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
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
# # #
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
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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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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