Vox Tablet

Enough Already With Koufax

A new book argues that the roster of Jewish jocks includes matadors, weightlifters, and competitive eaters

October 29, 2012
Clockwise from top left: Benny Leonard, Renee Richards, Nancy Lieberman, Dolph Schayes, Daniel Mendoza, Bobby Fischer, and Howard Cosell.(Collage Tablet Magazine; Benny Leonard and Dolph Schayes illustrations Mark Ulriksen, courtesy of Twelve; Renee Richards photo Wikipedia; Nancy Lieberman photo Tim DeFrisco/Allsport/Getty Images; Daniel Mendoza Wikimedia; Bobby Fischer Wikimedia; Howard Cosell Wikimedia)

Clockwise from top left: Benny Leonard, Renee Richards, Nancy Lieberman, Dolph Schayes, Daniel Mendoza, Bobby Fischer, and Howard Cosell.(Collage Tablet Magazine; Benny Leonard and Dolph Schayes illustrations Mark Ulriksen, courtesy of Twelve; Renee Richards photo Wikipedia; Nancy Lieberman photo Tim DeFrisco/Allsport/Getty Images; Daniel Mendoza Wikimedia; Bobby Fischer Wikimedia; Howard Cosell Wikimedia)

At first glance, the appeal of an essay collection titled Jewish Jocks might seem limited to a small, if fervent, readership. In fact, the anthology, edited by former Tablet writer Marc Tracy and New Republic editor Franklin Foer, is lively and full of surprises, even for readers with no horse in this race. In essays by writers as varied as Simon Schama, David Bezmozgis, Emily Bazelon, and David Brooks, there are entries on the usual suspects, such as Barney Ross and Sandy Koufax. But the collection also includes profiles of lesser-known talents like Soviet weightlifter Grigory Novak, Brooklyn-born matador Sidney Frumpkin, as well as downright mediocre (but beloved to some) players like Mets right-fielder Art Shamsky. Finally, there are those included in the collection for the ways they elevated sport (Raiders General Manager Al Davis, sportswriter Robert Lipsyte) or, conversely, besmirched it (basketball point-shaver Jack Molinas, Third Reich-representing fencer Helene Mayer). Vox Tablet’s Sara Ivry is joined by Tracy and Foer to talk about how they determined whom to include and whom to leave out, and about some of their favorite contributions to the collection. [Running time: 25:00.]

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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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