Book Review- Designated Hebrew: The Ron Blomberg Story

Designated Hebrew is the story on Ron Blomberg who achieved fame as baseball's first designated hitter.  Blomberg played for the Yankees from 1969 to 1976.  This is his story - the tale of the Yankees' #1 Draft Pick in 1967 who achieved initial success, but whose career was cut short by injuries.  Blomberg was a huge New York star for a short time.  This story recounts that time and the impact he felt on being a Jewish baseball star for baseball's most famous team in its greatest city.  

I enjoyed this book immensely.  As I read this wonderful text (it's a quick read as it's only 170 pages), I found myself fascinated by Blomberg's story: his life, his career, and I especially loved the tales he told of playing for the Yankees in the first half of the 1970's.

Ron Blomberg might have been baseball's first Designated Hitter, but this books demonstrates that he was more than that - much more.  He was one of baseball's best people.  It's rare to find a baseball biography that is so honest, so open, and, at the same time, is one that makes the player seem so much more real and worthy of respect.  

I loved this book.  

Excerpts from the Book Jacket:

"The story of Ron Blomberg's baseball life is a peculiar one.  As the number-one pick in the 1967 amateur draft, he spent his career battling hype.  Billed as "the next Mickey Mantle," New York Yankees fans saw Blomberg as hope for a brighter future after the franchise fell flat on its face in the late 1960s.  Blomberg gave them plenty of reason to rejoice early in his career as he obtained fame as the Major League's first designated hitter (an accident of fate), and once flirted with the magical mark of .400 into the month of July.

But what makes Blomberg's story ultimately unique is that in many ways, he failed.  His career was hardly the stuff of legend, both on the field and in the clubhouse.  Blomberg battled more than just opposing pitchers: he struggled with the misunderstanding of teammates who were unfamiliar with his Jewish religion...and he went toe to toe with an enemy-the persistant injury bug-that has defeated the best of athletes with ease.

Some four decades after joining the Yankees organization, Blomberg is still regarded as a trailblazer-the first Jewish Yankee to obtain stardom.  Designated Hebrew is his story."

My Notes and Reflections on the Book:

  • It's not often that a book's foreward grab's my attention, but the way that Marty Appel tells of his appreciation of (and friendship with) Ron Blomberg immediately captured my attention.  The main character (Blomberg) was one I immediately liked.  He was real and human.  I could see the affinity that Appel held for him.  This made me want to learn more about him and, because of the great stories in the foreward, I couldn't wait to read the rest of the text.
  • The book was written as an oral history told to author Dan Schlossberg.  At times I find that oral histories tend to be poorly written.  That's not the case here.  Schlossberg writes extremely well.  It is almost as if the reader is talking directly with Ron Blomberg.  This makes the book a quick read as the reader doesn't want the conversation to end and continues turning page after page.
  • I grew up with the Yankees of the late 1970s, beginning in 1977.  As such, I just missed out on seeing Blomberg play.  I. of course, know the story of him being the first designated hitter, and I had most of his baseball cards (even from the years that preceded my fandom).  Still, except for the obvious, I didn't know much about Blomberg as a person.  His story is compelling.  Blomberg tells of the positive (and not so positive) decisions that coaches and managers made along the way that impacted on his career.  He also shares how his faith played a role in his success and how injuries derailed what might have been a legendary career.
  • I did not know what a hero Blomberg was to the New York community - and especially the Jewish population.  There was a period when he was larger than life, a huge star in New York.  Yet, unlike so many others, Blomberg remained humble.  He remained a good person first. I loved reading this.  So many people let stardom affect their relationships with others, it seems that Blomberg didn't.
  • The story is "clean."  That is, I'd recommend this book for a child to read.  There are no stories that are inappropriate.  There are no tales of carousing.  Blomberg wasn't a big drinker so time isn't spent in bars and such.  Instead it's a baseball story through and through.  There is also no inappropriate language.  Kudos for the author for setting a high bar.
  • Blomberg faced some difficult relationships with some teammates, but he never rips any players.  Instead he shares positive stories about the teammates he respected and leaves the other stuff unsaid.  It's nice to see a player take the high road.
  • The only negative I have is that the text is so short.  It's such a quick read.  I wish that Blomberg provided a bit more detail of this years with the Yankees and that critical period when the foundation for the great teams of the late 1970s was built.  Blomberg was also still on the roster in 1976 and 1977 as the Yankees became great again.  I would have loved to read more about those teams.  
  • One big story within is how this man embraced his faith and through this faith brought it out in others.  Blomberg understood the role he played as a leader and public figure.  He embraced this and worked to live up to the standard that was expected of him rather than running away from it.
  • Ultimately, this is also the story of a great player who was besieged by injuries.  It's a cautionary tale of what can happen to every athlete.  Blomberg shares how the injuries that cost him his career affected him as a person.  Sometimes fans forget that the players they boo and get down on are human beings.  When players are injured, they are hurting in more ways than any fan truly understands or appreciates.
  • In the novel I wrote, Scattering the Ashes, I describe a fictional encounter the main character and his father have with Ron Blomberg and Luis Tiant.  It's one of my favorite parts of my manuscript.  After reading this book, I'm very glad that I based this small part of my story on such a likable player and human being.  (Maybe I'll except that story on these pages.) (My novel is bound to be a huge hit one day soon!)
  • I highly recommend this book.  It's a great story and a great read.  Well done!