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Out of Brooklyn  - Sandy Koufax

Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review

Back in 1991 I had the honor of being selected as the Guest Curator and Executive Producer of "Stars of David: Jews in Sports" at the Klutznik Museum in Washington, D.C. The exhibit was to run for six months and was envisioned as showcasing memorabilia and memories of Jewish athletes and their accomplishments.

I set out on my mission making phone calls and writing letters to such as Sid Luckman, Dolph Schayes, Red Holzman, Red Auerbach, Mark Spitz and Sandy Koufax, the man known in some circles as the "Greta Garbo of sports," who grew up in Brooklyn just like me.

Much to my delight and surprise, Koufax contacted me and said that his three Cy Young award trophies were at Dodger Stadium and not at the Baseball Hall of Fame and that he would tell Dodger owner Peter O'Malley to arrange to have them shipped to the Klutznik Museum so that they could be part of the exhibit.  He also volunteered to send two autographed baseballs along - one for the exhibit and one for me.

Koufax's affability and generosity were beyond my wildest expectations. The only negative in the experience was the disappearance of the ball Koufax autographed to me. It seems, as the official explanation noted, it got lost somewhere.

Fortunately, that is not the case in "Koufax" by Edward Gruver (Talor Publishing Company, 288pp., $24.95). This is a book that does not get lost. It is highly focused and moves through the stages of the great hurler's life with a beat and flair. It is a wide ranging look at the life and times of the man many regard as the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time.

Part of the strength of "Koufax" is the excellent fusion of      Gruver's narrative and feeling for his subject along with the interesting and insightful quotes he has obtained from a variety of friends, former teammates, opponents and sports journalists including me.

Thus, veteran sportswriter Jack Lang goes back to Koufax's early years in Brooklyn; Juan Marichal a Hall of Fame pitcher in his own right  and a former opponent calls Koufax "the greatest pitcher I ever saw; former Dodger manager Tom Lasorda who was sent down to make room for bonus baby Koufax on the Brooklyn Dodger roster --to this day Lasorda takes credit for Koufax's success.   

There is a lot in the book that re-hashes the old stories( the refusal of Koufax to pitch the opening game of the 1965 World Series since it fell on the Jewish Holy Day of Yom Kippur), the old statistics. There are also instances where Gruver, a sportswriter for the "Lancaster Intelligencer Journal" in Lancaster, Pennsylvania tells his stories without providing the required attribution to where they came from that any professional writer knows is standard fare (a reference to media critic Neil Postman is a case in point). There is a crying need for a full bibliography since the book's flap copy brags about it being the first book in nearly thirty years on Koufax.

Overall, "Koufax" is a welcome addition to the list of baseball books this season. It is rich with anecdotes and remarkable in its ability to bring a very private man to life in a very tactful way.          

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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