Archive for the ‘Required reading’ Category


Korner Review: The Jewish Baseball Card Book

Posted on: November 27th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the Jewish sports fan, you can’t do much better than The Jewish Baseball Card Book, by Bob Wechsler.

Image result for the jewish baseball card bookBased on the popular Jewish card sets produced by Martin Abramowitz (who helped on the project along with Peter McDonald), this coffee table edition features photos and brief stories about every JML from Lipman Pike through Alex Bregman, presented by the year of the athlete’s debut.

You might remember Wechsler from his previous contribution to the religion’s sports library, Day by Day in Jewish Sports History. He does his usual great job of mining for little gold nuggets in the genre. (Full disclosure: he’s one of my go-to guys whenever I have a question about an athlete’s identity or other Jewish-related sports puzzlers.)

As you might imagine, it’s hard to find cards for many of these MOTs, especially those who barely had a cup of instant coffee in the big leagues. That’s what makes this volume stand out. In addition to the pages on “regular” Jews, the writers have included a section on “Jews by Choice,” which includes such notables names as Elliot Maddox and Joel Horlen, among others.. There’s also a chapter on Jews who have appeared in Topps regular sets, along with the numbers of their cards, a sort of checklist without the standard checking part.

Even rarer than Jews on American baseball cards? Jews on sets produced in foreign countries. That’s here, too, along with the beloved “error cards” that usually have the wrong photo attributed to a player.

The book concludes with a checklist of cards issued prior to 1988. Why that date? Because that’s when the industry exploded, with several companies competing for the collectors’ dollars, making the undertaking of finding every single card a bit more arduous.

All in all, this is a must-have for those who love the very narrow theme. Remember, Hanukka is just around the corner.

Check out Peter Ephross’ recent article in Tablet. He tells a more sentimental story than my “just-the-facts” rendering. Ephross was the editor of Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players. There’s also this from the Jewish Baseball Museum and this one from JewishBaseballNews.com.



Jewish Sports Review review

Posted on: September 26th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Image result for jewish sports reviewAs I mentioned in the previous entry, recently received the latest issue of JSR which includes:

  • College Football Previews (D-I, II, and III)
  • NFL Preview
  • Pro Hockey Review (2016-17)
  • College Soccer Reviews (men and women)
  • Sports Shorts
  • A recap of the 2017 Maccabiah Games
  • A list of women’s top performances in track& field

The Jewish Sports Review is a must for any true fan of, well, Jewish sports and is only available in print edition. I keep hoping that will change. Can you imagine an outlet that keeps track of these people and issues on a daily basis? If you look at an issue and see how many athletes that would include, you’d understand what a Samson-ish undertaking that would be. I tried to make Kaplan’s Korner that kind of source when I was working at the NJ Jewish News (did I mention it was named blog of the year by the New Jersey Press Association in 2015?), but since that was only a portion of my job description, it was impractical. These days it’s even more difficult, since I actually have to work for a living now.

For further information about JSR, call 310-838-6626 or send an e-mail to shel@jewishsportsreview.com.

Jewish Sports Review review

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

The Jewish sports fan’s best friend arrived recently: The January/February issue of the Jewish Sports Review.

Among the topics covered:

  • http://jewishsportsreview.com/images/jsr.jpgA hockey preview, including the NHL, minor, Canadian and European League, as well as men’s and women’s hockey. It’s interesting to note that the editors continue to list Washington Capitals’ left-winger Andre Burakovsky. Your might remember from previous entries on the Korner that there’s been a bit of “identity crisis” over his inclusion.
  • JSR‘s women’s and men’s college All-America soccer teams for Di and D2 and 3 schools.
  • Jews in professional basketball for 2016-17, including Jews playing international basketball professionally and foreign Jews playing in Israel.
  • Sports shorts, a hodge-podge of snippets of Jewish sports news.
  • A list of Jewish athletes enshrined in American sports Halls of Fame.
  • A Jews in Sports quiz by Neil Keller

I can’t think of a better gift for the hard core sports enthusiasts. So why not get them a subscription? Six bi-monthly issues full of information you won’t find anywhere else for $36. For more, visit Jewishsportsreview.com.


Double standards

Posted on: March 9th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Or “Fool me once, shame on you…”

On Monday, Maria Sharapova, arguably one of the greatest stars  on the women’s tennis circuit, announced that she had been taking Meldonium, “a drug originally developed in Latvia for heart patients that aids blood flow and is not approved for sale in the United States,” according to a March 8 New York Times story by Christopher Clarey and Mike Tierney.

Sharapova has been taking Meldonium since 2006. The drug has been recently banned by tennis’ governing body.

The 28-year-old Sharapova admitted using the drug and took “full responsibility.”

Many of the companies which had signed her to lucrative endorsement deals dropped her like a dink shot over the net. According to a story in the business section of today’s Times, Nike, Porsche, and TAG Heuer have either suspended her as a spokesperson or will not renew negotiations for future deals.


As soon as I started the article, I wondered if they would be doing this for a male tennis star in the same situation.  Asked and answered:

Nike has also stood by other athletes in their times of trouble, most notably Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant. Nike signed an endorsement deal with the quarterback Michael Vick in 2011 after he had served time in prison for his involvement in a dogfighting operation. (The company had dropped him in 2007, but only after he admitted in court papers that he funded the dogfighting ring and helped kill dogs that were underperforming.)

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-lqatJyG8eMM/UDVzsKZtsCI/AAAAAAAAEoM/pC_DIwet8OA/s1600/Sugarpova%2Bmaria%2Bsharapova.jpegPart of my questioning of their the motives had to do with Sharapova’s portrayal as a glamorous (read “sexy“) persona. She has appeared as a swimsuit model in at least a couple of publications. I mean, she’s 28! Over the hill!

Sure enough, later in today’s Times piece:

The rush by companies to distance themselves immediately from Ms. Sharapova is perhaps a product of social media, where outrage spreads like wildfire. (It could also have something do with the fact that Ms. Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, is past the prime of her career and her marketing power may be waning.)

Waning marketing power? Hmm, I wonder what that means?

So who will be the face of women’s tennis now? Serena Williams? Sure she has a lot of deals, at least in the U.S., but nowhere near the international branding as Sharapova. And why do you think that is? Some will point to her figure, which pre-body-shaming shamers characterized as too powerful (read “less feminine”). Others, even more troubling, might speak in code about her race (which creates a triple standard?). Read this! Not that anyone should cry over $13 million, but when Sharapova, who can’t seem to beat Williams much on the court, beats her at the bank by $10 million…


On another double standard note that deals with race and class: compare Sharapova’s situation with the lifetime ban that Major League Baseball imposed on NY Mets reliever Jenrry (pronounced “Henry”) Mejia for violating the sport’s drug policy for a third time. In an article by Ben Berkon in the Times, Mejia claimed he was being excessively punished because he dared challenge a previous suspension.

Mejia said that baseball officials told him that if he appealed the punishment for the second doping offense, “they will find a way to find a third positive,” Mejia, who is from the Dominican Republic, said through an interpreter. “I felt there was a conspiracy against me. I feel that they were trying to find something to bring me down in my career.” [My emphasis]

Reporters often note when a foreign player is speaking through an interpreter (although they rarely identify the specific country). Sometimes I feel this is a fallback position in case something “gets lost in the translation,” as the saying goes. I also believe such a disclaimer can serve to fuel xenophobia, with sports pundits observing that foreign-born players, especially from Latin America, often don’t “get” the “right way” to play “America’s game.” (See Yasiel Puig).

Regardless of race or place of birth, how often have we heard an athlete claim he had done nothing wrong or didn’t know what he was taking or that was clean? Even Ryan Braun fell into this trap, firmly stating his innocence and blaming the driver of the truck that delivered his samples for the positive test results. And you know how that turned out.



You want to believe, but time and again you’re disappointed (see Lance Armstrong.)

Anyway, I expect over the next few days we’ll be hearing more about this from people more eloquent and qualified to offer opinion than I.



Super Bowl suggestions for the People of the Book

Posted on: February 4th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Is it just me, or has there not been the usual clamor over the Super Bowl this year, despite the fact that it’s the 50th time this event game has been played? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the teams aren’t exactly local. Yeah, they try to make something out of the rivalry between the old guard in the person of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and new generation QB Cam Newton for the Carolina Panthers. There was also the racial element introduced by Newton that IMO was a bit silly, unless I’m just too innocent to live. Is it still an thing in terms of African-American signal-callers? Yes, Newton does a lot of things few QBs have ever done before. But if a white quarterback had his size and strength and skills, you don’t think he would be doing the same things? It reminds me of the reverse-racism when it came top Larry Bird being one of the few dominant Caucasian players in the NBA.

Because this is Super Bowl 50 — not Super Bowl L (the first time since the fourth such contest that the game has not been expressed in roman numerals) — it’s kind of a big deal, with lots of historical commemoration going around.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51RB1hAE6%2BL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgHarvey Frommer published When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. It’s a combination narrative and oral history, but not just about that one game between the Green Bay Backers and Kansas City Chiefs, but the events leading up to that meeting. I found the recollections of how the media covered the event particularly interesting. Did you know it was aired on two TV networks? (I would love to see a book just on that: the behind the scenes machinations, planning, and fretting that went on as the networks and advertisers struggled to bring this to air.)

Here are a couple of suggestions for required readings, written by a couple of my favorite landsmen.

Frommer — whose sports books includes Remembering Yankee Stadium, New York City Baseball: The Golden Age, 1947-1957, and Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier, among many others (not to mention It Happened in the Catskills: An Oral History in the Words of Busboys, Bellhops, Guests, Proprietors, Comedians, Agents, and Others, written with his wife, Myrna) — combines just the right amount of his own research with the words of those who were there. And not only the players, because they were just one segment of the participants. Coaches, team and league officials, media, and even family members share their memories as well.

You can read an excerpt of When It Was Just a Game here.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51IPLozaTfL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgJerry Izenberg, the veteran sportswriter for the Star-Ledger and other outlets, was there for SB1. Some of his recollections appear in Frommer’s work. Izenberg published Rozelle: A Biography in 2014. While obviously not wholly about the Super Bowl, Pete Rozelle, who was appointed NFL Commissioner in 1960, was an integral part of creating what many considered the biggest sporting event in the world (the dust jacket for Rozelle, features the subject in the background, dwarfed by a Super Bowl trophy). Those interested in backstory would do well to pick up a copy of this one.

More Super Bowl reading suggestions:

And finally (jump to the 2:20 mark):

You’re welcome.


Remember, Hanukka comes early this year

Posted on: October 7th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Like “Light the menora at your Thanksgiving feast”-early.

So it’s not too soon to think about gifts for that baseball book fan on your list. Might I suggest (in addition to 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die, which is perfect for off-season reading-by-the-fireside), the new Sports Illustrated Baseball’s Greatest. As one has come to expect, this coffee-table edition is full of great photos and fun facts, a number of which is sure to start conversations, if not flat-out arguments.

Italian cyclist Gino Bartali recognized as righteous gentile

Posted on: September 24th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

From the JTA:

Yad Vashem posthumously recognized the Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali as Righteous Among the Nations.

The Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem said in a statement Monday that during the German occupation of Italy beginning in September 1943, “Bartali, a devout Catholic, was part of a rescue network spearheaded by Rabbi Nathan Cassuto of Florence together with the Archbishop of Florence Cardinal Elia Angelo Dalla Costa,” who has been recognized as a righteous gentile.

The Jewish-Christian network, Yad Vashem said, “saved hundreds of local Jews and Jewish refugees from territories which had previously been under Italian control, mostly in France and Yugoslavia.”

Bartali, who died in 2000 at 85, had acted as a courier for the network, according to Yad Vashem, “secreting forged documents and papers in his bicycle and transporting them between cities, all under the guise of training.”

It added, “Knowingly risking his life to rescue Jews, Bartali transferred falsified documents to various contacts, among them Rabbi Cassuto.”

The decision to recognize Bartali was based in part on testimony obtained and published by the Italian Jewish monthly Pagine Ebraica, including from a man, Giorgio Golderberg, who said Bartali had hidden him and his parents in his cellar.

The recognition drew an emotional response in Italy.

“Gino Bartali was an immense champion, on pedals and in life,” Pagine Ebraiche editor Guido Vitale wrote. “The recognition by Yad Vashem is the just reward for an explemplary human undertaking.”

Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi told the Union of Italian Jewih Communities website that it was “the best present to the city and the most serious way to give meaning to the world cycling championships.”

Yad Vashem said a presentation ceremony will be held in Italy at a date to be determined.


KK Note: To learn more about Bartali, visit the website for Road to Valor.

Blogger recaptures drama of Nazi era in Hank Greenberg fiction

Posted on: July 26th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

It was a bit disheartening to see the anti-Semitic screeds regarding Ryan Braun’s suspension. But compared with what players in Hank Greenberg’s era had to endure, the comments and Tweets about Braun are love letters.

Jeff Polman, a graphic designer from Culver City, California, posts several installments each week about Greenberg in “Dear Hank: A Fictional 1938 Season in Letters,” a blog about the original “Hammerin’ Hank” as he deals with anti-Semitism on the homefront and the incursion of Nazism in pre-WWII Europe.

Polman has used this method before with 1924 and You Are There!; Play That Funky Baseball; The Bragging Rights League; and Mystery Ball ’58, The stories are all fictitious, but based on seasons “played” via Strat-o-Matic (1924 was also published in book form.)

I spoke with Polman earlier this week. You can listen to our conversation here.


Mazel tov, Maccabi Haifa

Posted on: June 20th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

The Israeli Premiere League basketball team won its first-ever championship, beating Maccabi Tel Aviv — evidently the NY Yankees of the league –86-79 on June 13.

Maccabi Hafai is owned by local-boy-makes-good Jeffrey Rosen, who purchased the team in 2007. he had also been involved in the short-lived Israel Baseball League, which lasted just one season.

Ido Kozikaro, right, captain of Maccabia Haifa, holds the championship trophy with teammate Cory Carr following the title game. It was Kozikaro’s first championship in the Israeli league in his 16-year career. Photo by Omri Shtain/Maccabi Haifa

Your can read the story in NJ Jewish News here.

The season finale of the 2012 NY Emmy® Award nominated television series Inside Israeli Basketball, scheduled to air in many markets beginning tomorrow, will highlight the historic event. Check your local listings to see if the show is available in your area.


The smartest man in baseball?

Posted on: June 19th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Like the Bible, it’s frequently a matter of interpretation.

I was listening to the June 18 podcast for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and the discussion turned to how many major league managers and players really know the rules. He gave them a 10-question quiz, with varying degrees of success. Of course, my ears pricked up when I heard this exchange between Stark and Buster Olney, the show’s host:

Stark: Buster, would you say that Sam Fuld might be the smartest man in baseball, the smartest player?

Olney: You would argue that he is the smartest player in baseball…

Stark: Graduated from Stamford, a degree in economics, had a 3.14 GPA. You know ho many he got right?

Olney: How many?

Stark: Three out of 10.

I know Stamford is a highly touted school, but I would image there is some player out there who had a higher GPA. (In fact Oakland As’ rookie and Israeli National team hero Nate Freiman pulled down a 3.84 at Duke.)

Here’s the Fuld excerpt from Stark’s piece:

“I’m going to guess that if you quizzed all 750 [players] in the big leagues, there would have been a lot more 10’s,” [Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher Brad] Ziegler said, humbly. “All it means is that I’ve got way too much useless information in my head. I tell guys about stuff like this all the time. And they always say, ‘Why do you know that?’ And ‘How do you know that?'”

Well, we can think of two players who would definitely ask him that. That would be two of the headiest players we know – Sam Fuld of the Rays and Michael Young of the Phillies — who answered exactly three questions correctly apiece.

“I used to think I knew the rules,” Young said. “But over time, I began to learn I didn’t know them as well as I thought. One time in a game, they called the infield fly rule, and I wasn’t sure why. So afterward, I went over to the ump and said, ‘Don’t ever tell anybody I said this, but what’s that rule again?'”

Ever-erudite Fuld, meanwhile, was pretty much mortified by his score.

“It was humiliating,” he said, with a laugh that suggested he would get over that humiliation somehow. “I would have done better if I’d closed my eyes and picked randomly. It’s pathetic to think that my 3-year-old son could have done better than that.

“Of course,” he said proudly of 3-year-old Charles Fuld, “he knows his baseball.”

Fuld — who graduated from Stanford with a degree in economics and a GPA of 3.14 — even admitted that, before he submitted his quiz, he “collaborated” with his father, Kenneth Fuld, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of New Hampshire. And his dad was so devastated by their score, “it took him about a day to get over it.”

“If you questioned about a hundred 5-year-olds, they’d get five out of 10,” the Rays’ human highlight reel said, dejectedly. “And my dad and I got a three.”

Now think about this. Sam Fuld has to be one of the brightest human beings in baseball. He got better than 1400 on his SAT. He understands stuff like matrix methodology. But even he has a hard time understanding the rationale behind the rules of baseball. And can you blame him?

“Most of these rules are just illogical,” he said. “I tried to base my answers on logic and reason. … But baseball and logic don’t mix very well, in many respects.”

Anyway, I took the test myself and also got three correct, but part of that was do to (deliberately?) questionable wording. They try to confuse you with unimportant facts. It’s like the joke: You’re a bus driver. There are 20 people on the bus. At the first stop, six people get on, three get off. At the next stop, five get on, seven get off; and the next stop, two get off, eight get on.

What’s the name of the bus driver?

Anyway, you can take the test here. Good luck.


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