We call it the national pastime. Why?

Hank Greenberg. Sandy Koufax. Joe DiMaggio. Jackie Robinson. Roberto Clemente. Fernando Valenzuel. Ichiro Suzuki.  Their names live on. Why?

How has baseball shaped our views of American Jewish identity?

For generations of American Jews – as well as other minorities, the greatest stars in baseball did more than play the game. They changed it.

In celebration of baseball heroes and pioneers  who stepped up to the plate and inspired a nation, the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan (JHSM) in partnership with the Detroit Historical Society presents  the exhibit Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American from September 9-November 27, 2016, at the Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward Avenue, Detroit.

Organized by the National Museum of American Jewish History, Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American highlights the ways in which our national pastime has served as a pathway for learning and understanding American values for Jews and other immigrant groups and their descendants. The local presentation further explores the ways in which baseball has reflected not only the opportunities in the Detroit area, but also the challenges—including religious and racial tolerance—faced by our nation and local communities.

“It is a tremendous honor that, thanks to the support of many community members and donors, JHSM is able to bring and share this exhibit with our community,” said Wendy Rose Bice, Executive Director, JHSM.

Chasing Dreams asks us to think about baseball as more than a summer pastime. Through inspiring images and historic artifacts, guests are prompted to think a bit deeper and consider what baseball means to America, and explore how baseball actually unites us. Chasing Dreams asks us to think about why Hank Greenberg was considered such a hero, and ponder why this game has been and continues to be so important to immigrant and minority communities. In doing so, visitors to the exhibit will explore strong values: community, family, camaraderie and even faith. Values that echo many of our own Jewish values.”

Hank Greenberg and young fan on the field. Image from the exhibit Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American

Chasing Dreams is supported locally by the Eugene & Marcia Applebaum Family Foundation, Ed Levy, Jr. and Linda Dresner, and Myrna and Spencer Partrich. Admission to the Detroit Historical Museum is free. The exhibition is located in the Gallery of Culture on the main floor. The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan is planning a series of events and programs around the exhibit, and are scheduling private, group tours. For more information, go to www.michjewishhistory.org or call 248-432-5517.

Exhibit Events and Highlights

Season Opener, Thursday, September 8, 5:30 p.mChasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American opens with a grand slam evening of baseball, history, food and fun hosted by The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan. Highlights include a conversation with Dan Dickerson, Play-by-Play broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers; Rabbis Talking Baseball hosted by Neal Rubin, of the Detroit Free Press, with Rabbis Aaron Bergman (Adat Shalom), Mark Miller (Temple Beth El) and Joey Krakoff (Jewish Hospice of Michigan) exploring baseball facts, stats and trivia; entertainment and pizza-tossing with PAWS and his Energy Squad; docent tours with the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan. Tickets are $125 to benefit the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan. www.michjewishhistory.org or 248-432-5517.

Baseball Cards of Jewish Players, clockwise from top left: Joe Ginsberg, Tigers Catcher; Dick Sharon, Tigers Outfielder; Harry Eisenstat, Tigers Pitcher; Anita Foss, Grand Rapids Chicks and Muskegon Lassies; Sam Perlman, series of 21 from Honey Boy Ice Cream; Thelma Eisen, Grand Rapids Chicks

From the Robert and Sandy Matthews Sports Exhibit at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, artifacts on loan to Chasing Dreams include baseball cards of Jewish players. Clockwise from top left: Joe Ginsberg, Tigers Catcher; Dick Sharon, Tigers Outfielder; Harry Eisenstat, Tigers Pitcher; Anita Foss, Grand Rapids Chicks and Muskegon Lassies; Sam Perlman, series of 21 from Honey Boy Ice Cream; Thelma Eisen, Grand Rapids Chicks.

Nosh Gen: Chasing Dreams, Thursday, October 27,  6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.  A casual evening of baseball, food, fun and a dash of history with Mike “Stoney” Stone,  of 97.1  The Ticket.

Chasing Dreams Family Day, Sunday, November 6,  hosted by the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan and the Michigan Jewish Sports Foundation. Fans of all ages are invited to the museum to explore the exhibit and participate in a variety of activities. One of the highlights will be a simulated Baseball Broadcast Booth where fans of every age can practice their play-by-play radio and television skills. The PJ Library will host a book club session and, at 3:30 p.m., a group of “elder” baseball aficionados will share trivia and stats during a program entitled, “Old Jews Talking Baseball,” featuring Max Lapides, Bob Matthews, Irwin Cohen and Jim Grey.  All Chasing Dreams Family Day events are free and open to the public.

 Did you know?

  • Frank Faudem was a Detroit Central High School star athlete who won all-city honors and was recruited by the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Browns and the Cleveland Indians. Instead, he signed with the Detroit Tigers. Before he could set foot on the field of Briggs Stadium, Faudem signed up to serve in the U.S. Army during WWII. In 1945, at the age of 24, Faudem was killed in action on Leyte in the Philippines.
  • Wearing long skirts and petticoats, women’s baseball started at Vassar College in 1866. During WWII, when men were overseas, women’s baseball leagues flourished, among them the Grand Rapids Chicks and the Muskegon Lassies.
  • Detroit Police Detective Ben Turpin founded the Turpin Athletic Club baseball team, one of several community leagues run by and for African American players.
  • Aurelio Rodríguez, born in Cananea, Mexico, became a Major Leaguer at the age of 19 in 1967. He joined the Detroit Tigers in 1971 as a third baseman and, in 1976, received Major League Baseball’s Gold Glove Award, the first time since 1960 that an American League third baseman beat out Brooks Robinson for the award.
  • Like kids from every ethnicity, Jewish immigrant children loved the game. Whether they played on a field or in the street, the community organized many boys’ clubs and teams. Some met at the Hannah Schloss Building (the Jewish Institute, built in Detroit in 1903), others in schools and, informally, others at Fresh Air Society camps.
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