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Jews in Sports

Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax

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Sandy Koufax 1961 Just in: Koufax was a baller of more than one kind Apparently Brooklyn Jewish baseball legend Sandy Koufax had short legs but also ups. He played basketball for Lafayette High School in Bath Beach, Brooklyn in the early 1950s, setting himself apart as an extraordinary player on the court before going on to his career as an all-star pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers. As an early teenager… Read More »Sandy Koufax

Marvin Miller

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Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller

On Tuesday,November 26.2012, a great Bronx-born but Brooklyn-bred American Jewish hero, Marvin Miller died. The Malach Hamoves (Angel of Death) claimed him at age 95. His daughter Susan cited liver cancer as the cause but, denied elevation to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, Miller, an outstanding economist and labor leader, may have succumbed to a broken heart.

Several years prior, at the Workmen’s Circle building, I shared a podium with this protean figure. Deeply honored and almost speechless, I greeted him in Yiddish. Why? According to my late mother, at the Workmen’s Circle — home of mame loshen (mother tongue) –one must speak Yiddish. Moreover, I pointed out that baseball’s peerless union leader, Marvin Miller owes his success to the Golden rule, that is to say the Harry Golden rule.  Dress British.  Think Yiddish.

To this paradigm, add a social conscience, rooted in trade union culture, grounded in prophetic tradition, and leavened with core values — and you have an unbeatable force. Marvin Miller recalled that his father worked in lower Manhattan dispensing tsadaka (charity) and wisdom in Chinese, English, and Yiddish.

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Marty Glickman’s Stolen Medal

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Perhaps the most famous of all modern Olympics was the 1936 “Nazi” Olympics, held in Berlin. Hitler tried to use the Olympic Games to demonstrate the superiority of “pure Aryans” over nations that allowed Jews, blacks and other “mongrel” races to compete on their behalf. Jesse Owens and other African-American track stars embarrassed the Fuhrer by winning most of the gold medals in the men’s track sprints and relays, defeating their German rivals easily.

Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller 1936 Olympic relayers

Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller 1936 Olympic relayers

Less remembered about the Nazi Olympics is the saga of two American Jewish sprinters, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller. The 18-year-old Glickman starred in track and football at Syracuse University while Stoller competed for the University of Michigan. The two young men made the U. S. Olympic squad as members of the 4×100-yard relay team. Glickman and Stoller traveled to Germany and prepared diligently for the relay race. The day before the race, however, the U.S. track team coaches replaced Glickman and Stoller with two other runners, Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe.

By Glickman’s account, the last-minute switch was straightforward anti-Semitism. Avery Brundage, chairman of the United States Olympic Committee, supported Hitler’s regime and denied that the Nazis followed anti-Semitic policies. Brundage and assistant Olympic track coach Dean Cromwell belonged to America First, an isolationist political movement that attracted many pro-Nazi sympathizers. Additionally, Cromwell coached two other Olympic sprinters, Foy Draper and Frank Wyckoff, at the University of Southern California and openly favored those two over Glickman and Stoller.

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Jews in Sports

Jews in Sports By Joe DorinsonA common fallacy–perpetuated in stereotype—is that Jews are inept in sports because they lack athletic talent as well as physical strength. The Brooklyn Jewish experience gives the lie to this absurd view. In basketball alone, Jews from our borough dominated the game for decades. Their names are legion; their deeds, immortal. In the early years of “Hoop” lore, one finds Nat Krinsky and Sammy Kaplan.… Read More »Jews in Sports