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OFF THE WALL
The Golem's Mighty Swing
By James Sturm
The Stars of David, a barnstorming Jewish baseball team in the 1920s, travel from town to town earning a living by playing local squads. They all sport beards, a gimmick to attract patrons. When financial difficulties threaten to end their season, they cast their lot with a Chicago promoter who, after seeing the German film Der Golem (a huge silent film success), procures the costume worn in the film. He has one of the Stars of David don the costume, and proceeds to transform a baseball game into a mythical pageant.
Using newspaper articles and broadsides, the promoter aggressively trumpets the coming of the Golem. He fills the stadium but also stokes the flames of anti-Semitism. Winning the game for the Stars of David becomes less important then surviving it.
At the heart of baseball is the goal of getting home. Jewish history reflects this goal as well. The Golem's Mighty Swing examines what it means to belong to both your new country and your old traditions. It is a classic baseball story about what it means to be an American. EFQ
Editor's note: The remarkable illustrations that follow on pp. 5376 are excerpted from James Sturm's forthcoming book, The Golem's Mighty Swing, to be published in July by Drawn and Quarterly Books (www.drawnandquarterly.com).
© 2001 James Sturm
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