THE BOOKS

 

 

PRAISE

Praise for American Jews and America's Game

“Informative, inspiring, historically significant and a pleasure to read, this is a book that anybody who cares about America’s game or America’s Jews will cherish.”

Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History
and chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History

 

“The Boys of Summer was really something else: genuine players in their next life. But American Jews and America’s Game is as much cultural history as it is baseball, and there is nothing quite comparable.”

Sol Gittleman, Alice and Nathan Gantcher University Professor of Judaic Studies, Tufts University

 

Famed Kirkus Reviews caught the book’s spirit, substance, and its author’s persona, accurately in its timely first review, among many others:

“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.”

Kirkus Reviews, highly respected reviewer of published books since 1933

 

“The Jewish dimension in baseball unfolds in American Jews and America’s Game, written by Larry Ruttman and published by the University of Nebraska Press. Covering the period from the 1930s onward, the book is wide-ranging in its scope. Famous Jewish players, like Ken Holtzman and Kevin Youkilis, sound off, as do Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr, the former executive directors of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Jerry Reinsdorf, a team owner, explains himself. Barney Frank, a former U.S. congressman, speaks for fans. This substantive volume adds heft to baseball historiography.”

Sheldon Kirshner, Sheldon Kirshner Journal, June 20, 2015 

“A large, ambitious, and deeply personal work, this book attempts to define the Jewish-American experience through the prism of baseball. With sections organized around decades, American Jews and America’s Game ranges from the 1930s to the present. Original face-to-face interviews, conducted in venues as disparate as Rancho Mirage, Phoenix, Manhattan, Cooperstown, Boston, Baltimore, Kissimmee, and Tel Aviv, provide the core content. Telling photographs, many taken by the author, burnish the commentary.… Ruttman’s interviews, fifty in total, merit commendation for scope, respondent selection, and content.”

William M. Simons, Journal of Sport History, Vol. 41, No. 1, Spring 2014 

 

“Ruttman reports on his subjects’ backgrounds and the manner in which their Jewishness has affected their lives and careers. In this regard, American Jews & America’s Game is as much about American Jewish identity and the anti-Semitism that pervaded the country in decades past as it is about Jews and baseball, and this adds depth and dimension to each chapter. With the exception of [Hank] Greenberg, who passed away in 1986, Ruttman interviews all his subjects; Greenberg’s story is told via conversations with those who are connected to him, starting with son Steve, daughter Alva, and Ralph Kiner.… Prior to reading a chapter on an individual with whom I was familiar, I asked myself: What will I learn about this person that I do not know? More often than not, Ruttman offers observations that transcend the obvious.”

Rob Edelman, NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, Vol. 22, No. 1, Fall 2013 

 

“The book is sure to be read by American Jews who love baseball and wrap themselves in a bear hug of pride in their coreligionists’ presence—nay, prominence—in the country’s national pastime.… The book stands apart for focusing on the interviewees’ discussion of their Jewish and baseball identities, rather than their professional résumés alone, said Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish History at Boston’s Brandeis University. ‘I really found it surprisingly interesting because it was so different,’ Sarna, who admits to not being a big sports fan, says of the book. ‘Solomon Schechter thought that you need to know about baseball to be a better American,’ says Sarna of the renowned Jewish educator, who died in 1915. ‘Here, [Ruttman] is saying you can learn about American Jews in baseball in order to be a better Jew.’”

Hillel Kuttler, Haaretz, January 23, 2014

 

American Jews and America’s Game is handsomely produced and nicely illustrated, but the heart of the book is Larry Ruttman’s enthusiasm and total delight in meeting and talking with so many baseball personalities. The interviews are personal, with the unifying theme of Jewish identity, although both Ruttman and many of the people he speaks with call themselves cultural Jews and do not practice Judaism. But when Ruttman describes his excitement at sitting with Ian Kinsler in the visitors’ dugout at Fenway Park or receiving a phone call from Sandy Koufax, readers will share Ruttman’s sense of wonder and joy.”

Maron L. Waxman, The Jewish Voice

 

Praise for Voices of Brookline

“Many, many thanks for the copy of Voices of Brookline.... I only wish Jack could have read it too!”

—Senator Edward M. Kennedy

 

“[Ruttman has] done a wonderful job at bringing a community to life, through the voices of its citizens—a fascinating array of people whose personalities and characters shine through. What is so appealing about the book is the warmth of spirit, the good-humor, all conveying a feeling of community that is very encouraging.... Congratulations on a fine job of oral history. Oh, yes, the photos are a special treat.”

 

“[This] book is a model of how an oral history of a town ought to be written.”

—Howard Zinn, Professor Emeritus, Boston University; author of A People’s History of the United States

 

“Thanks for sharing the book with me. Brookline has a special quality that I think you conveyed very well. The method of doing it not simply by asserting it, but in a very non-didactic way by presenting this wide range of people who embody that character works very well. I’ve been reading it and in some ways it’s like getting a chance to spend time with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen for a while. Thanks!”

Congressman Barney Frank

 

Voices of Brookline is truly fascinating and deserves everyone’s applause. It is vibrant, dynamic, compelling and important. It is the voice of the best in America as heard, lived, and cherished in an amazing and beautiful village. It is a story of a precious community where friendships and love will continue to prevail.”

—Robert F. Drinan, S.J., former congressman representing Brookline;
Dean Emeritus, Boston College Law School; author of Can God and Caesar Coexist?