You and I know that Jews and sports in general make everyone smile. Do you remember the line from Airplane after the stewardess approaches a little old lady with a big stack of magazines and asks:
"Would you like anything to read?"
The little lady smiles and says, "Something light."
The stewardess flips through the magazines, finds a small two pager, offers it to the little old lady and says,"How about this leaflet, 'Famous Jewish Sports Legends.'?
Oh yeah, Jews are not known for their athletic prowess ... business, yes ... arts, yes ... athletics, no. So this afternoon, I was browsing some baseball movies (getting ready for the season) when I saw the title, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. GOTTA RENT THIS ONE.
I knew there were a few who played the game like Koufax and Greenberg and Youkilis (although Red Sox fans used to think he was Greek). But Jews didn't have many ... or so I thought.
My buddy Joe Sambito pitched for Boston and Houston in the 80s. He's Italian. I knew that Italians had encyclopedias filled with athletes like Berra, Campanella, Di Felice, Garagiola, Giambi, LaRussa, Pepitone, Di Maggio. But I really thought there were only a few of my people in the game.
The 1880s were not good for Jews. Many emigrated from Europe to escape the pogroms. Baseball was a wonderful "leveller" and a game that Jewish parents encouraged their kids to play to fit in. Unfortunately, antisemitism was at an all time high. Phil Cooney of the Yankees, Harry Kane of the Tigers, Reuben Ewing of the Cardinals all were Jewish ... and all took new names as players (They also were all born with the name Cohen).
It was the era of the Black Sox scandal and the era that Henry Ford accused the Jews of fixing the World Series.
Casey Stengel was once asked "Who is the best pitcher you ever saw?"
Stengel didn't name his own Yankee pitcher, Whitey Ford ... he simply said, "The Jewish kid."
Best Jewish player in the 90s? Toronto Blue Jay and LA Dodger Shawn Green. Green had the best performance in any game in history of baseball ... 4 homers, a double and a single.
My personal favorite is Sam Fuld .... he does it all as a utility player and by the way ... he's got Type 1 diabetes and he's also ... all of what? ... 5'4"? And he's a RAY!
So that's just a little about Jews and Baseball.
See? We can do a few more things (well, I can't... but other Jews can)! Be sure to rent the movie ... there is much more.