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The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-by-Position Ranking of Baseball's Chosen Players Hardcover – March 31, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“In the spirit of a lavish bar mitzvah, The Baseball Talmud skimps on nothing. They’re all here—the greats, the unknowns, the descendants of Abraham and the recently converted. This is the book Bill James would have written—if he were Jewish.” (Jeremy Schaap, ESPN reporter and author of Cinderella Man)

“What is there to say about a book that, among its many merits, invents the “value-added Judaism” statistic? With high humor and a strong grasp of his facts, Howard Megdal answers questions and addresses issues that Jewish fans have long wondered about—and fans of other faiths will also enjoy.” (John Eisenberg, author of The Great Match Race)

“Howard Megdal’s witty and informative book gives the definitive rabbinic commentary on the 160—Who knew?—Jews who played in the Major Leagues. These guys could pitch, field and hit. Plus, they loved their mothers.” (L. Jon Wertheim, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated and author of Running the Table and Blood in the Cage)

About the Author

Howard Megdal edits The Perpetual Post, writes for ESPN.com, Capital New York, MLBTradeRumors.com and many others. His new book, Taking The Field, is available for order, with a May 10 release from Bloomsbury.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061558435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061558436
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Susan Petrone on April 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In The Baseball Talmud, Howard Megdal uses sabermetrics and humor to answer once and for all the question of who was the greatest Jewish player of all time--Hank Greenberg or Sandy Koufax? (According to Megdal, it's Greenberg by a hair.) Megdal has a good sense of humor and a nice writing style. How can you not like a guy who writes things like: "Right field is the Jewish people's deepest position. If a baseball diamond were America, right field would be New York City. If a baseball team's roles were professional organizations, right field would be the American Bar Association?" It's not giving anything away to say that his top 10 are (in order): Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, Lou Boudreau, Shawn Green, Buddy Myer, Sid Gordon, Ken Holtzman, Harry Danning, and Mike Lieberthal. After that, Megdal goes position-by-position to assemble the all-time Jewish All-Star team and estimate how they would fare against some of the greatest teams in baseball history, from the 1906 Chicago Cubs to the 1998 New York Yankees. He doesn't give the team a name, but he ought to call them the Kosher Krushers. As someone who is more interested in baseball stories than statistics, I was pleased to see that Megdal does a good job of explaining some of the more complex stats. All in all, a fun read for baseball fans of any denomination (including non-believers).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book could easily be a tough read with all the heavy statistics on board, but thanks to Megdal's brezzy and funny style it's a pleasure!

An example of the humor is this line used when talking about Sid Gordon's ability to draw a walk... "This is a recurring theme for so many Jewish players - unlike Eliot Spitzer, they grasped the value of not paying for something they could get for free."

Sure, many could squabble over where he ranks the players... but basically he's got it down. He ranks the players much like Jayson Stark does in his great book, "The Stark Truth". (...where he ranks Sandy Koufax as the most overrated left handed starting pitcher ever, and Hank Greenberg as the most underrated first baseman of all time. Talk about food for debate!)

This is one of those books that I just can't put down. The only major criticism is the omission of catcher Johnny Kling... probably the greatest catcher of his time. (Early 1900's for the Chicago Cubs) Now I know that there's still some who don't think he was Jewish, but most feel the preponderance of evidence clearly points to Kling as a Jew. (See Gil Bogen's engrossing bio "Johnny Kling" which features some well researched, compelling evidence... as well as a heartwarming foreword by Ernie Banks!)

Overall Megdal's "Baseball Talmud" is quickly turning into one of my favorite baseball books!

Buy it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was fun to read. Lots of susrprises and virtually unknown players.
Once you get past a hand full of players, from Kofax, Greenberg, there aren't
too many stars.

It appears that only Kofax had the guts to take a high holiday off.
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Format: Hardcover
Howard Megdal, author of The Baseball Talmud, was kind enough to send me a copy of his book recently. The book chronicles and ranks Jewish baseball players position-by-position since the game's inception and is an excellent reference for anyone interested in the subject. All of the players hitherto mentioned on Jews in Baseball are analyzed and humanized by Megdal. There are also many, many more players that I haven't even scratched the surface with. Players like Andy Cohen, Moe Berg, and Jose Bautista.

And for anyone who belongs to the Bill James' school of thought, Megdal is a huge proponent of sabermetrics. Of course, he provides you with the traditional statistics, but he goes into greater depth with nifty stats like VORP, WARP, and Pythagorean won-loss record. Megdal also digs up remarkable numbers that often go overlooked (like Lou Boudreau's walk/strikeout ratio in 1948: 98/9). Megdal even enlists the help of a baseball statistician to figure out how effective the All-Jewish team would be in a neutral environment. I won't give away anything. Let's just say they wouldn't be pushovers...

At first, I thought I would skim through The Baseball Talmud and only check out my favorite players, but I really couldn't put it down; it's extremely immersive. From cover to cover, you'll learn something new about players you thought you already knew everything about. You'll see names long forgotten by most fans that conjure up images of different eras, egos, and ballparks. You'll be reminded of how good some of these players were. You'll be encouraged to see how good some of the current players are - and still can be. Most of all, you'll be filled with an indescribable sense of pride. When you see the formidable All-Time Jewish Team Megdal puts together, you may even let your imagination run wild and envision "the eventual cosmic baseball tournament between religions."
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Format: Hardcover
When I heard about this book I was excited beyond words and couldn't wait for it to be released (I ordered it so many months ahead of its release... that there wasn't even a picture of the cover yet.) and unfortunately I was disappointed when I received it. This is not to say it is not a worthwhile purchase based on an individual's desires. I was expecting a book that not only reported Jewish ballplayers accomplishments in the big leagues... but I thought there would be tales of their youthful experiences with anti-Semitism... and how they overcame it... where their families came from and the hardships they faced being Jew's in the United States... and if applicable... in the countries they left. (fled). Perhaps the area that I most greatly anticipated... was the "behind-the-scenes" blatant anti-Semitism they faced in the Major Leagues... not only from opposing teams... but from their own teammates and fans. I was really expecting "it-can-now-be-told" exposes about the prejudice against Jews... e.g.... the prejudice against Jackie Robinson that was truly revealed years later. Other than a very brief discussion of the deplorable situation Hank Greenberg faced in Detroit led by Hitler's favorite American Henry Ford... there is nary a mention of the despicable anti-Semitism that has existed.

Being a lifelong "old-school" baseball fanatic and trivia statistic "buff"... I knew I was in trouble... when instead of seeing lifetime statistics and year by year historical data... you know... like on the back of baseball cards and in the encyclopedia of baseball and the baseball almanac...
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