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Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The Boston Red Sox & The Great Fenway Park Writers Series Proudly Present:
Larry Ruttman & Dr. Charles Steinberg

A Conversation on Mr. Ruttman’s Book, “American Jews & America’s Game”

12-Noon Luncheon
State Street Pavilion – Fenway Park (enter at 20 Yawkey Way)
$55 Per Person (includes an autographed copy of American Jews & America’s Game”)
Reservations: lyonsd@redsox.com, Information: 619-249-6379 (George Mitrovich)

 

Larry Ruttman – Biographical Brief

Larry Ruttman, author of American Jews and America’s Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball, is lifelong resident of Brookline, Massachusetts. Larry has been attending ball games at Fenway Park since the days of Ted Williams and Moe Berg.

His first book, Voices of Brookline, was a national finalist for the 2005 American Association of State and Local History Award of Merit. A Korean War veteran and a practicing attorney for over fifty years, Larry is amazed that Providence has granted him the privilege to "live his life backwards" in this late-coming and deeply satisfying labor of love.

On June 14, 2013, Larry was elected as a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, joining such past fellows as John Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John F. Kennedy. “I am honored and humbled to be included among so many great historians, scholars, and leaders who are and have been Fellows of The Massachusetts Historical Society since 1791.

“I am proud to have told a little of the story of the Jews in America”, Mr. Ruttman said, “History and biography are so important in giving us perspective on our place in the cosmos and the human condition here on earth. I look forward to participating in the important work of the society.”

Dr. Charles A. Steinberg – Biographical Brief

Dr. Charles Steinberg returned to the Red Sox on February 17, 2012, after four years away--two with the Los Angeles Dodgers and two with the Commissioner of Baseball.

In his previous six seasons in Boston, as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs, Steinberg was a creative force in the franchise’s fan-friendly attitude, good will, market outreach, and communications.

Among his responsibilities and innovations were the Opening Day ceremonies (including the presentation of the world championship rings in 2005), players greeting fans at the gates, the Father’s Day Catch at Fenway, the Celebration of the Life of Ted Williams, the creation of the Fenway Ambassadors program, as well as community events on September 11, Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the birthdays of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson, and Valentine’s Day. Upon his return in 2012, he helped orchestrate the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park on April 20, the tribute by the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall May 24, and the Celebration of the Life of Johnny Pesky on September 22.

When he first arrived in Boston, together with the new ownership in 2002, Steinberg helped cultivate the passionate Red Sox Nation fan base and contributed to the improvements that enabled the ownership to save Fenway Park. In the community, Steinberg helped re-energize the club’s award-winning and record-setting efforts, creating the Red Sox Scholars program (college scholarships for Boston middle schoolers), the Boston Area Church League, and Red Sox Children’s Retreats.

In 2010 and 2011, Steinberg worked directly for Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, serving as Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of Baseball for Public Affairs. In 2008 and 2009, Steinberg was Executive Vice-President/Marketing & Public Relations (Chief Marketing Officer) for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Before joining the Red Sox in 2002, he was Executive Vice-President/Public Affairs for the San Diego Padres, for whom he worked from 1995 through 2001. He started his career spending 19 years with his hometown Baltimore Orioles, rising from intern to head of Public Relations.

With all four clubs, Steinberg has been responsible for the fan experience in the ballpark and in the community. He has headed the clubs’ public relations and outbound marketing, ballpark entertainment and special events, community relations and advertising, television and video production, and in each case, created innovative fan services departments. Each of the four franchises established attendance records during his tenure.

In Los Angeles, he established the Dodgers Ambassadors, orchestrated the 2008 Opening Day Ceremonies that paid tribute to the club’s 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles, helped execute the club’s historic trip to China in March, 2008, and their Guinness World Record attendance of 115,300 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to benefit cancer research. He was instrumental in creating a three-day musical tribute at the Hollywood Bowl before 50,000 people celebrating the Dodgers’ 50th Anniversary, wrote the copy that is immortalized on the club’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and developed an annual tribute to Jackie Robinson, as he had done in Boston, on the pioneering Hall of Famer’s birthday.

In San Diego, Steinberg had similar responsibilities and was a contributor to the city’s successful campaign to build franchise-saving Petco Park. He also created the Padres Scholars, a similar scholarship program to the Red Sox Scholar.

A Review of American Jews & America’s Game by Andrew Martin – From MLB Dirt.Com

Baseball is so much more than the action on the field and in the box scores. Untold numbers of people have used the game to help shape who they are, and connect them with their ethnicities and national identities on whole new levels. Larry Ruttman’s American Jews & America’s Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball (University of Nebraska Press) narrows that impact down to the influence the national pastime has had on American Jews, and visa-versa.

Ruttman, a longtime lawyer, who found his authorial voice in retirement, has combined an extensive collection of interviews with his own research to demonstrate the ongoing Judaic-baseball relationship. At 510 pages, he has attempted to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of telling the most complete story possible.

Having previously taught a college course on the art of interviewing, Ruttman puts his experience to use in conducting dozens of interviews with a variety of subjects who speak about their experiences with Judaism, baseball, and how the two have intertwined.

The attempt and success at providing a comprehensive view of the topic is one of the strongest suits of the book. Additionally, the roster of interviewees is impressive. Al Rosen, Congressman Barney Frank, Marvin Miller, Theo Epstein and Kevin Youkilis are highlights of those who Ruttman was able to get to sit down and talk about baseball and Judaism. He also balances the better known personalities with much more obscure figures, such as Martin Abramowitz, who produces his own set of baseball cards for Jewish players, and attorney Alan Dershowitz of O.J. Simpson trial fame, who is also apparently a big baseball fan.

Ruttman makes sure to have comprehensive sections on Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, undoubtedly two of the greatest Jewish baseball figures of all time. While Greenberg passed away in the 1980’s, Koufax proved to be just as elusive in this project. He spoke with Ruttman over the phone, but refused to do a formal interview, explaining, “I don’t want to do the interview. I have gotten to the age at which I decided not to do anything that I don’t want to do.” Despite the lack of direct material, both players are given due justice.

Occasionally, Ruttman does let his inner fan get carried away in the form of trying to ask leading questions. In one memorable instance, he asked Congressman Frank to discuss the leading off-field Jewish figures in baseball. When Frank responded that he couldn’t think of anyone, Ruttman suggests commissioner Bud Selig as a possibility. This innocent leading question earned him the sharp rebuke of “If you don’t like my answer, don’t suggest an answer—That’s not good journalism!”

The author’s enthusiasm at trying to get the type of answers he is looking for is good-natured but unnecessary. His interview subjects weave a rich tapestry connecting Judaism and baseball through their own memories. The occasional prodding for an answer suggests that Ruttman is seeking a specific answer, when in fact, reality more than suffices.

On the other hand, a strength of Ruttman’s interviewing technique is the consistency in which he asks similar questions to his subjects. He is most interested in how Judaism and baseball have shaped their lives, hoping to draw connection between the two. Many actually divulge that their faith has been intermittent throughout their lives, while baseball has much more often been a steadier influence.

In the end, Ruttman can claim two primary accomplishments from American Jews & America’s Game.

He shows the impact baseball can have on people that extends well beyond the confines of the diamond. It also has an impressive reach into lives that many wouldn’t expect of a simple game played with a bat and a ball.

He can also be proud of his sheer compilation of material. First-person or oral histories are an integral part of preserving the past and encapsulating the emotion and detail that cannot be extracted later on from artifacts and second-person written material. The connection of Judaism and baseball may be a broad and somewhat confusing thesis, but readers should be left with little doubt about the relationship once they are done with this book.

 







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