Jewish sports heroes? You betcha! From boxers like Barney Ross, who dominated the professional ranks in the 1920s and ‘30s, to playground basketball stars who went on to be pros, like Red Holzman and Doph Schayes, to Sid Luckman who originated the position of the modern dropback quarterback, Jews have had an enormous impact on American sports. In Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame (Twelve, $26.99), Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy have compiled fifty biographical portraits that entertain, enlighten, and educate. The range of subjects is diverse, and so are the contributors. They include Simon Schama, David Brooks, Jane Leavy, Sholom Auslander, and David Remn
It takes a writer of Howard Bryant’s ability to produce The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron (Anchor, $16.95). Bryant explains the forces that shaped Aaron’s life, from his childhood and youth in the segregated South, to his national recognition in baseball, to his political maturation after he retired from the game. Bryant describes Aaron both as a human being and as the different symbols he came to represent for different Americans. Perhaps the sport’s greatest player, Aaron comes across in this biography as a man with many, heretofore unexplored, dimensions.