The 5 baseball books of Burton and Benita Boxerman


Burton and Benita Boxerman

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

Jewish St. Louisan Burton Boxerman wrote many scholarly articles on American Jewish history and co-authored, with his wife Benita, five books on baseball history including two volumes on Jews and baseball.

Burton, who was also a frequent contributor to the Jewish Light, passed away on May 18th. His good friend Rabbi Joseph Fred Benson penned a personal tribute to Boxerman, calling him “an exemplar of what not only it means to be an historian, but also a true mensch!”

The Boxerman’s five books on baseball

According to his family, Boxerman was an ardent fan of the St. Louis Browns until they moved to Baltimore in 1953. He subsequently transferred his loyalty to the Chicago Cubs and his devotion to his beloved Cubbies was exceeded only by his hatred of the St. Louis Cardinals, whom he blamed for driving the Browns out of St. Louis.

But more importantly, Boxerman was a fan of the game of baseball. His love for the game eventually led him and Benita to pen the following books on baseball.

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Ebbets to Veeck to Busch: Eight Owners Who Shaped Baseball

Published in 2003, the Boxermans created one of the few baseball books focused on the owners, the men and women who invested their time–and, frequently, their fortunes–in baseball teams. What has been written tends to concentrate on the financial aspects of ownership or individual owners and their private lives and pays less attention to the enduring contributions certain owners have made.

In this book, the Boxermans tell the story of eight owners and their lasting influences on the game, including two who owned the St. Louis Cardinals. Charles Ebbets, Barney Dreyfuss, Helene Britton, Clark Griffith, Walter O’Malley, Bill Veeck, Charles Finley and August Busch were chosen for inclusion not only because of their larger contributions but also because they were hands-on owners who ran their teams decisively.

For instance, Britton proved that a knowledgeable woman could successfully run a ball club, even if she couldn’t vote; Veeck hired the first black player in the American League, introduced exploding scoreboards and was the first owner to put his players’ names on the backs of their uniforms; O’Malley relocated his Dodgers to the West Coast and convinced Giants owner Horace Stoneham to bring his team out, too.

Jews and Baseball: Volume 1: Entering the American Mainstream, 1871-1948

Published in 2006, the Boxermans took on the age-old question of how Jews became and remained a huge part of America’s favorite pastime.

Long before Hank Greenberg earned recognition as baseball’s greatest Jewish player, Jews had developed a unique, and very close, relationship with the game of baseball. In the late 19th century, as both the American Jewish population and baseball’s popularity grew rapidly, baseball became an avenue by which Jewish immigrants could assimilate into American culture. Beyond the men (and, later, women) on the field, in the dugout, and at the front office, the Jewish community produced a huge base of fans and students of the game.

In this book the Boxermans examine the interrelated histories of baseball and American Jews to 1948–the year Israel was established, the first full season that both major leagues were integrated, and the summer that Greenberg retired. Covered are the many players, from Pike to Greenberg, as well as the managers, owners, executives, writers, statisticians, manufacturers and others who helped forge a bond between baseball and an emerging Jewish culture in America. Key reasons for baseball’s early appeal to Jews are examined, including cultural assimilation, rebellion against perceived Old-World sensibilities, and intellectual and philosophical ties to existing Jewish traditions. The Boxermans also clearly demonstrate how both Jews and baseball have benefited from their relationship.

Jews and Baseball: Volume 2: The Post-Greenberg Years, 1949-2008

Published in 2010, the Boxermans continued their well-received first volume and trace the arc of Jews in baseball after Greenberg retired in 1948. During this postwar period, Jews saw greater acceptance into the American mainstream as organized anti-Semitism was largely displaced by greater affluence, education, and a more geographically dispersed Jewish community.

Jews continued to flourish in baseball–new stars like Al Rosen, Sandy Koufax and Shawn Green debuted, and off the field the era brought more Jewish owners, executives, sportswriters, broadcasters and even a commissioner. This book further demonstrates how and why Jews and baseball have continued to grow together.

George Weiss: Architect of the Golden Age Yankees

It would be six years before the Boxermans found a baseball topic worth their time. Published in 2016, this book gives George Weiss his due after being lost to the myths and legends weaved within the Yankees organization and their dominance of the game between 1948 and 1960.

The average fan, when asked who made the team so dominant, will mention Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford or Mickey Mantle. Some will insist manager Casey Stengel was the key. But pundits at the time, and respected historians today, consider the shy, often taciturn George Martin Weiss the real genius behind the Yankees’ success. Weiss loved baseball but lacked the ability to play. He made up for it with the savvy to run a team better than his competitors. He spent more than 50 years in the game, including nearly 30 with the Yankees.

Before becoming their general manager, he created their superlative farm system that supplied the club with talented players. When the Yankees retired him at 67, the newly franchised New York Mets immediately hired him to build their team. This book is the first definitive biography of Weiss, a Hall of Famer hailed for contributing “as much to baseball as any man the game could ever know.

Bill Dewitt, Sr.: Patriarch of a Baseball Family 

The Boxermans final baseball book was published in 2021. Jewish Light reporter Eric Berger interviewed the couple about why they wrote this book on Bill DeWitt Sr.

“I’m willing to bet that a minimum of 85% of Cardinals fans in St. Louis don’t know anything about Bill DeWitt,” said Burton Boxerman.

The Boxermans got the idea to write the DeWitt biography while conducting research for their previous book, “George Weiss: Architect of the Golden Age Yankees,” about the general manager of the Yankees who orchestrated one of the team’s most successful runs.

They found a press clipping about the Yankees hiring an assistant to Weiss, William O. DeWitt, who was described as an “astute baseball man,” the authors write in a preface to the new biography.

“We kept coming across Bill DeWitt,” Benita Boxerman said of their research.

The book is the first-ever biography of DeWitt Sr.

Benita Boxerman passed away in July of 2022.