Posts Tagged ‘Ray Robinson’


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.

Ben Chapman: equal opportunity hater

Posted on: May 20th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

http://alantudykonline.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Alan-Tudyk-42.pngIn the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, Alan Tudyk portrays Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman. He does a marvelous job of portraying the man generally recognized as one of the — if not the — worst racists in baseball.

Ray Robinson, author of some excellent biographies on Lou Gehrig and Christy Mathewson as well as other top notch baseball titles, published this piece on Chapman in yesterday’s New York Times which includes his 1933 “encounter” with Buddy Myer of the Washington Senators which precipitated a major brawl.

Seems Chapman was an equal-opportunity bigot, just at home in taunting Jewish fans in Yankees Stadium as he was in trying to get Jackie Robinson to abandon his promise to Branch Rickey and not fight back in the face of terrific abuse. (And that was while Chapman was on the Yankees.)

Here are a couple of links to newspaper accounts of that game in 1933. I found it interesting that the Times piece links to  a story in the Milwaukee Journal, rather than its own pages (which you can read here). In fact, it’s basically the same article, written by John Drebinger, one of the great sportswriters of all time. The attentive reader will note the not-do-subtle differences in first subhead: the Journal writes “Myer Kicks Chapman,” seeming to lay the blame on the altercation on the Jewish player. The Times, on the other hand, states a more even-handed “Myers and Chapman Clash.” (Jewish sportswriter Shirley Povich famously wrote in his account for the Washington Post, “Chapman cut a swastika with his spikes on Myer’s thigh.”)

http://pressvision.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/robinson-and-chapman.jpg?w=640The Yankees, apparently worried about alienating their Jewish clientele, finally dealt Chapman away on June 14, 1936. Ironically, he wound up on Senators, traded straight up for Jake Powell, another the game’s most ardent bigots. That means Chapman and Myer were actually teammates for about a season; the Senators traded Chapman to the Boston Red Sox midway through the 1937 season.

While there was a famous photo op of Jackie Robinson and Ben Chapman appearing to make amends, I know of no similar conciliatory shot for Chapman and Myers. They did appear on the same baseball card, part of the 1941 Double Play set. As the blog’s host points out, they spelled Myer’s name wrong.

http://bbcard1.com/double/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/41dp_073-074.jpgIn Jews and Baseball, Volume 1, Burton and Bonita Boxerman write, “After only 51 games, Myer developed a mysterious stomach illness which put him on the voluntary retired list for the remainder of the season.” Myer’s last game was on Aug. 9. I wonder if that might have had anything to do with Chapman’s arrival? Maybe Myer just couldn’t take it anymore? Perhaps he knew that Chapman wouldn’t last, sucked it up, and returned to play in 1937.


Now hear this: Ray Robinson on Hank Greenberg

Posted on: September 24th, 2012 by Ron Kaplan

The High Holy Days are upon us and each year brings the inevitable question: will the handful of Jewish Major Leaguers play on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, or will they sit? The most prominent stars to refrain from taking the field during this time were Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax although guys like Shawn Green, Al Rosen, and Art Shamsky did so with less fanfare: Koufax’s stand came on the national stage when he declined to take the mound for the first game of the 1965 World Series. But Greenberg played at a time when anti-Semitism was much more prevalent in America.

Ray Robinson, a veteran baseball author, whose works include Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig in His Time; Pennants and Pinstripes: The New York Yankees 1903-2002; and Matty: An American Hero: Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants, among others, recently released a new e-book, High and Tight: Hank Greenberg Confronts Anti-Semitism in Baseball, published by Now and Then.

Robinson, 92, had a chance to watch Greenberg play and got to know him. He wanted to express his appreciation for the Jewish superstar who came along at a time when Jews were stereotyped as bookish and unathletic. That Greenberg’s star rose during a dark period in world history was even more important. He often said that every home run he hit was a knock against Hitler.

I had a chance recently to talk with Robinson for my other blog, Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf, about Greenberg’s ordeal, and also about how the ways in which Robinson’s profession has changed over the course of the last half century.



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