by Jeff Aeder
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh . . . people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”- Field of Dreams
Before they came to Wrigley or Comiskey or Ebbetts or the Baker Bowl or some anonymous field in Iowa, they came to America.
Ike Samuls came from Galicia and hit .230.
Lefty Cristall, Izzy Goldstein, and Reuben Cohen all came from Odessa. Cohen changed his name to Ewing and played short.
They came to America to be free. And to be Americans. And to learn how to hit a curveball. And to endure nine hour train rides and to wear wool flannel in 90 degree heat and to play for peanuts.
And America let them.
Let them fail, let them sit, let them languish in the minors but also let them achieve greatness.
America let others mutter under their breath, to laugh at their names, to let every error indict an entire people.
But when a Florida hotel owner wouldn’t let NY Giants Weintraub and Danning stay at his hotel, America also let manager Bill Terry stand up and say if they can’t stay then the team won’t stay.
A tall, gangly kid from New York became known as “The Hebrew Hammer.” Hank Greenberg had the swing to chase the Babe, coming only 2 homers short of the magic 60. However, Greenberg’s power transcended the diamond. At a time in the 30s when Jews faced supreme challenges here and abroad, the Star of David’s first baseball superstar filled our cups with a huge source of pride.
Several decades later, G-D decided to create the perfect pitcher. The end result, Sandy Koufax, had such a rhythm and grace it was like watching ballet being performed on the mound. Yet he was more nightmare than art to hitters who didn’t have a chance against his fastball and devastating curve.
How about the other all-stars . . . Danning, Gordon, Rosen, Hotlzman, Stone, Green, Ausmus, Youklis, Kinsler, yes and even Braun.
This is all great but what makes our history special is . . . the character of the players . . . it was Jackie Robinson who said of Hank Greenberg after a run in on 1st base: “Mr. Greenberg is class. It stands out all over him.” It was Greenberg again along with Koufax, Green, Shamsky, Holtzman, Danning, Weintraub, Arnovich and Youklis who honored their heritage and did not play on Yom Kippur.
There were Jews wearing suits, not uniforms, who also had an immense influence on the game. Marvin Miller acted like Moses to the players, telling them they had a right to be free . . . free agents, that is. Bud Selig had his critics to be sure, but as the long-time commissioner, his many progressive decisions had baseball charging into the 21st Century. If the Cubs ever win that elusive World Series from the wildcard route, the Wrigley faithful will be shouting out, “This Bud’s for you.”
Since Jews like to laugh at themselves, we chuckled when the stewardess in “Airplane” said to a passenger, “Are you looking for some light reading?” and promptly handed her a leaflet entitled “Famous Jewish Sports Legends”. Yet the reality is the Jewish impact on the game could fill volumes.
The story is far from finished. At the relative dawn of a new century, surely, there will be another Koufax, another Greenberg to carry on the proud heritage of Jews in baseball.
by the Village Elliott
The start of each season,
Your team has new reason
To think this might be their year,
Though every team’s fans
Likewise make their plans
To partake of team’s World Series cheer!
Let the fire burn out
In your stove, we’re about
To join your team for Spring Training fun;
Though snow is not melting
Back home, we’re sweltering
Underneath a near-tropical sun.
We’ll see who’s been signed to
Join your team, and now who
Still looks fit in their old uniform.
We will evaluate
Those who came to camp late,
See who already blew out his arm;
For I think it behooves
Fans to study the moves
By their teams made in off-season deals,
Like your team who ain’t won
Major League Gonfalon
In years despite your life-long appeals.
But it’s a new season,
And you have your reason
To think certainly “This is next year!”
So, despite other fans
Also making their plans,
This is your year for World Series cheer!
by the Village Elliott
Ain’t Pete Carroll, but Charlie Dressen,
Made worst sports call. History lesson:
Jints Thompson called, “Thank-a
God, he called Ralph Branca!”
Call Flatbush calls “Bums’ Most Depressin’!”
by James Finn Garner
From Jackie Robinson
I learned about grace under the gun
From Satchel Paige
I learned of the illusions of age
From Dick Allen
I learned never to give in
From Hammerin’ Hank Aaron
I learned to keep on keepin’ on
But from Ernie Banks
I learned to give thanks.
RIP. Let’s play two, forevermore.
by Holly L. McEntyre
I spent my childhood
. learning to tell
. balls from strikes and
. rejoicing over 6-4-3
Memorizing the names and positions
. of all “my” players,
. watching my Montreal Expos “win some, lose some”
. at Jarry Park,
copying their signatures from baseball cards
. into my little red scrapbook.
Belting out two anthems
. at “The Big ‘O’”
Proud of my country,
. and of Canada,
and of the great North American game.
In the film version
. of “Shoeless Joe”
James Earl Jones
. tells us
that baseball is
. the one constant,
baseball is America.
When baseball is ruined,
destroyed for the masses
. by the few
. wealthy enough
. those who
. play for pay,
What does this say
. about our constant,
What does this say
. about our country?
that even though a boy can
. “have a catch” with his father,
although Mo’Ne Davis “throws
. like a girl” at 70 MPH,
we have struck out,
because “Field of Dreams”
is just a movie, the “American Dream”
is just a myth, and
is just a game.