September 2, 2011
There has always been a strong connection between Jews and baseball. In this excerpted editorial from August 6, 1903, Forverts Editor Ab Cahan offers some advice on the subject to a confounded father.
A father writes to ask advice about baseball. He thinks that baseball is a foolish and wild game. But his boy, who is already in the upper grades, is very eager to play. He’s not the only one. The majority of our immigrants have the same idea about it. They express it in such a way that it’s possible to see how the parents in the Yiddish neighborhood generally feel about baseball.
“It is said that one should teach their child how to play chess or checkers or goat & wolf [tsig un volf] or at least a game that sharpens the mind. That would be appreciated,” writes the father in his letter. “But what value does a game like baseball have? Nothing more than becoming crippled comes out of it. When I was a young boy we used to play ‘rabbits’ chasing and catching one another. But when we got older we stopped playing. Imagine a big boy in Russia playing tag, we would have treated him like he was crazy. And here in this highly educated America, adults play baseball! They run after the stupid ball made of hide and are as excited about it as little boys. I want my boy to grow up to be a mentsh not a wild American runner. He’s making me miserable, I can’t take it anymore.”**
This part of the letter captures the point of the question posed by the boy’s father. And the writer of this article has but one answer:
Let your boys play baseball and even become outstanding players as long as it doesn’t interfere with their studies and doesn’t put them in bad company.
For more on Jews and sports, including the full version of the editorial above; Douglas Stark blogging on basketball’s greatest team, and ‘Lions of Zion,’ an original novel about baseball serialized on The Arty Semite, visit The Arty Semite Blog.