Ear­li­er this week, Dou­glas Stark wrote about the best Jew­ish bas­ket­ball team ever and about research­ing Jew­ish sports. He has been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

To me, his­to­ry is telling sto­ries about peo­ple. I have always been fas­ci­nat­ed by people’s lives, the deci­sions they make (or don’t), and ulti­mate­ly what hap­pens to them. One of my objec­tives in writ­ing The SPHAS was to have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell the sto­ries of the play­ers and, in some cas­es, the fans who attend­ed the games. Who were the SPHAS? Where did they come from? Why were they attract­ed to bas­ket­ball? Who were they as people?

As I craft­ed the book, I decid­ed that I would try and tell the sto­ry of each sea­son through one or two play­ers. This allowed me to com­bine the sto­ries of the play­ers with the game-by-game sto­ry and dra­ma of each sea­son. It also proved a fair­ly easy way to orga­nize the book.

One of the chal­lenges of writ­ing a book about a defunct bas­ket­ball team whose hey­day was in the 1930s and ear­ly 1940s was that most of the play­ers had either passed away or were very old. I had two paths to take. One was to inter­view fam­i­ly mem­bers of the play­ers from the 1930s. The sec­ond was to speak with play­ers who played in the 1940s. Both proved invaluable.

The fam­i­ly mem­bers of the 1930s play­ers were able to pro­vide infor­ma­tion about who the play­ers were as peo­ple and about their child­hoods. But in many instances, they were unable to talk about the play­ing days. Some were too young to remem­ber. Some maybe nev­er asked. How­ev­er, many of them had scrap­books of arti­cles and these proved to be a tremen­dous source of infor­ma­tion. Ath­letes from a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion active­ly kept scrap­books chron­i­cling their careers. The arti­cles, pro­grams, and tick­et stubs con­tain valu­able infor­ma­tion. Ath­letes today do not seem to have the same desire in main­tain­ing scrapbooks.

I was also able to inter­view quite a few play­ers from the 1940s, and, although they might for­get some infor­ma­tion, they all loved talk­ing about their play­ing days. Their faces light up and they can recall a game 70 years ago bet­ter than what they had for din­ner last week. As they talked, they were young again, play­ing bas­ket­ball, trav­el­ing 5 or 6 in a car from one town to anoth­er, and grow­ing the game.

They all had inter­est­ing sto­ries to tell and seemed grate­ful that some­one today want­ed to hear their sto­ries. It was my hon­or to tell their sto­ries and I hope that I did it well.

Dou­glas Stark’s The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball’s Great­est Jew­ish Team, is now available.

Dou­glas Stark is a sports his­to­ri­an who has worked at the Nai­smith Memo­r­i­al Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame, the Unit­ed States Golf Asso­ci­a­tion, and now as the Muse­um Direc­tor at the Inter­na­tion­al Ten­nis Hall of Fame, where he over­sees the day-to-day oper­a­tions of the muse­um. He is the author of The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Bas­ket­bal­l’s Great­est Jew­ish Team and Wartime Bas­ket­ball: The Emer­gence of the Nation­al Sport dur­ing World War II.

Dou­glas Stark is avail­able to be booked for speak­ing engage­ments through Read On. Click here for more information.