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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.


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.


Jewish World Series Heroes

Koufax Upper Deck Print
Sandy Koufax Upper Deck artwork. Photo courtesy of Beckett.com.

The Boston Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, which starts tonight, Wednesday, October 23.

During the history of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award (which started in 1955), two Jewish baseball players and a player who converted to Judaism after his career won a total of four MVP trophies.

Interestingly, all three played for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they captured the honors.


Larry Sherry 1960 Topps
Larry Sherry Topps card.
Photo courtesy of eBay.com.

JewishSportsCollectibles.com offers reviews of the players' baseball cards and collectibles ... which range from common cards to $100,000+ game-used leather, from books to DVDs, from postcards and programs to books by the yard.

 


Steve Yeager 2004 UD Legends 2 Autograph
Steve Yeager Upper Deck card. Photo courtesy of Beckett.com

 

Click on the links that follow to read the JSC overviews of the cards and memorabilia for World Series MVP winners Larry Sherry (1959), Sandy Koufax (1963 and 1965) and Steve Yeager (1981).

Feel free to comment below, or in the individual postings, to let JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know what your most treasured collectible for these World Series winners might be.

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Editor's Note: A version of this posting originally ran under the headline "Jewish World Series MVP Profiles" in 2011.

Charleston Film Fest Has Jewish Baseball Flicks

The Federated Jewish Charities of Charleston (West Virginia) film festival on Sunday, October 20, has a Jewish baseball theme, according to this article from the Charleston Daily Mail.

The festival will include screenings of Holy Land Hardball and Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.

Both films are free and open to the public. Showings will be held at the Culture Center Theater at the West Virginia State CapitolHoly Land Hardball shows at 4 p.m. Jews and Baseball starts at 5:30 p.m., according to the Daily Mail

For additional information, call Federated Jewish Charities of Charleston at 304-345-2320, or email mzltov@aol.com.

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Holy Land Hardball Poster
Holy Land Hardball poster. Photo courtesy of www.7thart.com.
Holy Land Hardball follows several players and league officials as it looks at the ill-fated experiment that was the Israel Baseball League's 2007 season.

Collectors can rent the film and download digital copies on Amazon.com. Jewish baseball enthusiasts at one time could purchase the DVDs from film's web site, but it appears to no longer be working.

Other memorabilia associated with Holy Land Hardball include promotional postcards and posters from the various Jewish film festivals at which the documentary has been shown.

Producer Brett Rapkin has proven himself willing to respond to emails in the past, and I count myself lucky to have corresponded with him. I'm pleased to have two signed Hardball promotional postcards in my personal collection of Jewish baseball memorabilia.

Watch the trailer for Holy Land Hardball below.

 

Jews and Baseball COver
Jews and Baseball poster. Photo courtesy of JewsandBaseball.com.

Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story examines Jewish Major League baseball players and the explores the meaning baseball has played in the lives of American Jews and their attempts to assimilate to American culture during the early 20th Century.

The movie includes a rare interview with Sandy Koufax.

DVDs and digital rentals of the movie are available on Amazon.com.

Movie buffs can also purchase a DVD from the film's web site and the Jewish Major Leaguers web site.

Other Jews and Baseball collectibles include posters, baseball caps and t-shirts. All can be purchased from the film's web site store.

Watch the trailer for Jews and Baseball below.

 

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Read additional information about Jews and Baseball in this 2010 posting by JewishSportsCollectibles.com. Read more about Holy Land Hardball in this JSC article about the memorabilia associated with the Israel Baseball League.

Are you planning to attend the film festival this weekend? Have you seen Jews and Baseball or Holy Land Hardball? Share your thoughts on the films with other JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers by commenting below.


Orthodox Boxer Dmitriy Salita Fights October 20


Dmitriy Salita Fight
Dmitriy Salita (left) vs. Ronnie Warrior Jr. Photo by Alex Gorokhov, courtesy of www.dsalita.com.

Orthodox Jewish welterweight boxer Dmitriy "The Star of David" Salita will step into the ring as part of the opening night fights at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday, October 20.

Salita will fight either Brandon Hoskins, according to a report on KaplansKorner.com, in one of the under card bouts scheduled for the grand opening event.

Salita's story is intriguing.

Born in 1980 in Odessa, Ukraine in the former Soviet Union, Salita moved to Brooklyn at age nine, according to his Wikipedia bio, to escape anti-Semitic violence.

Bullied in school, Salita took up karate and boxing to learn to defend himself. "That is how it all started. I got called into the principal's office. I got suspended a few times, but I got my respect. I started kicking some ass at school."

Salita began boxing competitively at age 13, won a championship in the April 2001 New York Golden Gloves competition and turned pro at age 19 later that year. He has since won 36 fights, losing only one match and fighting to a draw in one, according to BoxRec.com.

Orthodox Stance
Orthodox Stance DVD.
Photo courtesy of
OrthodoxStance.com.
Dmitriy Salita Gloves
Salita signed
boxing gloves. Photo courtesy DSalitas.com.
While growing up in Brooklyn, Salitas was exposed to Orthodox Judaism and became fully observant. He keeps kosher and observes Sabbath, refusing to fight before sundown on Saturdays or on Jewish holidays.

Jewish boxing fans have access to a small, but varied, number of Salita collectibles.

The boxer, who fights wearing trunks that bear a Star of David, maintains a web site, on which he sells merchandise, including autographed, training ring worn boxing gloves and signed fight worn corner jackets. Cost for either item is $250 plus $20 shipping.

There are also a number of high quality images available on Salita's web site. Most (like the one featured above) feature the boxer in the ring, and would make nice additions to a boxing collection, especially if a collector could get a print signed by the Jewish fighter.

Salita is also the focus of a documentary film, titled Orthodox Stance. DVDs of the film can be purchased on Amazon.com and eBay, but not from the film's web site.

The trailer for the documentary can be seen below.

 

A search of eBay yielded little beyond the DVD, at the time of this posting. A poster for Salita's 2009 championship fight against Amir Khan, which Salita lost by knockout in 76 seconds, is for sale on the auction giant.

Khan Salita Poster
Khan vs. Salita poster. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Amazon.com offers photos, puzzles and photo mugs with images of Khan from the fight, but none of Salitas.

Beckett.com lists no boxing card for Salitas, and the Beckett Marketplace was also void of the fighter's memorabilia.

Certainly, other Salitas collectibles exist, including tickets, programs and promotional materials for other fights.

For fans who collect friend and tweets, Salida is active on Twitter (@DSalita) and Facbook.

What other Salitas collectibles exist? What memorabilia associated with the fighter do you have in your Jewish boxing collection? Let JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know by commenting below.