Home­court: The True Sto­ry of the Best Bas­ket­ball Team You’ve Nev­er Heard Of

Lar­ry Needle
  • Review
By – September 4, 2014

Home­court is a well-told sto­ry with­in a sto­ry about Red Klotz and the all-Jew­ish South Philadel­phia Hebrew Asso­ci­a­tion (SPHAS) bas­ketball team. The sto­ry opens with Grand­pa Red and his grand­son watch­ing a bas­ket­ball game. The row­dy audi­ence prompts Grand­pa Red to launch into one of his sto­ries about life when he was a young teen, and the many life-lessons” bas­ket­ball can teach. 

Red loved bas­ket­ball when he was young. He played with his friends at the local bas­ketball court. Those games could get rough, depend­ing on whom they played. But those games were noth­ing com­pared with those Red’s favorite team, the SPHAS, played. Every Sat­ur­day night, right after Shab­bat end­ed, Red would sneak out of his house to watch them play across town. Even­tu­al­ly, he and his friends were allowed to play in SPHAS youth team pre-game match­es. Red lived for those Sat­ur­day night games. He enjoyed play­ing bas­ket­ball as much as he enjoyed watch­ing his favorite team beat every chal­leng­ing team. 

Author Lar­ry Nee­dle, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Philadel­phia Sports Con­gress, uses many of Red’s expe­ri­ences to high­light life lessons”, expe­ri­ences learned through play­ing basket­ball. As Red gets to know some of the SPHAS play­ers, he observes the poor sports­man­ship and often anti-Semit­ic respons­es of the crowd­ed audi­ences. Cy Kas­sel­man, one of Red’s favorite play­ers, once shared, We can do our best talk­ing with our bas­ket­ball. There’s no bet­ter way to make those guys qui­et than to beat them fair and square and leave them speech­less.” If the play­ers stayed cool and played well the crowd would real­ize that peo­ple are real­ly all the same no mat­ter their reli­gion or col­or or any­thing else.” Lessons, such as these, are sprin­kled through­out the story. 

Home­court ends with an epi­logue briefly list­ing the high­lights of Red Klotz’s career and of the SPHAS teams. There is a fas­ci­nat­ing recap of the entire book told as an after­word by Red Klotz. By the end of Home­court, you real­ly have a clear pic­ture of Red, the SPHAS, and the some­what tur­bu­lent era that pro­duced this amaz­ing team. This book will be of great inter­est to Jew­ish chil­dren who love bas­ket­ball as much as Red Klotz and his grand­son love it. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 – 12.

Mar­cia Ber­neger is a retired teacher who lives with her hus­band and three crazy dogs. She taught both first and sec­ond grade, as well as spe­cial edu­ca­tion. She cur­rent­ly teach­es Torah school, in addi­tion to her vol­un­teer work in class­rooms, libraries, and with var­i­ous fundrais­ers. She lives in San Diego.

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