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Sidney Franklin, American Jewish Bullfighter

Sidney Franklin Photo
Sidney Franklin. Photo courtesy
As I learned via a recent tweet from @JewsnSports, September 20, 1923 marked the ring debut of American Jewish matador Sidney Franklin.
Franklin is a fascinating, and controversial, sports figure -- and that's no bull!

Born Sidney Fromkin to Orthodox parents in Brooklyn, New York in 1903, Sidney ran away from home at age 18 to escape his abusive father, according to this biography in Great Jews In Sports.

Franklin started a poster business, producing artwork for bullfights. On something of a dare from a friend who believed that Americans couldn't be matadors, Franklin trained for his first bullfight, according to the Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports.

Thus began Franklin's colorful career. He fought in Mexico, then became the first American to fight in Spain, becoming a full matador in 1945. At his peak, Franklin made more than $100,000 a year as a bullfighter, according to Great Jews in Sports.

Franklin suffered for his sport, too. In 1930, Franklin was gored so severely that he required multiple surgeries to repair extensive injuries that left him near death and unable to fight for several years. He survived, only to "die in obscurity in 1976," according to the Jewish Daily Forward.

Franklin's life was lived in the spotlight, though. He met Ernest Hemingway and was immortalized in one of the writer's great works, was profiled in a masterful write-up in the New Yorker, published an autobiography and starred in a movie.

Curiously, for all his fame and self-promotion, the matador has never been inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame or the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.


Jewish sports collectors have access to a surprising amount of the bullfighters' memorabilia.

Sidney Franklin KTAV Card
Sidney Franklin KTAV Card. Photo courtesy of Joshua Platt. shows one trading card for the Jewish matador, number 4 in the 1963 Jewish Sports Champions cards produced by KTAV published as part of an activity book by the same name. None of the individual cards are for sale in the Beckett Marketplace, however.

An eBay search at the time of this posting yields no Franklin KTAV cards and just one copy of the 1963 activity book, Jewish Sports Champions, in which the card is featured. shows three listings for the Jewish Sports Champions book, though none of the listings make specific mention of the cards. Same for Collectors interested in buying the book for the trading cards should, therefore, be careful. does have a number of Franklin items available for purchase, other than the KTAV activity book.

These include photos of Franklin, along with coffee mugs and a jig saw puzzle bearing his image. 

Bull Fighter from Brooklyn
Bullfight from Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of
Also for sale on Amazon are copies of the matador's autobiography, Bullfighter from Brooklyn: An Autobiography of Sidney Franklin.

An article in the Jewish Daily Forward article about Franklin describes the bullfighter's autobiography as "self-promotional" and "largely fictitious."

I've not read the book, and am no expert on Franklin, so I cannot render critical judgement, one way or another. I would, however, suggest that any Franklin collection would be incomplete without the matador's own book. 

While I could find first editions of Franklin's book, I found no signed copies on or eBay. Certainly autographed copies of Franklin's autobiography must exist. Do any readers have one on their shelf?

Bart Paul's 2009 biography, Double-Edged Sword: The Many Lives of Hemingway's Friend, the American Matador Sidney Franklinprovides an outsider's look at Franklin's life. The book describes Franklin as "a gay man in the most masculine of worlds who triumphed over prejudice and adversity as he achieved what no American had ever accomplished, teaching even Hemingway lessons in grace, machismo, and respect." 

A well-written critical review of the book in the Jewish Daily Forward details the biography's short comings. These problems aside, Double-Edged Sword is, nevertheless, a must-have addition to any Franklin collection.

Double Edged Sword
Double Edged Sword. Photo courtesy of
As the Paul's title details, Franklin was a friend of Ernest Hemingway's. As such, the bullfighter also figures prominently in books by and about the famed author.

The most notable of these is Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon, in which "Papa" devotes an entire chapter to Franklin.

"Franklin is brave with a cold, serene and intelligent valor," writes Hemingway, "but instead of being awkward and ignorant he is one of the most skillful, graceful and slow manipulators of a cape fighting today."

As the Jewish Daily Forward review notes, Hemingway "overpraised" Franklin in the book, and the friendship between the author and bullfighter cooled shortly thereafter. This well-deserved criticism aside, Death In The Afternoon also makes a worthwhile addition to a collector's Franklin book shelf.

Franklin was profiled by the New Yorker magazine, in a piece hailed as some of the best sports writing in the magazine's history, according to Wikipedia. Collectors can read Lillian Ross's story about Franklin in The Only Game in Town: Sportswriting from The New Yorker

As mentioned above, Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports and Great Jews In Sports also contain biographies of Franklin. These books are worthy general additions to any Jewish sports memorabilia collection or library, well beyond their inclusion of the biographies they have of the matador. 

The Kid From Spain
The Kid From Spain. Photo courtesy of

According to the Jewish Daily Forward, Franklin appeared with Eddie Cantor in
The Kid From Spain, a comedy film "in which Franklin provides serious bullfighting expertise juxtaposed with Cantor’s clowning."

Critical reviews aside, a copy of Franklin's on screen appearance -- available on on DVD and VHS -- would make a nice addition to any collection of the matador's memorabilia.

A search of eBay for "Sidney Franklin bullfighter" or "Sidney Franklin bullfighting" yields numerous Franklin collectibles, in addition the above books and movies.

Bull Fighter From Brooklyn Comic Book
Sidney Franklin comic book. Photo courtesy
of eBay.
These include numerous vintage photos of Franklin and several newspapers reporting on the matador's exploits. Among the most interesting items are a 1920s promotional poster and a 1944 comic book.

Do you have any Sidney Franklin memorabilia in your Jewish sports collection? Share your thoughts with readers by commenting below.



Author's note: Collectors who want to know more about Sidney Franklin,  should contact the American Jewish Historical Society in New York. AJHS maintains a Franklin archive. The collection consists of "photographs of Franklin performing in the bullring, or posing with Spanish and Latin American matadors or famous Americans ... . There are also audio recordings of Franklin, a film proposal, clippings and a copy of Franklin’s autobiography." According to AJHS, additional photographs of Franklin and correspondence between the bullfighter and Earnest Hemingway are housed in the Ernest Hemingway Papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.


Happy Birthday, Red Auerbach!


Red Auerbach
Red Auerbach. Photo courtesy of, copyright Steve Lipofsky

According to a tweet from @JewsnSports on Thursday, September 20, 2012: "Today a Jewish Sports Legend-Red Auerbach would have been 95. Light up a Cigar in his honor! #Celtics #NBA #LEGENDSOFTHEGAME."

An inductee of both the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame & Museum and International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, basketball coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach was legend, on and off the court.

Take a minute to wish The Coach a happy birthday by reading about the 2011 auction of the Red Auerbach Collection by SCP Auctions, which in 2011 sold the personal memorabilia collection of the Boston Celtics and Jewish basketball icon.

You can also browse and purchase a wide variety of Auerbach collectibles and memorabilia from eBay, and the Beckett Marketplace.

This includes DVDs and books by and about the legendary hoops coach, autographed and unsigned photos, autographed basketballs and jerseys, signed checks, pieces of Boston Garden flooring signed by the coach and numerous basketball cards.

What Red Auerbach memorabilia do you have in your Jewish basketball collection? Let readers know by commenting below.


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, 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 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 readers by commenting below.

Joe Ginsberg & The 50th Anniversary of the Mets' First Game

As Jewish sportscaster Len Berman today reminded readers of his web site,, April 11, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the expansion New York Mets' first-ever game.

Joe Ginsberg 2009 JML

Former Jewish Major Leaguer Myron Nathan "Joe" Ginsberg was behind the plate that day in St. Louis (the Mets opened on the road against the Cardinals), a member of the starting 9 for the 1962 Mets.

Ginsberg played from 1948 through 1962 for the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, and Boston Red Sox and Mets.

In addition to taking the field for the Mets on Day One of their existence, among Ginsberg's career highlights was catching one of Virgil Truck's no-hitters.

Ginsberg has a variety of memorabilia available for collectors, as indicated in this 2010 posting.

Several years ago, I had success requesting a through-the-mail autograph from Ginsberg, who returned my cards signed in just a few weeks. Has anyone had luck recently?

What Ginsberg items do you have in your Jewish baseball collection?