Morning Joe | November 15, 2012
>>> time now for a little sports. joining the table with us once again, our good friend peter alexander . we brought you in for a specialized topic this morning. we're going to tell you about that with the chief national correspondent for "the new york times," mark leibovich. he's contributed to " jewish jocks an unorthodox hall of fame ."
>> and the book is not a joke.
>> no, this is real. this is real. mark leibovich, good morning.
>> hey, guys.
>> there is that famous scene in "airplane" where the stewardess comes over and says, doesn't want a magazine or a book, how about something lighter reading? she has a pamphlet of great jewish sports legends. we've got a full book of them. tell us what you contributed. who are you writing about?
>> well, actually, i wrote about theo epstein , longtime general manager of the red sox who ended the world series drought when he put together the team that won the world series in 2004 , they won again in 2007 . what's interesting about this book is first of all, there are three things people say immediately when you mention you've written a book called " jewish jocks." you've just said two of them, it's not a joke, two, they mention the "airplane" scene and third and this is what theo said to me, oh, you're just updating the pamphlet or something? in fact, since we're talking about gifts today, not in the romney context, but yeah, it's right here. it's a whole book. i've never actually held up a book on tv before.
>> you just did that.
>> it's 50 great essays. david remnick wrote about howard cosell , art chamski of the mets. there's some really great writers who have written some really great essays. they're a few pages long. they're not a heavy lift. and it really just puts together an anthology of characters who have really contributed to the sports world who happen to be jewish .
>> it's a wonderful hanukkah gift.
>> bobby fischer 's in there, mark spitz , there are a lot more than you'd think.
>> we talk about jewish athletes, and it's not a joke. growing up as a young jew in oakland, california. they had the games. we bring them around, they call them the games when you go to israel, but they brought us in from around the planet. and we play.
>> when did you do that?
>> it was a disaster. i played in maryland, baltimore county , tennis and basketball. we got crushed by some long island jews.
>> they're tough.
>> pretty tough.
>> there was a really hairy guy underneath. it was a disaster.
>> there's always a hairy guy underneath.
>> when we get pissed in a fight, we knock each other's yarmulkes off.
>> we grew up with stories of sandy koufax and stuff like that. jewish sports tradition, it goes way back.
>> red auerbach . you know a lot about theo epstein , mr. boston.
>> yes, i do.
>> why was he so significant to that run of a couple titles?
>> as mark can attest, talk about who theo is in terms of his background. it's not just baseball, his family background, his cultural/social political background is enormously interesting.
>> no, it's fascinating. first of all, he grew up in brookline, right next to boston, i grew up in that area, as mike did. and so he was familiar to me. and his dad is head of creative writing at b.u. he wrote some great novels including one called " king of the jews " which i think is probably his best-known book. he also -- theo 's grandfather wrote the "cause blasablanca" screenplay. theo 's twin brother , he's a great sort of do-gooder, social worker who's done a great deal for charity in the boston area . his sister has done a lot. has written for "homicide" and a lot of great tv shows . this is a family that's accomplished a great deal. what's interesting about theo is he has a lot of angst about his life choices. here's someone who has lived his childhood dream, made tons of money, delivered a world series championship to the new england area for the first time in 86 years. and yet still feels that he hasn't really contributed much to society because his success has come in the toy department, so to speak. he was actually thinking after his red sox contract ended last year of step ago way from baseball and actually doing something in a more socially responsible realm. then the cubs came along and offered him a lot of money, and that was that.
>> it's donny deutsch . question, if you're a 5'10" jew from queens and get about a quarter inch off the ground playing basketball, can you still officially call yourself a jewish jock?
>> who's 5'10"?
>> talking about one of your buddies?
>> it's actually -- no, it's actually 5'9" and change. in the interest of expediency. for all those single women out there, i just kind of slide that in.
>> not here.
>> i don't know of any teams looking for someone in that profile right now. i think -- i mean, look, on the back cover, it says " jewish jocks is not a joke." i mean, this is not -- i mean, it's the first thing you say. and in fact, a lot of people in this book are not people who are classic athletes. i mean, howard cosell is not a classic athlete, bud selig is not a classic athlete. and these are not people who are necessarily heroes. a lot of these people have mixed reputations. al davis is in here. so a lot of these people are not known for their physical exploits. i mean, some are. but it's a real mix of contributions, and some contributed from, you know, off the field. yeah, i think there's hope for you, donny.
>> it's a very cool collection. a lot of great writers. kerri strug , 1996 , corey pavin .
>> who knew? that's the thing. we went to philly a couple nights ago to do this thing at the philadelphia free library . and it's amazing the niche of people who, like, talk and think about this stuff. we had probably 60 or 70, i'm guessing mostly jewish , everyone over 50, it seemed, who said why didn't you write more about sandy koufax ? why isn't there a national day for sandy koufax ? so people can really get going about this. i mean, i've never been in front of a crowd that was more animated or more engaged except, you know, when i come on this show.
>> "jewish jocks: an unorthodox hall of fame ." thanks so much. cool book.
>> one piece of sports business, a couple of gentiles won the cy young awards yesterday. they were announced yesterday. r.a. dickey of the new york mets. the knuckleballer getting it done. and the rays' david price of the vanderbilt university came away with hardware for the national league . mike, any surprise here? i was surprised a lot of people said verlander should have won. price edged him out in the end by a couple votes.
>> verlander , the last two games he pitched in the regular season, kind of a rocky start, especially his last start. verlander won it last year.
>> it's great that dickey won.
>> 38 years old, became the oldest first-time winner in the history of the award.
>>> up next, steve rattner's got the charts, the telestrator ready to go. we'll see them when " morning joe " comes back.