Monday, September 18, 2006

From This You Can Make A Living?

I can imagine Ira Berkow’s mother posing this question, somewhere in his youthful past. Your shayneh boychik has done well for himself, Mama Berkow, and he’s speaking tomorrow night, Tuesday, September 19th at the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center as part of their Jewish Literary Festival. The talk begins at 7:30 p.m. Joining Mr. Berkow will be George Solomon of The Washington Post. Located at 1529 16th Street, N.W., tickets are $8.00, and for more information check out the Center's website: D.C. Jewish Community Center.

Maxwell Street, Chicago

Published this year, Berkow’s book Full Swing: Hits, Runs and Errors in a Writer’s Life will be batted around as he shares his memories of growing up in Chicago as well as his homage to those who helped him in this journey from parents to sports figures and many others. He has been a noted sports writer for The New York Times for over 20 years and has written several books including biographies of Red Smith and Hank Greenberg. Berkow also worked in conjunction with comedian Jackie Mason on a book titled How To Talk Jewish. Have you ever seen Jackie Mason perform? He has a great bit about the Jewish passion for coffee and cake. “It is easy to tell the difference between Jews and Gentiles. After the show, all the Gentiles are saying "Have a drink? Want a drink? Let's have a drink!" while all the Jews are saying "Have you eaten yet? Let's have coffee and cake!" And who knows…there may be coffee and cake after the lecture. A little nosh, a little babka. Standing around kibbitzing. “Er frest vi a ferd.” (He eats like a horse.)

"You call that a slice?"

There’s a scene from the 1980 movie, Airplane, that goes:

Flight Attendant: “Would you like something to read?”

Passenger: “Do you have something light?”

Flight Attendant: “How about this short leaflet—“Jewish Sports Legends.”

Lipman Pike (1845-1893)

But there are Jewish sports legends. Lipman “Lip” Pike begin playing baseball with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1866, playing third base for $20 a week. He was baseball’s first professional player, first home run champion, and it is recorded he hit six homers in one game in July, 1866. Primarily an outfielder, Pike’s career spanned the years 1865 to 1887, and among the teams he played for were the Brooklyn Atlantics, Philadelphia Athletics, Lord Baltimores, Troy Haymakers, St. Louis Brown Stockings, Cincinnati Red Stockings, Hartford Nutmegs and the original New York Mets. He also ran competitively and once raced a famous horse named “Clarence” in a 100-yard sprint (in 10 seconds flat,) winning a prize of $250.

There is one of my personal favorites, Sandy Koufax:

...and Morris “Moe” Berg. Berg has been in the news again lately. Well. The Sunday funnies in The Post.

(From "Flashbacks" by Patrick M. Reynolds)

In this past Sunday’s edition, Patrick M. Reynolds’ comic strip “Flashbacks” revisited 1934 when the U.S. All-Star Baseball Team traveled to Japan to play a series of games against the Japanese All-Stars. Reynolds speculates that Moe Berg, (as Reynolds calls him “…a mediocre catcher for the Washington Senators”) was on board because of his background as a spy as well as the fact that he could speak Japanese. There’s an excellent book about Berg's life called The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawidoff. Cartoonist Reynolds has also done two excellent books you might want to check out: District of Columbia Neighborhoods: A Cartoon History, and A Cartoon History of D.C.

Moe Berg (1902-1972)

There’s even been a Jewish female football player: Anita Marks. Anita grew up in South Dade, Florida, picking up games in her neighborhood. As she put it, “It was a lot easier to play football with the boys in the neighborhood, than making the boys play dolls with me. I had to play well or else they would rough me up. It sounds bad, but it made me a better football player.” It was at the University of South Florida where she was able to fine tune her skills and dominate the Collegiate Flag Football circuit for four years. This girl didn’t potchka around, Bubbala. She took a degree in communications and since her graduation in 1992, she has created a career as a sports producer for CBS in Miami.

Anita Marks

Tuesday. 7:30. Ira Berkow. Head on over to the D.C. Jewish Community Center. Shelp your friends.

This isn't chupah, is it?


Blogger I-66 said...

Shawn Green, now of the Mets, is also Jewish I believe. Perhaps the best Jewish player in the Majors these days?

11:29 AM  
Blogger Jamy said...

My grandfather started a rowing club in NYC in the 1920's because he, as a Jew, was not admitted to the NY Rowing Club. As the family story goes, his club went on to beat the pants off that club at every opportunity.

I know for sure that grandpa won a lot of medals--we still have them all.

He also kept a scrapbook with newspaper clippings about all his regattas. My mother found an article tucked away in the back of the book about the physical inferiority of the Jews.

Grandpa would probably be happy that I'm still rowing, though he gave it up when he got married.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Let's not forget Moses Malone.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

I should introduce you to my pal, Larry Moffi who has written a bit about Jewish baseball players. I think that the JCC event sounds like fun. Larry might even be there.

3:07 PM  
Blogger ThaiMex1 said...

OY! What an interesting read, Cube. You always seem to outdo yourself, Bubuhlah!

All I can say is that I will sign off this time as:


9:01 PM  
Blogger Needtsza said...

I've found you can make a living doing almost anything in this crazy world.

What a reality we live in

11:21 AM  
Anonymous DRFS said...

Just when I fear you've gone on produce another opus. Mazel tov!

1:30 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Oh Cube this is brilliant, a wonderful launch into the jewish High Holidays that start at sundown Friday. Delightful! Sandy Koufax?? I've always had a crush on him my whole life. Shouldn't this be published on Slate or Salon??

4:01 PM  
Blogger Dsquared said...

You can't possibly omit Hank Greenberg (for whom I was named - middle name anyway), who would have probably broken Babe Ruth's single season home run record (before steroids) had the opposing teams pitched to him the last 3 weeks of the season. Oh, and there was this swimmer named Mark Spitz - seemed like he was pretty good too. Barney Ross (boxing), Harry Heilman (football) - the surface has only been scratched.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

I-66: I know so little about Jewish sports figures. Someone from the Jewish Community Center asked me to write a little piece announcing this speaker. I have a feeling he emailed the entire D.C. blogging community...dunno. And for the record, I'm Roman Catholic, so even stranger.

Jamy: I think it is so incredibly cool that you are rowing, as your grandfather did. That's amazing. I know for certain he would be proud of you.

Phil: Shaking head.

MA: I hope you told your friend Larry about it, just in case he would be interested. I know that Center just had Nora Ephron speaking, and she got a lot of press over the event. I believe it was sold out.

Thai: and a Vey to you.

Needtsza: I agree. One problem with the image of Washington is, everyone always assumes you are either working for Congress, the White House, or you are an attorney or lobbyist.

DRFS: Not a hiatus. My brother suffered an injury, and I've been taking care of him the past few weeks, so running around and wearing myself down...too tired to blog.

Reya: Yeah, Sandy was a hottie, wasn't he? I saw a newer picture of him when I was Googling for this piece, and he's still handsome as heck.

Dsquared: I forgot all about Mark Spitz! Thanks for the reminder. There were so many I could have added into this piece, but ultimately, the DCJCC just wanted me to blurb the lecture, and I took the bait and ran with it. I did learn a lot researching for my writing, like Lipman Pike...I had never heard of him. I also found an article Berkow had written about the importance of Maxwell Street, calling it the Ellis Island of the Midwest, and I didn't know he had ties to Jackie Mason--equally fascinating. Jackie Mason is an interesting man, coming from a family of Rabbis, himself expected to be a Rabbi, and then going into comedy. I find his humor has a lot of good insight into humanity in it, and I have a love of the older comedians (many gone, like Henny Youngman,) that honed their craft on the "Belt." One thing I loved about the Seinfeld tv show was that he brought a lot of these guys back into the public eye, as does Larry David on his HBO show.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Megarita said...

Love this and love the Airplane! reference. Excellent entre to the holidays.

7:26 AM  
Blogger KC said...

Great post. And, I too, love the Airplane quote.

And stop calling me Shirley.

6:57 PM  
Blogger jillian said...

Great post! You should check out The Golem's Mighty Swing by James Sturm. I came across it on my way back from shul one day last year - it has spawned many interesting discussions since then.

Here's a review:


11:18 AM  

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