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‘Distant Replay! Washington’s Jewish Sports Heroes’

edited by Stephen Sadis

Washington State Jewish Historical Society, 360 pp., $36

Ever hear of the local softball team named Jews on First, baseball player Todd “The Hebrew Hammer” Rubin or boxer Abie Israel, “Seattle’s Sephardic southpaw pugilist”?

A great lineup of names, but even with my affliction for local sports history, I had never heard a word about them until I came across a fascinating new book: “Distant Replay! Washington’s Jewish Sports Heroes.”

The latest in a series of books from the Washington State Jewish Historical Society, “Distant Replay” resembles a fun scrapbook, packed with 182 stories and hundreds of photos from the distant past to the present. It’s something you don’t have to be Jewish or even a sports fan to enjoy, while discovering the impact these “heroes” have had.

This is where you can read about athletes and teams with such colorful and humorous names as Morrie “Snooker” Arno­vichand The Jewcers.

Many of those in “Distant Replay” are athletes of all ages and eras from a wide variety of sports, but there also are stories about team owners, managers, coaches, investors, promoters, store owners, sports personalities, writers, photographers, historians, yell leaders and even an attorney. It’s more a celebration of a community’s pride and love of sports than your typical sports Hall of Fame put to print. But it’s also an inside look at a big part of Washington’s sports history.

Some of those in the book, like Sue Bird (whose father is Jewish, the book notes, which allowed her to claim Israeli citizenship and play hoops in the Euro­league), Bob Melvin, the Alhadeff family, Herman Sarkowsky, Howard Schultz, Dave Grosbyand Dave “Softy” Mahler are household names. Many are not, unless your household knows a lot about Garfield High School sports history, where many of the early “heroes” went. As a result, “Distant Replay” is a tribute of sorts to Garfield, Seattle’s Central Area and its Jewish immigrant settlers.

The book was edited by Stephen Sadis, owner of Sadis Filmworks and co-producer of the historical sports documentary “The Seattle Rainiers.”

“Distant Replay” also touches on the anti-Semitism and discrimination faced by the Jewish pioneers here, in the eras when they were barred from established golf, tennis and social clubs.

That led Jewish civic leaders to create the Glendale Golf and Country Club, which opened in 1925 in Seattle before moving to Bellevue. The club played a role in knocking down racial barriers in the early 1960s when a prominent African-American doctor, Walter Scott Brown, applied for membership and was accepted.

Glendale leaders back then, according to the book, had “a strong feeling that if Jewish members wanted to see other clubs open their doors without prejudice, we should do the same.”

Such moments are when “Distant Replay” really packs a punch and comes out a winner.

“Distant Replay” is available at wsjhs.org, University Book Store, Museum of History & Industry, Island Books and other locations. Bill Kossen is a Seattle Times news desk editor.