Looking out the window this morning, watching the rain turn to snow, then to sunshine, and back again, I realize that this is Chicago, and Spring, meaning Baseball will start in just a few days! Just recently I was made aware of a movement to have a special museum in our city; The Jewish Baseball Museum, dedicated to honoring the relationship between Baseball and Jews as well as the impact that each has had on the other. In taking a gander at the website for this soon to be a reality, museum (check out www.Jewishbaseballmuseum.com), we learn that while this sport is considered the “American Game”, it is one of the few games/sports with deeply rooted Jewish roots.
When one thinks about sports, one hardly thinks about people of the Jewish faith participating, other than possibly being an owner , General Manager , business manager, or as in some cases, the marketing person. Baseball, on the other hand has had players since the very early days and while they may not be strong in numbers, those that have been in the game were truly “in the game”. The beauty of the museum is the celebration the game’s influencers: from heroes to journeymen. With the open study of the people and the game, future generations will learn the story of the integration of the Jewish people into the fabric of what is American life and will perhaps lessen the likelihood of some of the stereo-types.
One of the items on this site that I found very interesting is the statement that in “baseball, every player leaves home, anxious to return”. Yes, every batter wants nothing more than to hit the ball and before the inning is ended, cross home plate with a tally for his team. When the Jews left Europe and came here, the game of baseball and learning about it , made them more “American”, and allowed them to blend in. We see it in other Ethnic groups as well, but for the most part, the Jewish people are smaller in size and less athletic, so those who have made it into sports have truly been exceptional. According to Alan Siegel ,” There are three things any self-respecting Jewish boy should want when he grows up- a Doctor, Lawyer or Sandy Koufax”.
I am very glad that this museum has started and while it is only On-line right now (thanks to its sponsor Milt’s Barbeque –www.miltsbbq.com) it is part of the plan to find a site in the next two years. Chicago, being a two -team city, means the museum must seek a location on neutral turf. Not on the North side or South side, but perhaps in the loop, or west loop or even Navy Pier. I welcome your suggestions. I also welcome hearing from you regarding any special items that you have that you would like to have on display (with your name and story) when the museum is at last ready to open their doors.
Let me know your thoughts. Visit: www.jewishbaseballmuseum.com
Read below, written by the man who made this happen!
A Jewish Baseball Museum?
That’s the question I hear most—usually followed by a joke.
It’s a really small one, right?
A matzoh ball museum would be a better idea!
But to me, it’s no joke. It’s an idea as clear and powerful as a line drive off the bat of Hank Greenberg.
Baseball was a huge part of my childhood. It went beyond playing little league, losing to my brother in Strat-O-Matic marathons, and zoning out in math class while calculating Rod Carew’s batting average. Our relationship with baseball became part of our family life. When I was a kid, my dad referred to my brother, sister, and I interchangeably as “Zeke”, the nickname of the 1930’s first baseman, Henry Bonura. In fact, I am not sure my dad ever learned our real names! I coveted my dad’s ‘Who’s Who in MLB 1939’ and was rapt listening as my father and his brother described the endless hours they spent outside Yankee Stadium begging their favorite players to sign next to their photos. Every Yom Kippur, we acknowledged Sandy Koufax’s great sacrifice as we said our prayers. As Jews who loved baseball, we rooted hard for the Jews who played baseball.
My fascination went beyond statistics and championships. I loved the personal stories of the players: Moe Berg, the World War II spy; Hank Greenberg, who stood up for Jackie Robinson; Ron Blomberg, the first designated hitter….
In baseball, I find pride, excitement, tradition, heroism, imagination, comfort. In my Jewish identity, I find the same. What stronger connection could there be? Through this museum, the stories and the artifacts, I hope you will share that experience and think about your own connections.