Mar­ty Glick­man: The Life of an Amer­i­can Jew­ish Sports Legend

  • Review
By – November 29, 2023

Mar­ty Glick­man is a sig­nif­i­cant fig­ure in the his­to­ry of Amer­i­can Jew­ish ath­letes. He was an out­stand­ing sprint­er and foot­ball play­er dur­ing his time at James Madi­son High School in Brook­lyn in the mid-1930s (and, lat­er, at Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty). Glick­man means lucky man” in Yid­dish. Iron­i­cal­ly, his major high school rival was Sid Luck­man of Eras­mus Hall High School, who went on to become a foot­ball star at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and then had a Hall of Fame career as quar­ter­back of the Chica­go Bears in the Nation­al Foot­ball League.

Before long, Glick­man entered into the world of broad­cast­ing. After World War II, in the broad­cast booths of col­lege and pro­fes­sion­al foot­ball, base­ball, and bas­ket­ball games, he became, to quote Jef­frey Gurock, the pre­mier voice of New York sports.” He men­tored many of the most promi­nent New York City sports broad­cast­ers, includ­ing Marv Albert, Len Berman, Dave Cohen, and Bob Costas. He also advised retired ath­letes, like John Brodie, Frank Gif­ford, and Bob Griese, in the art of broad­cast­ing. In 1988, Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty hired him as an adjunct pro­fes­sor in its depart­ment of com­mu­ni­ca­tions to teach a course on sportscasting. 

Glickman’s fif­teen min­utes of fame took place at the Berlin Olympics in August 1936, when he and Sam Stoller — the only Jews on the Amer­i­can track-and-field team — were scratched from run­ning in the 4×100 meter relay race. His­to­ri­ans have attrib­uted this slight to anti­semitism. Avery Brundage, the anti­se­mit­ic Chica­go busi­ness­man who head­ed the Unit­ed States Olympic Com­mit­tee, has received the brunt of the blame for this unseem­ly event.

Gurock’s brief biog­ra­phy of Glick­man is out for big­ger game than mere­ly recount­ing the 1936 Olympics inci­dent and Glickman’s ath­let­ic and broad­cast­ing achieve­ments. He also argues that Glick­man was a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­can Jew­ish every­man, and his life was arche­typ­al of the life sto­ry of a whole gen­er­a­tion of Jew­ish chil­dren of immi­grants who came of age begin­ning in the 1920s.” Glick­man reject­ed tra­di­tion­al Judaism and defined him­self as a cul­tur­al Jew.” He believed that it made more sense for America’s Jews to focus on the oppor­tu­ni­ties pre­sent­ed by their new home­land rather than on the obsta­cles. For Glick­man and oth­ers of his gen­er­a­tion, becom­ing part of the Amer­i­can main­stream required knowl­edge of and pro­fi­cien­cy in the games played and enjoyed by a sports-crazed coun­try. Indeed, the route to Amer­i­can­iza­tion for New York City’s Jews led through Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, and Yan­kee Sta­di­um. Glickman’s bless­ing was that he was able to play these games bet­ter than others.

Edward Shapiro is pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry emer­i­tus at Seton Hall Uni­ver­si­ty and the author of A Time for Heal­ing: Amer­i­can Jew­ry Since World War II (1992), We Are Many: Reflec­tions on Amer­i­can Jew­ish His­to­ry and Iden­ti­ty (2005), and Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brook­lyn Riot (2006).

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