Author: Joshua L. Berkowitz (WebsiteFacebook)

Published: 2012

Pages: 288

Price: $12.07 at Amazon

Our rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Reviewed by Stuart M. Katz for Jewish Baseball News


In Third Base For Life, author Josh Berkowitz recounts the extraordinary but true journey taken by a rag-tag team of third-graders from a sandlot behind a Jewish day school near Boston to the Cooperstown Dreams Park tournament.

Each year, this tournament gathers 100 of the best youth baseball teams from around the country. In this book — perfectly subtitled “A Memoir About Fathers, Sons and Baseball” — Berkowitz, a risk-averse physician, shares a very personal story about himself and his family. When son Gabe first announces that he wants to play at the Cooperstown tournament, Berkowitz dismisses the idea as a fundamentally flawed pipe dream. With urging from his wife, however, he decides to step out of character and out of his comfort zone to go for it.

Berkowitz assembles a team from the ranks of a local Jewish day school, literally making house calls to convince players and their parents to sign on for the adventure of a lifetime. Along the way to Cooperstown, Berkowitz learns a tremendous amount about himself and the life experiences that brought him to this time and place. He and his fellow coaches enjoy a remarkable opportunity to forge bonds with their sons and with each other. Myriad obstacles emerge along the way, but the team’s singular goal of playing at Cooperstown keeps them focused.

What’s Jewish about it

Third Base For Life is a uniquely Jewish story, evoking comparisons to David and Goliath. The Rashi Rams (biblical reference intended) represent the first all-Jewish team invited to participate in the Cooperstown tournament. The Rams know they are out-matched from the moment they take the field, but they compete undeterred. Their Jewishness emerges in a variety of ways. References to Shabbat observance, kashrut, and the significance of a mezuzah on a doorframe all contribute to the story. The Rams’ experience reflects strong Jewish values like honoring parents, shalom bayit (peace in the home), and kehillah (community). Berkowitz’s imaginary “conversations” with his hero, Sandy Koufax, also add a Jewish dimension to the story.

My take

I read this book very quickly and wished the experience could have lasted longer. By way of full disclosure, I knew Josh Berkowitz in college, although I haven’t seen or spoken to him in over 20 years. I had no idea how gifted a storyteller he would become. Third Base For Life draws obvious comparisons to The Bad News Bears, but I saw a lot of Field of Dreams and Moneyball in the story, too. The narrative made me laugh out loud, and it brought tears to my eyes in a few places. It is hard to identify which aspect of this story spoke to me so loudly and so clearly. It is as much a story about baseball as it is about a father’s relationship with his son, and with his own father. For me, the story hit very close to home, in part because my sons also attend a small Jewish day school, and because I can’t quite imagine rising to the challenge Berkowitz conquered. I wonder whether Third Base For Life will hold the same appeal for other readers. I am pretty sure that it will.

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Stuart M. Katz is a die-hard Yankees fan. An attorney at Cohen and Wolf in Bridgeport, Conn., he chairs the firm’s Employment & Labor Group and represents employers as well as executives.
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