Wilt Chamberlain: 'Borscht Belt Bellhop'


Wilt Chamberlain BellHop
Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhop. Photo courtesy of Kutshersdoc.Jimdo.com.
Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhop is currently airing on ESPN's 30 for 30 series. The documentary short film, from the Jewish filmmakers who made Welcome to Kutsher's, sheds light on basketball great Wilt Chamberlain's Jewish connections and ties to the famed Catskills resort.

Directed and produced by Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg, both Jews, Borscht Belt Bellhop examines Wilt Chamberlain's time working at Kutsher’s Country Club in New York's Catskill Mountain region in the summer of 1954.

Then a senior in high school, the future Basketball Hall of Famer served as a bellhop by day, and played basketball for the Kutscher's basketball team, which was coached by Jewish coaching legend Arnold "Red" Auerbach, who would later go on to a Hall of Fame career coaching the Boston Celtics.

According to the film's web site:

"Mixing rarely-seen archival video and interviews with people who lived and worked with Wilt during that magical summer, this documentary short reveals an unexplored and pivotal chapter in the life of one of basketball’s greatest players, and a fascinating glimpse of a time when a very different era of basketball met the Borscht Belt in its heyday." 

Wilt Chamberlain BellHop screencap
The film is available to view, in it's entirety, on ESPN's web site (or by clicking on the image above). Borscht Belt Bellhop is also being screened at a variety of film festivals. Visit the documentary's web site for a list of upcoming showings.

The mini-documentary about Chamberlain is an outgrowth of Laskow and Rosenberg's Welcome to Kutsher's: The Last Catskills Resort.

That film, released in 2012, takes a "fuller look at the increasingly forgotten aspects of this unique chapter of the Jewish American experience," Rosenberg said in an email to JewishSportsCollectibles.com. The film is expected to release on DVD later this year, according to Rosenberg.

Other than the soon-to-be released Welcome to Kutsher's DVD, memorabilia from both films is extremely limited. Rosenberg says that he and Laskow don't expect to have any merchandise to sell. "ESPN Films may later make the 30 for 30 Shorts available for sale at some point," Rosenberg told JSC, "but that's out of our hands." 

For now, posters from and tickets to the various film festivals at which the documentaries have been (or will be) shown may be a Jewish basketball collector's only option. Borscht Belt Bellhop made is festival debut at the internationally-acclaimed Tribecca Film Festival, for example. Visit the film's web site for a list of past and upcoming screenings.

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In addition to the documentary film, Jewish basketball enthusiasts have access to a wide variety of cards and memorabilia associated with Chamberlain and Auerbach, including books, jerseys, autographed photos, basketballs, etc.

Wilt Chamberlain card
Wilt Chamberlain Panini Century Greats card. Photo courtesy of eBay.
Chamberlain is the subject of hundreds of basketball cards and numerous books. For a checklist of his pasteboard, visit Beckett.com. To purchase Chamberlain's cards and other collectibles, visit the Beckett Marketplace, eBay or Amazon.com.
Red Auerbach
Red Auerbach Center Court Art postcard. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Likewise, Red Auerbach cards -- including several specifically Jewish basketball cards -- and memorabilia is plentiful. For a checklist of his cards, visit Beckett.com. To purchase Auerbach collectibles, visit the Beckett Marketplace, eBay or Amazon.com.

For a look at some of the Red Auerbach memorabilia collection sold at auction by SCP Auctions in 2011, check out this posting from JewishSportsCollectibles.com.

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Have you seen Borscht Belt Bellhop or the Kutsher's documentary? What Red Auerbach memorabilia is part of your Jewish basketball collection? Given his connections to the community, does Wilt Chamberlain have a place in your Jewish basekball catalogue?

Let JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know by commenting below.


Bud Selig 2013 Allen & Ginter Cards


Bud Selig Allen & Ginter signature
2013 Topps Bud Selig Allen & Ginter signature card. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Jewish baseball collectors have the opportunity to add a new card featuring Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig to their collection.

The 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter release includes standard, autographed and limited edition Bud Selig cards. 

Selig's card is number 300 in the base set. His autographed card is, somewhat ironically, #AGA-BS, part of the non-baseball autograph card portion of the set (a complete checklist of the Allen & Ginter series is available at CardboardConnection.com).

As with most modern card releases, numerous limited edition variations of the Selig cards exist.

These include miniature, black framed and a 1-of-1 mini "wooden" design varieties of the base cards. There is also a one-of-a-kind glossy card variation. Several different card backs are also available, in the style of vintage T206 tobacco cards, as are one-of-a-kind printing plate variations (cyan, magenta, yellow and black).

An autographed variation also exists. A red ink signature -- the standard signature card (pictured right) is signed in blue ink -- variation has a limited printing of 25 cards.

For a checklist of these cards, see Beckett.com.

The standard edition and regular autograph cards are readily available on eBay and Amazon.com. The base cards sell for $1-5, with standard autographed cards listing for $40-$80. Prices for the limited edition and variation cards vary widely, depending on the issue type's scarcity.

Unsigned Selig base cards are available in the Beckett Marketplace for less than a dollar. As of this posting, no Beckett Marketplace retailers are offering autographed cards.

Will you be buying the new Bud Selig cards? Do you have other Selig memorabilia in your Jewish baseball collection? Let JSC readers know by commenting below.

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For a look at Selig's other cards and collectibles, read JewishSportsCollectibles.com's previous postings about the Commissioner, including this posting marking Selig's 20th anniversary in office.


MLB New Jew Review: Josh Zeid


Josh Zeid Topps Pro Debut solo signature card
Josh Zeid 2011 Topps Pro Debut solo signature card.
Photo courtesy of JSC.
Reliever Josh Zeid made his big league pitching debut on July 30 with the Houston Astros, joining Nate Freiman and Kevin Pillar among the ranks of the newest Jewish Major Leaguers.

Zeid, a 6'4" righty, was drafted by the Phillies in 2009, according to JewishBaseballNews.com. He was traded to the Astros in 2011, in the Phillies deal for Hunter Pence.

A veteran of the Arizona Fall League in 2010, Zeid also pitched for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in 2012.

Jewish baseball collectors have access to cards and memorabilia associated with the big righty.

Zeid's pasteboard includes several cards from Topps and Bowman. Among them are 2011 Topps Pro Debut autographed cards (pictured right), two different 2011 Topps Heritage Minor League cards, and 2011 Bowman Platinum Prospects issues.

Short-prints and color variations of Heritage and Prospect cards exist.

All of these cards show Zeid in Phillies or Phillies minor league team uniforms.

His minor league cards include team issues from the 2009 Williamsport Crosscutters, 2010 Lakewood Blue Claws, 2012 Corpus Christi Hooks and 2013 Oklahomoa City RedHawks.

For a checklist of Zeid's cards, see Beckett.com.

Zeid's cards are plentiful, even the signed and limited edition issues. They sell for between $0.01 and $5 on eBay, Amazon.com and the Beckett Marketplace.

At the time of this posting, Zeid does not yet have any memorabilia, other than his baseball cards, available on eBay. This is certain to change in the future.

Nor does Zeid have any collectibles for sale in the Astros online shop, although collectors could customize jerseys to include his name and number.

Josh Zeid pitching for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.
Josh Zeid pitching for Team Israel in the WBC. Photo courtesy of JewishLedger.com.

Zeid does not have any photos available in the MLB Photo Store. In the meantime, collectors can find images of Zeid online, many that would make nice additions to any photo collection. These include pictures of Zeid in his Team Israel uniform.

Following Israel's loss to Spain in the WBC Qualifiers, Zeid auctioned off his signed, game-worn cleats, with a portion of the auction's proceeds benefiting the Texas Children's Hospital.

Zeid has, during his minor league career, been a generous through-the-mail signer. He autographed several cards for me while with the Phillies farm teams and during his time in the Arizona Fall League.

Josh Zeid signed ticket
Josh Zeid signs for fans.
Photo courtesy of ZackHample.mlblogs.com.

As this image from Zach Hample's Baseball Collector blog on MLB.com shows, Zeid has been a willing in-person signer during his brief MLB career. Let's hope this trend continues in the future.

Zeid is an active user of social media. Tweet collectors can follow Zeid on Twitter.

Have you had the chance to meet Zeid or get his autograph? What other Josh Zeid cards or memorabilia might exist? Let JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know by commenting below.


MLB New Jew Review: Kevin Pillar

The newest Jewish Major Leaguer, according to JewishBaseballNews.com, is Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar.

Selected in the 32nd round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, Pillar quickly rose through the Jays minor league system. He made his big league debut on Wednesday, August 14, after being called up from AAA Buffalo to replace the injured Colby Rasmus.

Kevin Pillar diving catch
Kevin Pillar makes a diving catch in his MLB debut. Photo courtesy of http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com.
At the time of this posting, Pillar is hitless in seven at-bats over two games, but he's had a couple of big defensive plays, including a diving catch in his first put-out attempt, and a bullet of a throw home to rob the Red Sox of a run.

A child of a mixed marriage, Pillar tells JewishBaseballNews.com that he attended Catholic school and was bar mitzvahed.

Pillar also says he regrets not knowing about Team Israel's tryouts for the World Baseball Classic, as he would have liked to play for the team.

While Jewish baseball collectors may have missed the opportunity to see Pillar in the WBC, the Jays rookie has no shortage of baseball cards available for purchase.

These include 2012 and 2013 Topps, Bowman and Upper Deck issues.

Kevin Pillar 2012 Topps
Kevin Pillar 2012 Topps Pro Debut. Photo courtesy of JSC.

Beckett.com shows 74 different variations, including limited edition and 1-of-1 editions. Prices for Pillar's in the Beckett Marketplace range from $0.25 to $500 for a 2012 Bowman Prospects Orange Refractors limited edition card (#24 of 25).

A search of eBay shows 200+ listings for Pillar memorabilia, mostly cards.Prices range from under a $1 to more than $150, depending on the scacity and condition of the items.

Also available, at the time of this posting, is an autographed Pillar game-used bat, with a Buy It Now pirce of $119. As always, buyer beware.

Assuming Pillar sticks with the Jays, collectors can expect to see additional memorabilia become available, including scorecards, programs, signed baseballs, photos, etc. Look for updates on JSC.com.

In the meantime, Tweet collectors can follow Pillar on Twitter.

I cannot discuss Pillar's in-person signing habits, as I missed seeing the Buffalo Bison when they came through Columbus to play the Clippers in July.

I did, however, receive a reply to my recent through-the-mail request for Pillar's signature. In fact, the signed and inscribed card pictured here arrived in the mailbox that same day as Pillar's Major League debut, less than two weeks after I mailed it.

Have you met Pillar in person or had success in obtaining his autograph via mail? What other Kevin Pillar memorabilia exists? Let JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know by commenting below.


Obituary: Ossie Schectman, Jewish Basketball Player Who Scored NBA's 'First Basket'

Ossie Schectman LIU
Ossie Schectman. Photo courtesy of Long Island University Athletics.
Oscar "Ossie" Schectman, the Jewish basketball player who scored the first basket in NBA history, died July 30, 2013 at age 94, according to the New York Times.

Schectman grew up in tenement housing in New York City, and perfected his shooting by arcing balls through a rung on a building fire escape, according to the NY Times remembrance.

He played college basketball at Long Island University, becoming an All-American and leading LIU to the 1939 and 1941 NIT championships, according to the SportingNews.com.

The SPHAs Book Cover
The SPHAs book cover. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

According to his Wikipedia bio, after college Schectman played for the Philadelphia SPHAs (short for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) in the American Basketball League. The team, billed as "basketball's greatest Jewish team," was owned by basketball Hall of Famer Eddie Gottlieb, who was also Jewish.

The team's exploits are chronicled in Douglas Stark's book The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team, which is available on Amazon.com.

“Ossie was one of the pioneers of basketball, certainly Jewish basketball, in the 20th century,” Stark told The Jewish Exponent

Shechtman then joined the New York Kicks, as an original member and captain of the team, which was then part of the Basketball Association of America, a precursor of the NBA, according to his obituary on the Knicks' web site.

In the league's first game, on November 1, 1946, between the Knicks and the Toronto Huskies, Schectman scored the game's first basket. Thus he become the first player in league history to score a point, according to this remembrance on NBA.com.

"Ossie Schectman was a true NBA pioneer," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. Scoring the league's first basket, Stern said of Schectman, "placed him permanently in the annals of NBA history."

The now-famous bucket, which Schectman told Charley Rosen, author of The First Tip-Off: The Incredible Story of the Birth of the NBA, came on "a two-handed underhand layup," according to the NY Times

The shot, according to The Jewish Ledger, inspired the title of David Vyorst's documentary film, The First Basket, which chronicles Jews' contributions to the early history of professional basketball. Video of Schetman's feat is part of the film's trailer, available below.

Peter Schectman, Ossie's son, tells JewishSportsCollectibles.com that Ossie was injured diving for a ball during the season. The injury, combined with his ability to earn money while not having to travel led to Ossie's decision.

Following his departure from the Knicks, Peter says Ossie played part-time with the Patterson (New Jersey) Crescents on the ABL, where he earned all-star honors.

Schectman was a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the LIU Athletics Hall of Fame, and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. He was awarded LIU's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013, an honor that Peter Schectman says deeply moved 

Jewish basketball collectors can purchase a variety of memorabilia associated with the scorer of the NBA's first basket.

Ossie Schectman Pack War
Ossie Schectman Remar Bread tribute card. Photo courtesy of packwar.blogspot.com.

Beckett.com lists no card available for Schectman, and no cards or memorabilia are available for sale on the Beckett Marketplace.

Because of his lack of pasteboard presence, the sports card blog Pack War created a tribute card for Schectman, based on the design of the 1946 Remar Bread trading cards.

While it exists only as an image on the blog, the "virtual card" (pictured right) is well-done and would make a nice addition to Jewish basketball enthusiasts' photo collections.

At the time of this posting, eBay offered little in the way of Schectman collectibles for sale. The auction giant's lone listing was for a signed signed index card.

Closed auction results included a Schectman signed basketball that had sold for $127.50. This is a bargain price, in my opinion, for an autographed piece associated with such an important figure in Jewish sports and NBA history.

Ossie Schectman signed ball
Ossie Schectman signed basketball. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Certainly, patient Jewish basketball enthusiasts will be able to find other Schectman memorabilia that is bound to pop up on eBay in the future. This might include 1946 Knicks memorabilia, like yearbooks, programs or ticket stubs.

As always, buyer beware.

Book collectors have numerous options for adding Schectman memorabilia to their shelves.

While Schectman is, surprisingly, not included in early editions of Great Jews In Sports (my copy is from 1983, and Schectman is not mentioned), he does, have a brief bio in the Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports.

Other books available on Amazon.com featuring information about Schectman include the previously mentioned The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team, The First Tip-Off: The Incredible Story of the Birth of the NBA; New York Knicks: The Complete Illustrated History; and, The Mogul: Eddie Gottlieb, Philadelphia Sports Legend and Pro Basketball Pioneer.

First Basket cover
The First Basket DVD. Photo courtesy of TheFirstBasket.com.

As also mentioned, Schectman is featured in The First Basket documentary.

Movie buffs can buy a DVD for $21.99 on the film's web site, which also includes other collectibles associated with the movie.

Amazon.com offers DVDs of The First Basket, as well as movie posters for the film. The DVD costs $19.99, the poster sells for $9.99.

At the time of this posting, no copies of First Basket were listed on eBay. CDs of the movie soundtrack, however, were available for approximately $10. The soundtrack is available as part of a collectors package on the First Basket web site.

Ossie Schectman
Ossie Schectman.
Photo courtesy of LOhud.com.

Jewish sportswriter Howard Megdal authored a profile of Schectman in March for LOhud.com (access to the article requires a paid subscription).

In an email to JewishSportsCollectibles.com at the time, Megdal indicated that Schectman and his son, Peter, were interested in selling Ossie's memorabilia collection.

Peter Schectman tells JSC the family consigned numerous items to Lelands.com. The Ossie Schectman collection was included in the company's Spring 2013 auction, which closed June 8, 2013. A catalogue of the sale is available on the company's web site.

Ossie Schectman Contract
Ossie Schectman Contract. Photo courtesy of Lelands.com.
Among the items that gaveled during the sale were Schectman's 1946-1947 Knicks original, signed contract, which hammered for $2,062.76.

Schectman's 1939 and 1941 NIT Tournament winners watches sold for 722.98 and $657.25, respectively.

His New York City Basketball Hall of Fame induction trophy realized $358.50.

A 50th anniversary Knicks jersey, autographed by Schectman, failed to sell. Perhaps a lucky bidder will win this wonderful piece of Jewish basketball history in a future auction.

With Schectman's passing, Peter tells JSC that the family may put the remainder of Ossie's memorabilia collection up for auction or private sale. We'll report on future offerings as details become available. 

In a recent online discussion about on the Jewish Sports Collectibles group on Yahoo, noted collector Neil Keller says he met with Schectman more than a dozen times at his home in South Florida. Keller says he and Schectman played "trash can basketball at his place in Delray Beach with a tennis ball."

Peter Schectman says his father was active in the South Florida Basketball Fraternity, a group of retired players , many Jewish, who met for weekly breakfasts on Tuesday and an annual black tie dinner. An article on JNS.org confirms this, describing Schectman as "one of basketball’s great ambassadors." It sounds to me that Schectman was a generous and charming man. 

Did you ever have the chance to meet Ossie Schectman? What Schectman memorabia do you have in your Jewish basketball collection? What other Schectman collectibles do you know about? 

Let JSC.com readers know by commenting below.