Film Review – Jews in Baseball

Written by Todd Hawley
Friday, 30 July 2010 09:58

I attended the screening of this film held at the Castro Theater in San Francisco on July 25. I’m glad I got there fifteen minutes early, because there was a line around the corner to get in. The movie is a history of Jewish ballplayers in the major leagues and focuses on players like Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, Al Rosen and several others. Hank Greenberg was likely the “first Jewish superstar,” and Koufax besides being one of the greatest pitchers ever has always been considered a hero to legions of Jewish baseball fans. The film features an interview with him, remarkable considering he very rarely does interviews. One thing about this movie that I never realized, which was the amount of prejudice and hatred the early Jewish ballplayers had to deal with. Having grown up in an area where it was overwhelmingly Jewish, I as a non-Jew had no idea what they dealt with. For that alone, the movie was informative. But of course the movie is so much more than that. You learn about a number of different Jewish players of each era. The film is narrated by Dustin Hoffmann and features interviews with a great number of people from the famous (Koufax, Rosen, Ron Howard, former sportswriter Maury Allen) to the not-so famous, all of them with insights to particular players and events. The film gives you great knowledge about the contributions made by Jewish players and non-players.

After the movie was over, they had a question and answer session with the film’s producer and also Al Rosen who received a nice ovation from the crowd in attendance. Al Rosen talked about his love-hate relationship with Greenberg, saying they couldn’t get along in the baseball world but were friends outside of it. In fact, Al & Hank didn’t speak to each other for ten years until they happened to run into each other at a Dodgers game in the mid 1970s when Hank asked Al if it had been long enough to “bury the hatchet.” Al agreed that it was and they remained friends until Hank’s death in 1986.

The movie is well-worth seeing if you’re a baseball fan and/or you want to get an idea of what the early Jewish ballplayers had to put up with. That was certainly an eye-opener for me having grown up in a predominantly Jewish section of Los Angeles and not having any idea of the abuse those players had to deal with. And considering the commissioner of baseball (and a few of the owners) happens to be Jewish, hopefully no ballplayer (Jewish or otherwise) will ever have to deal with racist comments again.

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