Brooklyn-born Jewish big leaguers who helped shape the national pastime — and inspired baseball fans across the borough — recall their playing days in “Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words,” a new oral history edited by Park Slope writer Peter Ephross.
“Baseball is not something that Jews usually go into,” said Ephross. “We don’t have a stereotype of Jews as athletes.”
Yet 165 Jewish players appeared in the Major Leagues from 1880 to 2010 — including Brooklyn Dodgers members Goody Rosen, Sam Nahem, and Cal Abrams, who was famously gunned down at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning in the last game of the 1950 season — costing the Boys of Summer a chance to advance to the World Series.
Ephross said cheering for the team helped Jewish Brooklynites connect with other residents in the borough.
“When you were a Jew rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers you were the same as the Italian or Irish family one neighborhood over,” said Ephross, whose book hit stores last month. “They had a shared experience.”
The history project includes excerpts from decades-old interviews with Detroit Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg, Cleveland Indians third baseman Al Rosen and other stars, as well as stories from lesser-known players such as Saul Rogovin and Adam Greenberg.
But baseball’s greatest Jewish player is noticeably missing.
Ephross said he didn’t try to contact Dodgers legend and Borough Park native Sandy Koufax, but promised the book packs some series heat despite leaving out the notoriously reclusive Hall of Fame flamethrower.
“Koufax might have helped me make some sales,” Ephross said. “But the book survives on these other stories.”