An idiosyncratic collection of interviews with American Jews on, off and some barely near the field of baseball.
By interviewing the descendants of Hank Greenberg, baseball’s first Jewish superstar, and contemporaries of the famously reclusive Sandy Koufax, Ruttman (Voices of Brookline, 2005) checks off the two most important names on anyone’s list of Jews who have made a mark in the national pastime. Of course, there’s room for plenty more: MVP Al Rosen; Ken Holtzman, the Jewish pitcher with the most career wins; Ron Blomberg, the game’s first designated hitter; today’s stars like Kevin Youkilis and Ian Kinsler. Surely there’s a place among these pages for baseball executives like Commissioner Bud Selig (who provides the foreword), owner Jerry Reinsdorf, longtime front-office man Randy Levine, and the youngest GM ever, Theo Epstein. It’s also easy to make a case for many of the talented Jewish writers who’ve memorably covered the game, among them Ira Berkow, Roger Kahn and Murray Chass. More than a few of Ruttman’s choices are eccentric, but prove worthy inclusions: for example, two women from the defunct All-American Girls Professional Baseball League or the man who came up with the idea of Jewish baseball cards. However, by the time the author gets around to Jeffrey Maier, who as a 12-year-old authored a tiny footnote by interfering with a ball in play during the 1996 ALCS, and certainly to the likes of merely well-known fans Barney Frank and Alan Dershowitz, Ruttman stretches the notion of Jewish “voices” in baseball about as far as it can go. Nevertheless, this longtime attorney remains a gentle, always enthusiastic questioner, interested in his subjects’ love for the game, their experiences with anti-Semitism and their connection to their faith. Other subjects include Marvin Miller, Marty Appel, Donald Fehr and Gabe Kapler.
Almost always charming, occasionally enlightening and sometimes just plain odd.