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Hall of Fame Writer Murray Chass

Murray Chass
Murray Chass. Photo courtesy
of MurrayChass.com.
Jewish baseball enthusiasts have the opportunity to add a limited edition card autographed by sportswriter Murray Chass to their collections.

A member of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh's Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Chass is the 2003 winner of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."

[Author's note: Among the other Jewish winners of the prestigious honor are writers Shirley PovichDick Young, Milton Richman, Jerome Holtzman, Hal Lebovitz and Ross Newhan.]

Chass has covered baseball since 1956. He previously served as the chairman of the New York Chapter of The Baseball Writers Association of America and the New York Time's national baseball correspondent, according to his Wikipedia biography.

He pioneered coverage of the business of sports, including contracts and labor negotiations.

Chass has written several online columns ("Hall Of Fame Puts Its Shame On The Line" and "Players Line Up To Salute Miller," among others) advocating the election of Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and has been outspoken on the subject in a wide array of media (search Google for a variety of Chass's thoughts on Miller).

Chass is the author of several books, available on Amazon, on both baseball and football. These include The Yankees: The Four Fabulous Eras of Baseball's Most Famous Team, Power Football and Pittsburgh Steelers: The Long Climb.

Murray Chass Panini
Murray Chass 2012 Panini. Photo courtesy of JSC.
I had tried several times, unsuccessfully, to obtain Chass's autograph for my Jewish baseball collection.

So, it was with great delight that I read his April 25 online column (Chass insists his site is not a blog!), "Honus And His Buddy," in which Chass discusses the existence of his baseball card, in the context of reporting on Goldin Auctions' recent sale for $2.1 million of the "Jumbo" T206 Honus Wagner card.

Chass is the subject of card #JSA-MUR in the 2012 Panini Cooperstown Signatures (pictured at left).

The serial numbered, limited edition card -- only 500 were produced --features a black and white image of the Hall of Fame writer along with a bold, clean autograph. 

In his column, Chass makes it clear he doesn't understand why collectors would want his card, and cares little for the "unimportant subject of baseball cards."

Chass's column reads, in part:

"... I wouldn’t have spent $9 for my card.

Let’s be honest here. The Wagner card is probably the most famous baseball card in existence. Nobody knew mine existed. Why it exists I don’t know.

Last year Panini America, Inc. decided to publish a set of cards of Hall of Fame players, Wagner, who was among the first five players elected to the Hall in 1936 among them. But the Panini people decided to include broadcasters and writers, too.

Peter Gammons and I were the two writers selected, and our autographed cards were distributed among the packs otherwise filled with Hall of Fame players. It was unusual enough that the cards existed. But then things got even more bizarre.

One of the recipients of the cards had no use for the Murray Chass card – hey, I don’t have a problem with that – but why he took the next step defies reality. He posted the card for sale on eBay. Why, I asked myself, did he think anybody would bid for the card?

... I am not a collector and have never understood the ravenous thirst memorabilia collectors have for sports items.

I suppose that lack of interest in collecting adds to my reaction to people bidding for my card. However, I will refrain from making any additional comment because the buyer might be a reader and I don’t want to antagonize a reader on the unimportant subject of baseball cards."

I don't want to, nor will I, engage Chass in an argument about sports memorabilia or collectors' passions. I do, however, think Chass should examine sports cards and memorabilia in some context before simply dismissing them as the cardboard idols of crazed collectors. 

Consider the following: Major League Baseball teams' 2013 Opening Day payrolls totalled an estimated $3.156 billion, according to Yahoo Sports. Annually, the global market total of sports collectibles sales is $2-4 billion, according to CNN and ESPN. In this light, alone, sports collectibles can hardly be dismissed as "unimportant."

The size of the sports cards and collectibles markets and collectors' unbridled passion for memorabilia aside, Jewish baseball enthusiasts may be limited to the Panini card if they want to add a Chass item to their memorabilia collections, given Chass' thoughts.

Two Beckett Marketplace sellers were offering Chass's card, at the time of this posting, for $10-$12. 

A search of eBay found several listings of the Panini cards, with prices ranging from $8-$25. eBay sellers were also offering Chass' books and a signed first day cover for bid, at the time of this posting.

Amazon sellers were offering the Panini card and a signed first day cover (the same available on eBay) autographed by Chass, but little else.

I purchased a Chass card last week on eBay for a Buy It Now price of $11, and consider it money well spent to add the Hall of Fame writer's autograph to my Jewish baseball collection. What are your thoughts?

Do you have any Chass memorabilia in your collection? Do you know of other Chass collectibles? Have you had a chance to meet Chass?

Share your thoughts with other JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers by commenting below.


Jackie and the Jews: A Preview

Jackie Robinson 42 movie poster
42 movie poster. Photo courtesy of 42movie.com.
With the recent release of 42, the movie detailing Jackie Robinson's breaking of the Major League Baseball's "color line" in modern era (April 15 marked the 66th anniversary of Robinson's 1947 debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers), I've been thinking a great deal about Robinson, whom I've long admired for his courage and grace.

The connections between Jackie Robinson and the Jewish people, are broader, deeper and more intimate than I knew when I started my research for this series of postings.

"Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s color line in 1947, one of the most important civil rights advances of the first half of the twentieth century, benefited very significantly from such Jewish cooperation and support," write Stephen Norword and Harold Brackman in their SABR award-winning research paper, "Going to Bat for Jackie Robinson: The Jewish Role in Breaking Baseball's Color Line," originally published in the Spring 1999 issue of the Journal of Sport History.

Throughout his career, Robinson played with and against numerous Jewish major leaguers in the late 1940s and 1950s, including Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, to name but a few.

He also enjoyed the support of some renowned Jewish sportswriters and journalists, and was assisted in his personal life by a variety of Jewish friends and business associates.

The number of collectibles showcasing the relationship between Robinson and the Jews includes baseball cards, books and movies, among other items.

Over the coming days, JewishSportsCollectibles.com will explore each of these connections in a series of upcoming postings about Jackie Robinson and the the Jews.

Watch JSC for additional postings.


AJHS 'Night of Jewish Baseball' Recap

AJHS Night of Jewish Baseball Panel DiscussionThe American Jewish Historical Society recently hosted “A Night Of Jewish Baseball.

A sell-out, the February 27 event featured Jewish sportswriter and broadcaster Len Berman moderating a panel discussion that include three renowned Jewish baseball authors and two former Jewish Major Leaguers.

Ira Berkow, author of Hank Greenberg: The Story of My LifeFranklin Foer, editor of Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame, and Jane Leavy, author of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy made up the panel of authors. 

Baseball historian and author John Thorn was scheduled to appear, but was ill and unable to take part.

Former Yankees media relations representative and sports publicist Marty Appel, himself a Jew and the author of several baseball books, handled PR for the event.

In an email following the festivities, Appel told JewishSportsCollectibles.com that Leavy shared with the crowd the story of Sandy Koufax attending her daughter's bat mitzvah.  

"He doesn't like those sorts of things because when he enters, 250 people come at him, it detracts from the event, and engulfs him," Appel said, relaying Leavy's account of the day. "But he did this for Jane, who quickly hustled [Sandy] into a private study for peace and quiet prior to the ceremony.

"In the study was Emma, the bat mitzvah girl, and a friend of hers, a boy. The boy asked Sandy how to throw a curve ball, and Sandy demonstrated. The boy insisted he was wrong, that this is the way you throw it.

"Amused, Sandy made the point that he had some success with his style. The boy refused to budge and said Sandy was not doing it right, he should do it his way.

"Finally, Sandy said, 'Look, this is how you $%^$E throw it!' The profanity was ballplayer-talk, and brought the house down."

Ron Blomberg and Art ShamskyFormer Jewish Major Leaguers Ron Blomberg and Art Shamsky also headlined the affair. Blomberg shared with attendees some of the stories contained in his autobiography, Designated Hebrew.

Appel tells JSC that Blomberg "talked about growing up Jewish in Atlanta, surrounded by KKK, but always a Yankee fan."

IBL Players at the AJHS Night of Jewish BaseballBoth Shamsky and Blomberg managed in the short-lived Israel Baseball League.

Several IBL veterans, including Nate Fish and Shlomo Lipetz, who coached and pitched with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, and Secretary-General, Israel Association of Baseball Peter Kurz attended the function. 



Team Israel signed World Baseball Classic jersey Sandy Koufax Jerseys on Display At the AJHS Night of Jewish BaseballThe event featured a display of Jewish baseball memorabilia, including autographed uniforms from Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax and a team signed Team Israel WBC jersey.

Also on display was an autographed, limited edition All Jewish Baseball Players lithograph by artist Ron Lewis and Greg Harris.

The artwork was auctioned during the event, with proceed benefiting AJHS. 


Jewish Major Leaguers Baseball Cards Jews In Baseball lithographThe first 100 attendees who purchased $150 “reserved seats” received a gold-trimmed, limited edition set of the 2003 edition of Jewish Major Leaguers baseball cards, and attendees could also purchase JML card sets during the event.

I only wish I could have attended the AJHS Night of Jewish Baseball, instead of blogging about it from afar. Alas, I'm in Ohio and the event was held in New York City.

Did you attend the Night of Jewish Baseball? Tell JSC readers about your experience by commenting below. Share your photos from the event by emailing JewishSportsCollectibles.com at jsportscollctr@gmail.com

All event photos used above are by Melanie Einzig, courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society. Additional photos can be found on the AJHS web site and Facebook page.

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Selig Marks 20 Years As Baseball's Commissioner

September 10, 2012 marks the 20 anniversary of Allan H. "Bud" Selig's election as the ninth commissioner of baseball, as reported by Len Berman's That's Sports.

As detailed in a 2011 post about the Jewish executives and labor leaders in major sports, Commissioner Selig has a variety of cards and memorabilia available to Jewish baseball collectors.

Bud Selig signed HeroDeck card
Bud Selig signed HeroDeck playing card. Photo courtesy of Joshua Platt.
Selig's cards, according to Beckett.com, These include cut signature and autograph cards from Fleer and Upper Deck. He's also got a Hero Deck playing card bearing his caricature, a Wisconsin Historical Museum issue (#63 in the series honoring the 1957 Braves), and Jewish Major Leaguers cards (2006, #43, 2010, #43).

The JML cards sell for $5-10. I've seen the Wisconsin Museum card listed on eBay for $3. The playing card is available for around $2. None of these cards are, unfortunately, listed in the Beckett Marketplace.

Selig has been a willing through the mail signer, in the past. He signed my Hero Deck card and enclosed a signed business card in response to my letter requesting his autograph.

Selig statuette
Bud Selig Statue SGA. Photo courtesy of eBay.
Selig is also memorialized in bronze, with a statue in his likeness having recently been unveiled outside of Miller Park. The St. Paul Saints issued a "Best Bud" statuette to commemorate the occasion. The stadium give-away was limited to 2,500, and is selling for $10 and up on eBay

A search of eBay this morning shows a variety of other Selig memorabilia available.

Selig Signed Check
Bud Selig signed check. Photo courtesy of eBay.
This includes ten Brewers checks signed by Selig as team owner. I've got only one signed check in my collection (from Negro Leagues female player Toni Stone), but I find these fascinating collectibles. The signature is almost guaranteed to be authentic, and the payee/payor information offers a snapshot of a single moment in history.

Also available for bid on eBay are bats, baseball cards, balls, photos, magazines and programs, business cards, mini helmets and letters signed by the Commissioner. There's also a 2010 Brewers program available from the game at which the statue of Selig was dedicated in Milwaukee.

In The Best Interests of Baseball
In The Best Interests of Baseball, by Andrew Zimbalist. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Amazon.com shows more than two dozen books featuring Selig. These include In the Best Interests of Baseball: The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig by Jewish sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, as well as other books dealing with baseball's commissioners, labor relations and business models.

Collectors can also find autographed baseballs, photos and business cards inked by Selig, along with a song titled, Bud Selig (Shake & Bake) (warning, this song has explicit lyrics), on Amazon

Selig's facsimile signature is, of course, on every official Major League Baseball. I'd love to add a signed Selig OML ball to my collection. Does anyone have one?

What other Bud Selig memorabilia do you have in your Jewish baseball collection? Have you had the chance to meet the Commish? Share your thoughts with other JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers by commenting below.


Mitch Albom 'Time Keeper' Book Tour


Mitch Albom Facebook Banner
Mitch Albom.
Photo courtesy of
Mitch Albom/Facebook.

Jewish sports writer and author Mitch Albom has released a new book, The Time Keeper

The Time Keeper
The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Albom -- best known for writing the international best-selling Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson -- is actively promoting his new novel with a book tour that includes stops at two Jewish Community Centers and a synagogue. 

The Time Keeper is Albom's "most imaginative novel yet," according to Amazon.com, in a review that describes the book as a "compelling fable about the first man on earth to count the hours. The man who became Father Time."

According to Albom's Facebook page, his Time Keeper tour includes events at: Sinai Temple in Los Angeles on Thursday, September 20, the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula in Newport News, Virginia on October 6, and the Mayerson JCC in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 21. 

Check Albom's Facebook page for additional details and a complete list of upcoming events. Albom's web site also offers a calendar of upcoming appearances.

Mitch Albom
Mitch Albom signs books in Columbus, Ohio in 2010. Photo by Joshua Platt, JewishSportsCollectibles.com.

I met Albom several years ago at a speaking engagement and book signing for Have A Little Faith at a synagogue here in Columbus in April 2010, and found him to be a generous in person signer.

There were more than 500 people at the event, and I'd bet 300+ were in line to meet Mitch after his speech. Albom chatted with attendees, inscribed and autographed every book he was handed (I'm proud to have all of his non-sports books in my collection of signed books), and posed for pictures. 

Albom no longer responds to fan mail, according to his web site. "With tens of millions of copies of my books sold worldwide," the site says, "accepting and sending out mail isn’t logistically possible for security and staff concerns." 

Tuesdays With Morrie
Tuesdays with Morrie, by
Mitch Albom.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com
Prior to the posted policy being put in place, Albom signed my copy of Tuesdays With Morrie in response to a through-the-mail request that I sent to his office at the Detroit Free Press in 2001. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the book, considering my request was made during the height of the Morrie craze. 

My signed copy of Morrie is, unfortunately, not a first edition. Morrie had a first edition printing of just 20,000 copies, before exploding in popularity. True first editions, therefore, are rare, highly collectible and expensive. ABEbooks.com sells autographed firsts for as much as $500 to $800 or more. Nevertheless, I am thrilled to have it in my collection!

***

In addition to Morrie and The Time Keeper, Albom is the author of The Five People You Meet in HeavenFor One More Day, and Have a Little Faith: A True Story, which recounts Albom's relationship with Rabbi Albert L. Lewis, who asked Albom to write his eulogy.

Prior to his fame from Morrie and his other novels, however, Albom was best known as a sports journalist.

Writing for Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press, among others, Albom became, according to Wikipedia, "one of the most award-winning sports writers of his era."

Bo
Bo, by Mitch Albom. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Albom's sports books Bo: Life, Laughs, and Lessons of a College
Football Legend
 
(an autobiography of
Fab Five
Fab Five,
by Mitch Albom. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
football coach Bo Schembechler co-written with the coach) and The Fab Five: Basketball Trash Talk the American Dream (a profile of the 1992/1993 University of Michigan men's basketball teams) were both New York Times best sellers.

Fans of Albom's sports columns can read several anthologies, including Live Albom: The Best of Detroit Free Press Sports Columnist Mitch Albom Live Albom II , Live Albom III: Gone to the Dogs , and Live Albom 4.

***

Are you planning to attend any of Albom's upcoming events? Have you met Mitch Albom before? Do you have any of his sports (or other) books in your collection? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments below.