In nine seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Al Rosen slugged 192 home runs, twice besting all American Leaguers in that category, and, in 1953, came within a single percentage point of winning the sport’s coveted Triple Crown. If not for the broken finger he suffered in 1956, effectively ending his career, he might be a Hall of Famer today.
Rosen, 86, who served as president of the San Francisco Giants from 1985 to ’92, isn’t one to dwell on the past, noting that he would have stayed with the game if he was able to meet the lofty standards he’d set for himself. But he was happy to reflect on his playing days for Peter Miller's new documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.
Baseball, an official selection at this year’s Jewish Film Festival, revisits the experiences of several high-profile Jewish ballplayers, from all-time greats Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax to current All-Stars Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis. For Rosen, who made his major-league debut in 1947 after serving in the Navy during World War II, participating in the film was a no-brainer.
“I was in a convoy heading toward Japan in 1945,” says Rosen, once known as the “Hebrew Hammer.” “I knew I was going to be out of the service in a few months, in time for spring training in 1946. That was a huge thing for every aspiring ballplayer – we all wanted to get home.
“It was very emotional to see the experiences of Jewish ballplayers captured on film. There was anti-Semitism in the game, less when I played than when the first Jew signed a contract in the 1880s, but I heard it from fans and opposing players. I used to confront people about it, but as I matured, I let my play do the talking. As a guy who had a couple good years and happens to be Jewish, I just felt honored to tell that story.”
Jews and Baseball will play today at the Cinearts in Palo Alto Square and the Roda Theatre in Berkeley. For more information, visit the Jewish Film Festival's official site.