June 1st, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Al Picker, right, with fellow Hall of Famer Justin Gimmelstob

Al Picker, the veteran tennis writer for the Star-Ledger, passed away last Friday at the age of 84.

He was one of that generation of writers that includes Jerry Izenberg and the late Syd Dorfman — Picker’s contemporaries at the Star-Ledger — and Shirley Povich of the Washington Post, guys who covered the sports beat for more than a half-century. We shall not see their like again.

Here’s an article from TennisNow.com when he was named to the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame and the whole obit from the Star-Ledger.


Is sabermetrics really that much of an improvement?

Posted on: April 5th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

http://www.insightsquared.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/9780393338393_custom-155b6750c08f9ced4913d696ca6cf11650974b21-s6-c30.jpgThe  new normal in baseball literature is to publish something — anything — that pushes baseball analytics as the only logical way to assemble a team.  Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Gamemay may have been the first “official” book to address the concept, but there have been several since its 2003 publication that apply that philosophy to other teams, including

Now we have books that purport that a version of Moneyball has been around a looong time, including Murray Klein’s brand new Stealing Games: How John McGraw Transformed Baseball with the 1911 New York Giants. This has become a whole cottage industry as writers seek to retrospectively glom on to the topic’s popularity.

http://www.murraychass.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Baseball-Prospectus-225.pngBut is all this math really any more reliable? Not according to that famous iconoclast former NY Times baseball writer and Hall of Fame Spink Awardee Murray  Chass. The man deemed a “dinosaur” by many contemporary (read, younger) sportswriters, Chass recently published “PERCOTA Performs Poorly” on his website in which he points out, among other things, “For the 2015 season, PECOTA projected correctly the final place standing of eight National League teams but missed on all 15 American League teams. In terms of number of wins for each team, PECOTA was off by an average of 8.7 wins per team.” (I haven’t read BP in a while,so I’m going to take his word that his math is correct).

These books represent another cottage industry and I’ve always wondered who the main audience is? (Encyclopedia of Baseball Statistics: From A to Zr immediately comes to mind.) Can fanciers of fantasy baseball really be that hard core that they refer to these in planning their teams?

People of the book, starring Howard Megdal

Posted on: March 4th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Took one of my rare trips into the jungles of Manhattan to see Howard Megdal, he of the new book The Cardinals Way: How One Team Embraced Tradition and Moneyball at the Same Time at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse.

It’s always great to reconnect with old friends. Jay Goldberg, Bergino’s congenial owner/event host is always kind to his guests, taking the time to note authors that have had events in his establishment who might be in attendance. Last night’s group included Lee Lowenfish, winner of Spitball’s Casey Award for his 2007 biography Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman; Greg Prince, whose  new book —  Amazin’ Again: How the 2015 New York Mets Brought the Magic Back to Queenscomes out March 15; and myself.

In addition to Cardinals, Megdal1Megdal — the busiest man in journalism (he writes for more print and on-line publications than I can track) — is also author of all The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-by-Position Ranking of Baseball’s Chosen Players; Taking the Field: A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves; and the e-book Wilpon’s Folly: The Story of a Man, His Fortune, and the New York Mets.

On a more personal note, Megdal was responsible for my gig as a talking head on the PBS screening of Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story a few years back and Skyhorse asking me to do my book on the Maccabiah Games.

If my wife and I had another kid, I might have had to make Megdal the godfather.


Can’t we all just get along?

Posted on: January 5th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

The Baseball Hall of Fame will shortly announce who, if any, of the gents on the current ballot will be measured for a new plaque. Forget the animus towards the players —  I have never witnessed the bad feelings that have been expressed recently between the writers.

https://nbchardballtalk.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/murray-chass.jpg?w=610&h=343&crop=1Most of this comes towards landsman Murray Chass, the former New York Times baseball writer and HoF Spink Award winner in 2003. From the Hall’s page:

Murray Chass was a pioneer in the coverage of business and labor issues within baseball. A former New York Yankees beat writer who helped set the standard in print journalism for the position of national baseball writer, he has covered baseball for more than 43 years.

Chass left the Times in 2008,one of the victims of contract buyouts which plagued the paper, and the newspaper industry at large.

One of his pet peeves has always been bloggers. I believe he believes most, if not all, of us (them?) are not true journalists, but merely parrots, jumping on scraps and regurgitating them without doing any actually investigative work.

He has also come down against sabermetrics, for the most part, suggesting the obsession with new-fangled numbers takes some of the joy away from the game. Needless to say, those who are of that ilk consider Chass a dinosaur. And that’s not a casual usage here; much of this is a generational thing. Some younger writers have taken him to task in humiliating and hurtful fashion. Others, like Jesse Spector in this Sporting News piece, are a bit more respectful. Author Allen Barra wrote in the Village Voice in 2011

For nearly 40 years, Chass was one of the best — arguably the best — writers and reporters on baseball in the country. In 2003, he was award the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the highest honor the Baseball Writers Association of America can give. It was richly deserved.

Let me say now that I don’t like Chass. I find him rude and abrasive, and every time I have contacted him on a professional matter I found him to be difficult and truculent.

But if I’d had a vote in the Spink Award, I would have voted for him. I’ve never ceased to read him, even when I think he’s wrong — and when you’ve written as long as Chass had, you’re simply going to be wrong about some things.

I have had a number of conversations with Chass and he’s been nothing but cordial to me so it’s difficult not to want to come to his defense even when I agree with the “anti-” people that his opinions can also be a bit mean-spirited, as when he compared critics of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to ISIS which prompted this tweet from ESPN writer Dan SzymborskiDan_Szymborski_on_Twitter_Murray_Chass_is_the_Donald_Trump_of_baseball_journalism._That_may_actually_be_too_unfair_to_Trump_._-_2016-01-05_12.26.43which in turn prompted this piece from Chass, which includes the following:

Is anyone here familiar with the name Dan Szymborski? Does anybody know Dan Szymborski? Has anyone ever spoken to or communicated in any way with Dan Szymborski? Does anyone know why Dan Szymborski hates me?

Good question. Chass goes on

I had not seen his comments about me because unlike Szymborski, I do not use Twitter. I leave tweeting to the twits. But my grandson researched Szymborski’s comments and came up with these:

* That he was *ever employed as a journalist is just embarrassing.

* Murray Chass hired to be on next ‘Survivor’ but it turns out to be just a ruse to leave him on an abandoned Pacific island. #2014hopes

* And yes, Murray Chass was given a Spink award. Which is like Jenny McCarthy getting the Nobel Prize for Medicine

* Some of the bad sportswriters can at least claim to be decent *writers*. Chass writes like a third-grader.

* Every spink award winner except chass should get a second one. insulting to tell writers they are of equal honor to murray chass.

Such rants invite continuous rebuttals, which are similarly uncivil. (That’s how the Hatfields and McCoys got started with their famous feud.)

Supporters for both men seem to fall, again, along generational/professional lines, with bloggers and younger folk siding with the 38-year-old Szymborski and more veteran (read, older) writers aligning with Chass, at least when it comes to such personal attacks.

Come on, boys. It’s a new year. Can’t well all just get along?



Jewish Sports Heritage Association Announces Awards for 2015

Posted on: January 12th, 2015 by Ron Kaplan

Jewish Sports Heritage Association, a not-for-profit education organization dedicated to educating the public about the role Jewish men and women have played in sports, an area of Jewish accomplishment often overlooked, recently announced the First Annual Jewish Sports Heritage Association Awards.

“These men and women will show the public what Jews can achieve in sports,” said Alan Freedman, director of Jewish Sports Heritage Association, “and at the same time we hope will break down existing stereotypes about religious and ethnic groups.”

The awards:

The Helene Hines Courage AwardHelene Hines, a lifelong New Yorker, ran 27 marathons until MS took its toll on her, and now uses a wheelchair full time. Hines has won the hand-cycle category of the N.Y. Marathon and Boston Marathon several times.  She is the 2015 recipient of this award.

The Dr. Bruno Lambert Good Guy Award — named in memory of Bruno Lambert, physician, healer, athlete, and patriot. This years’ award recipient is Craig Breslow, major league pitcher. Breslow founded “The Strike 3 Foundation” in 2008 in order to heighten awareness, mobilize support, and raise funds for childhood cancer research. At age 14, Craig’s sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. More than 15 years later, she lives an unrestricted life as a cancer survivor. Breslow graduated from Yale as a molecular biophysics and biochemistry major in 2005 and he became the first Bulldog to reach the majors since Ron Darling. He currently pitches for the Red Sox.

The Lifetime Achievement AwardDavid Stern and Bud Selig. Stern began his career with the NBA as General Counsel and was soon named the league’s fourth commissioner. He wasted no time turning the NBA into the world’s premier sports league. Stern’s 30 year run as commissioner saw the game experience tremendous growth across all sectors, turning the NBA into a global phenomenon. Selig was the ninth commissioner of baseball, having served in that capacity since 1992 (acting commissioner). Selig oversaw baseball through the 1994 strike, the introduction of the wild card, interleague play, and the merging of the National League and American Leagues under the Office of the Commissioner. Selig introduced revenue sharing and he is credited with the financial turnaround of baseball.

Marty Glickman Broadcaster of the YearTony Kornheiser, co-host of Pardon The Interruption on ESPN since 2001, and he has hosted The Tony Kornheiser Show on radio in various forms since 2002, is the recipient of this award. In 2012, Kornheiser was ranked number 8 in the list of 100 most important sports talk radio hosts in America by Talkers Magazine.

The Sportswriter of the Year AwardJoel Sherman, sports columnist at the New York Post, began working at UPI in 1984. He joined the Post in 1989, serving as the beat writer for the Yankees from 1989-95 and has been the baseball columnist ever since. Sherman was chair of the N.Y. chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America from 1997-98, after serving as vice-chair the previous two years. He has served on several national committees for the BBWAA.

The Mike Freedman Outstanding High School Athlete of the Year (male & female) – Mike Freedman was an outstanding high school soccer player, as well as a wrestler and baseball player).

Benjamin Cohen, a student at Phillips Exeter Academy, who has been rowing since 2012. He finished 10th in the four at the 2014 World Rowing Junior Championships; 13th in the youth four with coxswain at the 2013 Head of the Charles Regatta. Cohen finished 1st in the eight at the 2013 New England Interscholastic Rowing Association Championships. He is currently the All-School President at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Jemima Montag, an Australian, is a race walker who won the Under-10, 11-, 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old state race walk titles. At the time of the World Cup of race Walking in China in 2014, Montag qualified with a  best time of 47 minutes 00 seconds in the 10km race, at the time ranking her 6th in the world in the under age 20 category. She teamed with fellow Australian Clara Smith to win a team bronze medal and became the first Australian females to achieve a World Cup medal.

The Jay Fiedler Outstanding College Athlete of the Year Award (male & female) named in honor of Oceanside native, Dartmouth College graduate, and former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler.

Emily Sklar, an All-ACC volleyball player at Duke University. The 6’3” Sklar was named AVCA All-America honorable mention and AVCA All-East Coast Region honors. She led the team in 2014 in kills, kills per set, and service aces. In high school, Skalr was named the 2011 California Gatorade Player of the Year.

Chase Buchholz, a sophomore at Harvard University, is a member of the U.S. Rowing Men’s Four; he finished eighth in the double sculls at the 2012 World Rowing Senior and Junior Championships. Buchholz won the single sculls and the quadruple sculls at the 2013 U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships. He won the double sculls at the 2012 U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships.

The Jewish Sports Heritage Association awards will be announced in the Spring issue of Jewish Sports Heritage magazine and on the Jewish Sports Heritage Association website.

Mazel tov, Ian Eagle

Posted on: January 17th, 2014 by Ron Kaplan

The peripatetic Eagle was recently named New York Sportscaster of the Year.

From the Albany Times-Union:

Ian Eagle, voice of the Brooklyn Nets for YES Network and an NFL play-by-play announcer for CBS, was selected as New York Sportscaster of the Year, also a first-time honor of him.

Eagle, 45, also calls Thursday night NFL games for Westwood One Radio. A graduate of Syracuse, he also does college basketball and the NCAA Tournament for CBS.

The Media Circus blog on SI.com gave Eagle — a resident of West Caldwell, NJ — and Dan Fouts an honorable mention for their work as a broadcast team (NFL). And this Dec. 13  Grantland piece on “How to Survive Bad Basketball” gave him kudos as well.

Eagle is not only among the best, if not the best, play-by-play men in the business, he’s also the best blowout play-by-play man. He never lets the dark tendrils of despair and disappointment mar his impeccable delivery. His ability to turn on the sportscaster-excitement-voice jets for big plays by the opposing team never flags. And when his team is finally beaten, he pitches his voice to just the right frequency to convey the seriousness of the loss without any hint of personal frustration. Ian Eagle is the Terminator of NBA broadcasters.


Sports Illustrated ran this item on Eagle in their NBA preview issue and the New York Post published this tribute, marking his 20th anniversary with the Nets, in October.

I first met Eagle a few years back when the Nets — then still in New Jersey — had a Jewish heritage thing. He was kind enough to come down and spend a few minutes with me for the story. Since then, he’s never been to busy to help out with requests for help or a quote for an article. The kids who attend the summer broadcasting camp he hosts with Bruce Beck, another award-winning sportscaster with Jersey roots, couldn’t have a better example of how to do the job with class.

Mazel tov, Ian.


Let the voting analysis begin, beginning with Dan Le Batard

Posted on: January 9th, 2014 by Ron Kaplan

Hall VoteCongrats to the newest electees to the Hall of Fame — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas. But shed a tear for Craig Biggio, who missed joining them by two votes.

At least one potential vote is attributed to that genius who declined to vote for anyone on the who played in the PED era, whether they actually used, were accused of using, or happened to be in proximity of someone who was.

Then there’s Dan Le Batard, who must have gone through life with a couple of nicknames now considered politically incorrect but nevertheless come to mind right now. Depending on your point of view he showed a) courage; b) a lack of judgement, or c) a lack of respect when he “sold” his soul vote to Deadspin, a supposedly humorous sports site devoted to knocking icons and institutions of their pedestals (which, admittedly, is not always a bad thing).

Le Batard tries to defend himself by saying he did this as a protest against the “sanctimonious” voting procedure, that he was making a statement.

I don’t have a lot of experience with Le Batard. I first saw him as a fill-in host on Pardon the Interruption and was unimpressed. I thought he was unfunny and sort of obnoxious. Given his stiffness, I was surprised to learn he had his own radio and TV shows. Nor have I read his stuff on anything close to a regular basis. But I know there are many sportscasters looking to boost their Q scores by taking ridiculous stances for the publicity, which makes them even more obnoxious to me.

I wonder if his defenders and detractors fall along generational lines, the younger ones getting his back, the older ones taking the “how dare you” stance.

Pardon the Interruption took Le Batard to task for his folly, attributing it in part to his rampant egomania. It was the second topic on yesterday’s program, following the news about Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas (about the 3:30 mark).

My beloved Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon continued to express their displeasure and disappointment as guests on Le Batard’s radio show so he (Le Batard) could remain in the spotlight, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. I wish there was a transcript for this for sake of ease, but I encourage you to listen to the segment linked above.

Le Batard said he has been banging his head against the virtual wall for a long time, but no one was listening (as if he’s the dean of baseball writers and deserving of such gravitas), so this is how he decided to make his stand. He tries to make this the French revolution with him as the lone voice of reason against an oppressive regime. At least that’s my interpretation.

At least Deadspin voted for Biggio; it would have been a real travesty if that had been the second ballot that left off his name.

Surprisingly, the Baseball Writers Association of America, whose members vote for the HoF elections, declined to comment, at least at this point.

HBO documentary hails sportscaster Marty Glickman

Posted on: August 29th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

From Joe Winkler/JTA:

Here Glickman (left) and Stoller train aboard the ship <i>Manhattan</i> on their way to Berlin. July 1936.

Glickman (left) and Stoller train aboard the ship Manhattan on their way to Berlin. July 1936.

In 1936, despite calls for a boycott of the Olympics in Nazi-controlled Germany, 18-year-old Jewish track phenom Marty Glickman wanted to show Hitler that Jews could compete.

The Brooklyn native had made the U.S. team and was slated to run the 400-meter relay race, but was pulled along with Sam Stoller, the other Jewish team member, a day before the race.

American officials claimed the decision stemmed not from considerations of religion but for athletic reasons. U.S. coaches claimed to believe the Germany was hiding its best sprinters for the 400-meter relay and said they needed their top runners to compete.

Jesse Owens, a black athlete and the world’s fastest man at the time, urged the coach to let Stoller and Glickman run, to no avail. No secret German runners were used and the American team easily won the race led by Owens, who won four gold medals at the ‘36 Games, refuting Hitler’s claim of Aryan racial superiority. It would be more than a half-century before he received a formal apology for the slight.T

The story of how the man once known as the “Flatbush Flash” went from hometown hero to media sensation, then to legendary and beloved broadcaster, is the subject of Glickman, an HBO documentary which showcases his magnetism, first through his ascendancy as a competitor, then as a transformative broadcaster who brought a populist appeal to his reporting.

As one of the first regular broadcasters of basketball games, Glickman — who died in 2001 from complications following heart surgery at the age of 83 — would watch tapes endlessly until he came up with the jargon now widely used to describe the game. Lane, top of the circle, the wing, the key, the elbow and, most famously, swish — all coined by Glickman.

Glickman also paved the way for today’s 24-hour coverage of the sports world. He convinced HBO to cover not only the championship rounds of events such as Wimbledon, but also earlier matches, a strategy that was hugely successful for HBO and other sports networks at the time.

Using archival material, quotes from Glickman’s autobiography, and recordings of Glickman, the film weaves together a loving tribute to a Jewish role model who gave his life to sports and to fostering a sense of confidence among amateur athletes through

Glickman retired from broadcasting in 1992 and was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and finally the New York Hall of Fame for his work.

Editor’s Note: You can check listings, but I know HBO is airing the program today at 4:30 NJ-time.

Here’s the official trailer:

In this clip, Glickman talks briefly about the ’36 Olympics:


SABR Rattling

Posted on: July 31st, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Taking off a couple of days to attend the Society for American Baseball Research annual shindig, which runs from today through Sunday in Philadelphia.

I’ve been a SABR member for about 30 years now and walk the middle ground between too much numbers crunching and too-esoteric history. The organization puts out some terrific publications, including two annuals (The National Pastime and Baseball Research Journal) as well as several stand-alone titles, most recently a series of “team biographies” concentrating on single seasons for ballclubs like the 1970 Baltimore Orioles and 1964 St. Louis Cardinals, among others.

I notice in the program lists a Catholic Mass on Sunday morning, but no such “accommodation” for Jewish services on Saturday. Just sayin’. I’m guessing there are a fair number of Jewish SABRen. (The closest thing they have to that seems to be an evening program tomorrow:

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” special film extras
We are pleased to host a special screening of never-before-seen film extras from The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg at SABR 43 in Philadelphia with filmmaker Aviva Kempner and SABR member John Rosengren, who has just published a new biography on the Hall of Fame slugger. The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg special edition gives a lively history of the golden age of baseball. From the early days of Hank Greenberg to his days in the front office, the special edition DVD provides viewers with a humorous and historical account of baseball in its purest days. The film extras include more interviews with Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, Harry Eisenstat, and more. The crown jewel of the added footage is a never-before-heard interview with Ted Williams.

Self-promotion alert: I’ll be signing copies of 501 Baseball Books during the conference. Just in case you want to drop by.

Shalom, y’all.


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