Philly has the Phillies on its brain, with baseball season just kicking off. We stopped by the “Chasing Dreams” exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Old City to put our baseball fever into a little historical perspective — and learn a few things we didn’t know about the influences of Judaism on baseball, and vice versa.
1. The artifacts
From one of Sandy Koufax’s Cy Young awards to game-wornn jerseys off the backs of Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and more, there is enough historic baseball memorabilia and one-of-a-kind artifacts to get even the most casual fans excited. You can take a look at Hank Greenberg’s actual 1945 MVP award, or even at Robinson’s varsity jacket (with his name and number sewn in the pockets).
2. The story
“Take me out to the ball game” was written by a Jewish songwriter who had never even seen a baseball game. And rabbis all across New York City and other urban places stressed that to love baseball is to become a real American. During the first part of the 20th century, immigrants, namely Jews, were looking for acceptance and looking to learn how to become an American. It was baseball that offered that answer for many people, and this exhibit tells that story.
3. Who’s who
Home Run champion Jose Bautista is Jewish. As is one-time NL MVP Ryan Braun. Marvin Miller, the Players Union lawyer who created free agency, and Theo Epstein, the youngest MLB general manager of all-time, both are too. It is both surprising and remarkable to learn just how many owners, players and baseball figures had Jewish lineage.