Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story

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Jews and Baseball:
An American Love Story
Jews and Baseball.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Peter Miller
Produced by Will Hechter
Peter Miller
Caroline Berler (Associate Producer)
Amy Linton (Associate Producer)
Anne-Marie Smith (Associate Producer)
Written by Ira Berkow
Narrated by Dustin Hoffman
Music by Michael Roth
Cinematography Antonio Rossi
Stephen McCarthy
Allen Moore
Edited by Amy Linton
Production
company
Clear Lake Historical Productions
Distributed by Seventh Art Releasing
Release date
  • July 25, 2010 (2010-07-25) (Stony Brook)
  • November 5, 2010 (2010-11-05) (United States)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story is a 2010 American documentary film narrated by Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Ira Berkow, and directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Peter Miller. It is about the connection and history between American Jews and baseball.[1][2][3]

Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times, wrote that the "warm and enthusiastic" film "not only lives up to its title ... but also delivers a bit extra as well."[1] The documentary received the Best Editing Award at the Breckenridge Film Festival for Editor Amy Linton,[4] the Audience Choice Award at the 2011 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival,[5] and the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Documentary at the 2011 Seattle Jewish Film Festival.[6]

Synopsis[edit]

The film was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Ira Berkow, and narrated by actor Dustin Hoffman. It was directed by Peter Miller, a documentary filmmaker known for his previous films A Class Apart, Sacco and Vanzetti, and The Internationale.[1][7][8][9]

Dustin Hoffman does not normally narrate films, and initially turned down the project. But when he looked at the script, he changed his mind, saying: "Oh, this is about bigotry and overcoming anti-Semitism, about discrimination and these issues that I grew up with, that really matters to me".[9]

The film opens with a clip from the 1980 satirical comedy film Airplane!, in which a flight attendant is asked by a passenger if she has anything light to read. She responds by offering an ultra-thin leaflet, saying: "How about this leaflet, Famous Jewish Sports Legends?"[1]

The stereotype of Jews as non-athletic, as well as anti-semitism, are two issues that many Jewish baseball players faced and had to overcome. Noted anti-semite Henry Ford wrote on May 22, 1920: "If fans wish to know the trouble with American baseball they have it in three words—too much Jew."[10] A number of early Jewish ballplayers changed their names, so that it would not be apparent that they were Jewish.[10]

The movie discusses the key Jewish ballplayers in each decade since baseball started in the 1860s, and how that helped Jews assimilate and counteract the stereotype of Jews as cerebral but non-athletic.[1][2][11][12] The film is in part about Jewish immigration and assimilation into American society, bigotry against Jews, the passing on of Jewish traditions even during assimilation, heroism, and the breaking of Jewish stereotypes.[2][11][12]

Director Miller said:

At its heart, this is a film about overcoming stereotypes. Bigotry against Jews has faded a great deal...

The story of a once-marginalized people finding their way into the American mainstream offers lessons for a country that continues to grapple with its ideal as a place where talent should overcome prejudice, where we can retain our differences while still being American, where anyone who can hit or pitch or run can be a part of the magic and drama of our national game.[13]

The documentary contains rare archival footage and photos, and music ranging from Benny Goodman to Yo-Yo Ma to Rush.[2]

Ballplayers, and interviewees[edit]

The documentary highlights Al Rosen (rookie of the year in 1950, and MVP in 1953), who is frank about how he dealt with anti-Semitism: "There's a time that you let it be known that enough is enough.... You flatten [them]."[14] It also discusses Moe Berg ("he spoke seven languages, and couldn't hit in any of them"), Lipman Pike (led the National Association in home runs three times), pitcher Barney Pelty (the "Yiddish Curver"), "Subway Sam" Nahem, Moe Solomon ("The Rabbi of Swat"), and Shawn Green.[1][9] Those interviewed also include Norm Sherry, Ron Blomberg, Elliott Maddox, and Bob Feller.[1][2][15] Also featured in the film are Norm Sherry, Ron Blomberg, Maury Allen, Larry King, Ron Howard, and Yogi Berra.[16]

The documentary focuses especially on two players. One is Hank Greenberg, a two-time American League MVP, five-time All Star, and Hall of Famer. Anti-Semitic barbs directed at him from the stands served to motivate him, he said.[10] He sat out Yom Kippur during a tight pennant race on the advice of his mother.[1][9][12] The film notes a column in the Detroit Free Press, in which Edgar Guest wrote in response to Greenberg's absence from the lineup: "We shall miss him on the infield, and shall miss him at the bat, but he's true to his religion and we honor him for that."[10]

The other is Sandy Koufax, Hall of Fame pitcher, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and 7-time All Star who sat out game one of the 1965 World Series game to observe Yom Kippur, going to synagogue. When Koufax went to synagogue instead of pitching the first game of the 1965 World Series, Don Drysdale replaced him and was bombed; when Dodgers Manager Walter Alston arrived at the mound to take him out of the game, Drysdale quipped: "Right now I bet you wish I was Jewish too."[17] Koufax agreed to a rare filmed interview for the documentary.[1][9][12][18]

More-current ballplayers are also discussed, including All Stars Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, and Ryan Braun.[1][19][20] Youkilis notes in the film:

It's something that I probably won’t realize until my career is over, how many people are really rooting for me and cheering for me. And it's not just because I went 3-for-4, or had a great game. It's just the fact that I represent a lot of Jewish people and a lot of the Jewish heritage and the struggles that a lot of our people have had.[13]

As of 2010, there had been 166 Jewish major leaguers, the newest being Ike Davis with the New York Mets and Danny Valencia with the Minnesota Twins.[13]

Release[edit]

Among the film's notable festival appearances and special screenings in 2010 were July 15 & 16 at the Jerusalem Film Festival, July 25 at the Stony Brook Film Festival, July 25 at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 31 & August 1 & 8 at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, August 10–15 at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, October 3 at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and October 14 & 16 at the Jacksonville Film Festival.[4] It was the opening night film at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival on February 8, 2011, playing for an audience of over 3,000 at Atlanta's Fox Theater. It was released theatrically in New York, Los Angeles, and a number of other cities. The DVD was released by New Video on April 19, 2011.[21]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times, describing it as warm and enthusiastic, wrote that the documentary: "not only lives up to its title ... but also delivers a bit extra as well."[1] John Anderson wrote in Variety that "With terrific narration by Dustin Hoffman, Jews and Baseball makes effective use of archival footage and interviews, the most spectacular of which is a lengthy sequence featuring the usually reclusive Koufax".[12] Andrew Schenker of Time Out New York described it as: "a breezy compendium of fun facts and colorful figures ... likely to prove irresistible to baseball fans, Hebraic or otherwise."[22] Newsday described it as, "Stirring, revelatory and affectionate. Jews and Baseball knocks it out of the park." Mark Dawidziak wrote in The Plain Dealer that it is: "an engaging, briskly paced film."[23]

Awards[edit]

The film received the Best Editing Award at the Breckenridge Film Festival, recognizing the work of film editor Amy Linton,[4] the Audience Choice Award at the 2011 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival,[5] and the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Documentary at the 2011 Seattle Jewish Film Festival.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kenneth Turan (November 19, 2010). "Movie review: 'Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Film". Jewsandbaseball.com. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ Scott Barancik (July 7, 2010). "New film explores our love affair with baseball". Jewish Baseball News. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c "Screenings". Jewsandbaseball.com. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival". Facebook. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b https://web.archive.org/web/20130126125343/http://www.seattlejewishfilmfestival.org/award |archiveurl= missing title (help). Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  7. ^ "A Class Apart | A Mexican American Civil Rights Story". Aclassapartmovie.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ "The Internationale". Willowpondfilms.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Ben Platt (November 18, 2010). "Film looks at Jewish experience in baseball". MLB.com. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c d Alan Zeitlin (November 15, 2010). "Jews and Baseball Is A Film You Should Catch". The New York Blueprint. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Nick Schager (November 3, 2010). "The Title Says It All in Sports Doc Jews and Baseball". The Village Voice. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Anderson, John (October 31, 2010). "Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story – Film Reviews". Variety. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c "Baseball as a cultural connection; Documentary explores special ties for Jews", Maureen Mullen, The Boston Globe, December 9, 2010, accessed December 11, 2010
  14. ^ Dick Friedman (November 25, 2002). "Faith In The Game; A new film illuminates the Jewish contribution to the national pastime". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Our Cast". Jewsandbaseball.com. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  16. ^ Sam Bernstein (August 26, 2010). "Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story » Kaplan's Korner on Jews and Sports". New Jersey Jewish News. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  17. ^ Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey (November 17, 2010). "'Jews and Baseball': Ron Howard's a-ha moment with Sandy Koufax". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  18. ^ Barry Hertz (September 30, 2010). "Jews and Baseball – An American Love Story: Shtick to the game plan". National Post. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  19. ^ Edmon J. Rodman (November 7, 2010). "Jews and baseball, a love story". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  20. ^ Rodman, Edmon J. (November 2, 2010). "Getting over the post-World Series blues—Jews and baseball, a love story". JTA. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Jews and Baseball – Docurama – New Video Group". Newvideo.com. March 22, 2011. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  22. ^ Schenker, Andrew (November 2, 2010). "Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story". Time Out New York New York. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  23. ^ "'Jews and Baseball' looks at Jewish-American experience from the diamond". cleveland.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

Books[edit]

External links[edit]