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Documentary - Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story

Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story
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Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story
Directed by Peter Miller
Narrated by Dustin Hoffman
Clear Lake Historical Productions 2010
At a theatre near you.

Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story hits it out of the park. This is a great, fascinating, and fun documentary about the Jewish contribution and relation to America's pastime. The documentary uses the same format as the yardstick, Ken Burns' Baseball. The only difference is Jews and Baseball has a sense of humor: it opens with a scene from Airplane!  and right after the opening credits sportswriter Maury Allen points out baseball started with the Bible; the first line of the Bible is "In the big inning ..."

A good documentary has a solid "I didn't know that" factor. Jews and Baseball has a lot of those. For example one of the first baseball stars was Philadelphia Athletics Lipman Pike a Jew. It never gets didactic or preachy with the information so the latter flows quite gracefully.

For new immigrants to America baseball was the perfect way to integrate. Writer Ira Burkow and director Peter Miller show very early on how the history of baseball and of Jewish Americans are very close, for better and for worse (such as players getting a less Jewish sounding name so as not to get insulted by fans).

For the New York Giants, Jewish ballplayers were a way to get butts in seats.

There were quite a few great Jewish baseball players before WW II: The most famous is Hank Greenberg who almost broke Ruth's 60 runs record. Jews and Baseball unfortunately does not reveal more about Moe Berg's spy career but this story will probably never be told.

Sandy Koufax became a pitcher to get a free trip to New Orleans. This has to be the most important free trip in the history of baseball. The documentary pays a lot of attention to Koufax. Through him it segues to Marvin Miller before moving quickly through the last 40 years or so.

As a topic Jews and baseball may be a bit thin for 90 some minutes but this documentary does not make it appear that way.
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