Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reviews of Sports Biographies and Other Sports Books

Dolph Schayes and the Rise of Professional Basketball by Dolph Grundman
Hardcover: 232 pages
Publisher: Syracuse University Press (October 7, 2014)

Grundman gives us the first-ever biography of Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes.  One of the fifty greatest players to ever play in the NBA, Schayes may very well be the only Jewish player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  Schayes life is profiled from the time he grew up as the child of Jewish Romanian immigrants through his playing career at New York University and with the Syracuse Nationals.  It isn't just Schayes life that Grundman reflects on but also how basketball as a whole was undergoing some major changes.

Frank Robinson: A Baseball Biography by John C. Skipper
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: McFarland (October 31, 2014)

Skipper gives us the first biography of the Hall of Famer.  Robinson, one of the few Triple Crown winners in baseball, played for both the Reds and the Orioles.  He became the first African-American to manage teams in both leagues.  No matter what he was doing, the Hall of Famer always demanded respect.

Marvin Miller, Baseball Revolutionary by Robert F. Burk
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (January 26, 2015)

Miller is one of the few contributors to the world of Major League Baseball that is not in the Hall of Fame.  He should be and Burk goes the distance in giving baseball fans the first biography of the labor leader.

Miller may have been the single person to change the business of sports when he was named as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.  Burk follows his life from hard times during the Great Depression to dealing with racial and religious bigotry along with Washington politics before he made his mark in history with the MLBPA.

Miller's legacy is as follows: decent workplace conditions, a pension system, outside mediation of player grievances and salary disputes, a system of profit sharing, and the dismantling of the reserve clause which led the way for free agency.

Allies and adversaries alike praised Miller for his attitude, work ethic, and honesty.

Gil Hodges: A Hall of Fame Life by Mort Zachter
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (March 1, 2015)

Like Miller above, Gil Hodges is one of those that should have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame a long time ago.  It's a travesty that he hasn't.  Zachter's biography of the Brooklyn Dodgers great and former New York Mets manager is the one that he deserves.

Hodges was a hero on the playing field, in the Marines during World War 2, and during his life in general.  One of the finest first basemen to ever play the game, Hodges was an icon in New York City.  He later managed both the Washington Senators and New York Mets.  He was the Mets manager when they won it all back in 1969.

While Zachter examines Hodges' career on the field and in the dugout, he also looks at the life he led.  Hodges had a dry sense of humor but was a witty man.  His honesty and integrity by far are his defining elements.  First hand interviews with those who knew him help to provide a better appreciation for this should-be Hall of Famer.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Book Review: Repeat by Neal Pollack

Repeat by Neal Pollack
Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (March 24, 2015)

Repeat is what Groundhog Day could have been had Bill Murray's character been forced to relive his entire life up to that day rather than the same day over and over.  As a novel, it is quite daring as we have seen a similar story play out on screen but never can I recall reading one in book format.  Hilarious scatological, Pollack has written what Groundhog Day could have been like had Phillip Roth written it.

Repeat tells the story of Brad Cohen, a failed screenwriter.  As a screenwriter, he's down on his luck.  Somehow, through strange circumstances, he finds himself reliving the first 40 years of his life again and again.  Each time he goes to bed on the night before his 40th birthday, he finds himself in his mother's womb.  Cohen knows what has happened during his lifetime and upon repeating his life, he takes advantage of the stock tips and sports wins.

Try and try as he may to get out of an infinite loop of repeating his life, nothing seems to work at all.  His wife, Juliet, may be a way out but as Cohen soon finds out, it's not easy being able to win somebody's heart again especially when he already knows her that well.

In his various repeats, Cohen finds himself working as a political pundit, being a millionaire playboy, to exploring yoga in India, or just being a lifelong independent scholar.  One of my favorites is his time working as a political pundit especially when he jumps on the Clinton bandwagon in 1990 and the Obama bandwagon very early on, too.  He decides to quit his job when he realizes that nobody is taking any action on his knowledge of bad events to come.

All in all, Pollack gives us a book that is unique but comes with the heart and warmth of what we expect from a novel written by Nick Hornby combined with that of sociopolitical satire.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer

The President's Shadow (The Culper Ring Series)
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (June 16, 2015)

Brad Meltzer is at  it again.  With his third thriller in the Culper Ring series, readers are bound to be on the edge of their seat turning page after page after page.  The third book finds Beecher White seeking to uncover his father's past. In the process, it is revealed that there were government cover-ups, secret military locations, and of course, the key to finding out just how Beecher's father died while serving in a speciial navy unit called the Plankholders.

Meltzer is known for his fast pace, suspense-filled, and historically reseatched novels.  This book is no exception with my having finished it in the span of one day.

What kicks off this book is the discovery of a severed arm in the Rose Garden.  The arm carried a Plankholders memento, thus requiring a visit from Beecher in a secret laundry room at the White House as the White House is not sure who to trust after a security lapse.

With a would-be presidential assassin on the loose, Beecher aims to track down what happened to his dad when he was just a kid.

Meltzer's work continues to show that he belongs there with the ranks of John Grisham.  Personally, he's above Grisham at this point.

One of the most anticipated books of 2015, Meltzer doesn't disappoint and leaves you wanting more even though it feels as if Beecher's store may be coming to an end.  If it does, I'm fine with that.  I trust that Brad can come up with a new cast of characters for people to fall in love with.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Media silence on Extortion Threat against Daniel Grossberg

Last Monday, Joe Sonka broke the news at Insider Louisville that Daniel Grossberg, a candidate for State Treasurer in Kentucky, was being threatened by his former media consultant, Jacob Conway, with extortion.  Conway, in a tape recording, also made anti-Semitic comments.  Those comments were picked up by JTA News on Monday.  The JTA article was picked up, in turn, by the Forward.

Sonka's story was picked up by The Washington Free Beacon and the Independent Journal Review.

Now, outside of Joe Sonka, did any Kentucky media report on it?  Not really, no.  The Kentucky media was silent aside from Joe Arnold of WHAS-11 TV in Louisville.  Arnold's report, which focused on the extortion more so than the anti-Semitic comments, aired on Friday evening to lead off the 5:30 PM news.

I am privy to information that has not been covered anywhere in the media, including in Sonka's story.  I emailed this information to all the major newspapers, radio and television stations in Kentucky.  I reached out to the national media as well.  Aside from JTA and the Forward, there was no traction on that front.  The only person to respond was Joe Arnold.  In the interest of full disclosure, I know Joe Arnold and he follows me on Twitter.

What I do know is this:  The county attorney in Jefferson County has been looking into issuing an indictment against Jacob Conway for extortion and pursuing all criminal charges.  Daniel Grossberg, who was a candidate for state treasurer, was called in as an eye witness during the last week, where he was questioned by the county attorney, detectives, and handed over all evidence of extortion.

There is an investigation into extortion, harassment, hate crime, etc.—much more evidence than the tape.  As of this past Friday, they have hired a special prosecutor

The Courier-Journal and the Herald Leader should be ashamed of themselves.  If one is being extorted, I guess they need to be a basketball coach in order to make the front page, let alone the newspaper.  Joe Gerth was way too busy dealing with allegations against Jamie Comer that are over 20 years old (Let me stress: any form of domestic abuse is wrong).  Meanwhile, what happened to Grossberg was only recently and yet the Kentucky media was just nowhere to be found.  Though Gerth did have the following comments to say: "If any charges come of it later, I’ll be interested in following."

Who knows when the charges will be filed but that's beside the point.  The deafening silence, and I cannot stress this enough, is enough to make one bang their head against the wall.

Sure, the treasurer's race is a down-ticket race but it's still an elected position and what happened is sad.  The lack of media coverage, to say the least, is very frustrating.  If I were a publisher, I would be up in arms with my chief political reporter to ask why in the hell did they choose not to report anything on this!

To WAVE-3, WLKY, and WDRB, where were you during the last week?  I know that people from WAVE-3 follow me on Twitter and I've been pushing the above articles very hard on my Twitter account during the last week so it's not like they didn't know what was happening.

The CJ has a larger circulation than Insider Louisville.  It gets read by people who do not have the internet, like my grandmother for one.  And yet?  They were just silent like they didn't even care at all.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


I have a pile of unread books that I am making my through as fast as possible so as to get reviews published here or other sites, if need be.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review - Lincoln and the Jews: A History by Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell

Lincoln and the Jews: A History by Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (March 17, 2015)

Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents and being a member of the tribe, I very much looked forward to reading and enjoying this book.  Enjoy it I did--except for the part where it is said that Lincoln's killer was the son of a member of the Tribe.

From the time that Lincoln was born in 1809 until his tragic assassination in 1865, the number of Jews living in America skyrocketed from 3,000 to 150,000.  This is mostly due to Jews escaping horrid conditions in Europe.

Because of Jonathan Sarna (When Grant Expelled the Jews) and Benjamin Shapell, we know a lot more about President Lincoln's meetings with those in the Jewish community and the consequences of said meetings.  The duo have managed to uncover the complex relationships between the president and the Jews of his era.  The effects of these connections continue to be felt to this day.  Lincoln was the first president to really give the Jews the respect and courtesy that they deserved.

Their discoveries are accompanied by a number of photographs and original manuscripts--letters, appointments, pardons, personal notes, and humble requests.  Because of President Lincoln, the Jewish people living in America were able to overcome the prevailing anti-Semitism of the Civil War period.  This was a president who befriended, protected, and admired Jews despite the tense climate in which Jews were seen as suspicious or scapegoats.

This is the same president who overturned General Orders No. 11 when Jewish leaders came to him with complaints.

Almost 150 years to the day after Lincoln's death, this book gives us a new perspective on one of American history's dynamic time periods in which there was a fight over slavery.  Lincoln's relationship with the Jews is one that should offer lessons in history, tolerance, and the development of our current society.

For Jews with an interest in politics, this book being a must-read is a no-brainer.  It's a chapter in our freedom that has so rarely been explored.  This book is a classic that will be looked upon for years to come.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Peace in the Middle East

The comments from the White House today are not surprising given the President's remarks of late.  All I have to say in response is this:

No duh. Arafat and Abbas both walked away from the best deals that they were ever going to get. No Israeli Prime Minister will ever agree to any deal with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas in its government.

There was a point in time in which I did support a two-state solution but that went out the window the moment that Hamas joined the PA unity government. Time and time again, Hamas has shown that they have no interest in peace with Israel. If the Palestinians are truly committed to peace, they ought to arrest every member of Hamas and put them in jail.

White House at odds with Jewish Establishment

The rhetoric coming from the White House is leading to a rift with the Jewish Establishment, be it the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Rabbical Assembly, and Orthodox Union.

It's certainly one thing to see rhetoric coming from the left but when it comes from the White House, it makes me start to seriously consider whether pro-Israel Democrats such as myself still have a home in the Democratic Party. I'm going to keep an eye on the Democratic Party platform and see if there's another fight relating to Israel like there was in 2012.