American Jews & America's Game: Voice of a Growing Legacy in Baseball.

Author:Sclar, Ari. F.
Position::Book review
 
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American Jews & America's Game: Voice of a Growing Legacy in Baseball. By Larry Ruttman. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013. xxvii + 510 pp.

In recent years, historians have gained a greater understanding of how sports both inform and reflect changes in American society. Long-time lawyer Larry Ruttman has contributed American Jews & America's Game to this growing field with a passion and personal interest that is evident throughout his work. Ruttman traveled throughout the United States and Israel during a five year period to interview over forty former and current players, executives and owners, writers, fans, collectors, union representatives, and even a rabbi. He asked his subjects what attracted them to baseball, how they identified as Jews, and how being Jewish and the sport of baseball influenced their lives. Ruttman explains he wrote the book because despite the "plethora of books on Jews and baseball ... [most] were superficial in that they did not probe into the person's roots and psyche" (xxii). What he accomplished, with remarkable effort, was an impressive collection of interviews with American Jews whose views on Judaism and baseball did not always conform to Ruttman's predetermined thesis.

American Jews & America's Game is based on the premise that baseball helped Americanize Jewish immigrants and their children. Ruttman organizes the book into decades, beginning with the 1930s, and devotes a chapter to each individual. Included in the book are interviews with Hank Greenberg's children; current and former players such as Al Rosen, Art Shamsky, Ken Holtman, Elliott Maddox (an African-American convert), Brad Ausmus, and Kevin Youkilis; Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig; owner Jerry Reinsdorf (who theorizes that Jews have succeeded because "smarter Jews" survived pogroms); and fans Barney Frank and Alan Dershowitz. Photographs throughout the book, many taken by Ruttman, provide a terrific addition and will likely be of interest to a lay readership, especially for those individuals who have a passion for works on Jews and sports. Ruttman's book provides a broad perspective on baseball's impact on American Jews, and his wide breadth of interviews is admirable. He has made an important contribution to the growing literature on Jewish...

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