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'Jews and Baseball' knocks it out of the park

Hank Greenberg hit 58 home runs in 1938 and after four years in the Army hit a grand slam to clinch the 1945 pennant for the Detroit Tigers. Sandy Koufax, the first pitcher to throw four no-hitters (including a perfect game in 1965), won three Cy Young Awards and was the youngest players elected to the Hall of Fame.

Both men were Jewish; both faced conflicts between baseball and their faith: Greenberg declined to play on Yom Kippur in the 1934 pennant race; Koufax, for the same reason, bowed out of the first game of the 1965 Series.

The conflicts as well as connections between Jews and baseball are explored with historical thoroughness, if not a stadium-load of revelations, in Peter Miller's "Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story."

As the film tells us, Greenberg and Koufax (who granted a rare interview) are merely the most prominent of the Jewish players who have shone in every decade since New York Giants manager John McGraw signed Andy Cohen in 1926. As Miller makes clear in his good-natured, playful and informative documentary, Jews and sports may have been the stuff of jokes, but there have been prominent Jews in the history of professional baseball, just as there are today (including the Red Sox' Kevin Youkilis and the Texas Rangers' Ian Kinsler).

"Jews and Baseball" is full of odd, interesting people and facts (Moe Berg, the intellectual American Leaguer who worked for the OSS during World War II), and a lot of prominent people - including Larry King, writers Maury Allen and Roger Kahn and even narrator Dustin Hoffman - weigh in on the film's subject and seem to be having a very good time doing it.

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