Most people know who Sandy Koufax is, how many Olympic medals Mark Spitz won at the 1972 Munich games and heard of sports broadcaster Howard Cosell.
But how many have heard of Benny Friedman, Barney Ross or Margaret Lambert? Now you have no excuse as oil paintings of these athletes and seven other Jewish sports notables created by Colorado-based artist Richard Wallich, along with brief biographies of the athletes, are on display at Temple Israel of Lawrence through December as part of “The Game Changers” exhibit.
On loan from the Jewish Sports Heritage Association in Great Neck, the paintings represent people that everyone, and especially Jewish youngsters, can look to for inspiration. The nonprofit foundation is dedicated to educating the public about Jewish men and woman in sports, an often overlooked area of accomplishment for Jewish people.
“We are very please to have these paintings to display,” said Alan Freedman, the temple’s executive director, who served as the association’s director and was responsible for establishing the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame & Museum at the Suffolk Y. “They help us show the public, in particular Jewish youth, that there are role models in places like sports that they might not normally think about.”
There are also paintings of legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach, broadcaster Marty Glickman, who coined several words still in use today while calling basketball play-by-play and was left off the 1936 Olympic team because he was Jewish; home run slugger Hank Greenberg, Nat Holman, another great basketball coach; Sid Luckman, who quarterbacked the Chicago Bear teams known as the “Monsters of the Midway;” boxer Benny Leonard and Marvin Miller, led major league baseball players to free agency.
Benny Friedman was a great college and pro football player, Barney Ross was also a great pugilist and Margaret Lambert, a German Jew, was also not allowed to take part in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Inspired by his teacher’s pink Ford, Wallich began to draw and paint in the third grade. “I thought this is fun, so maybe when I grow up I could be an artist,” he said.
Watching a lot of baseball, Wallich said he started by painting players such as Roberto Clemente, Koufax, Mickey Mantle and Nolan Ryan. “I knew a lot about Sandy Koufax, listened to Howard Cosell interview [Muhammad] Ali and on Monday Night Football and Mark Spitz,” said Wallich, adding researched the other athletes, and that color and “some abstraction” are part of his style.
He said he appreciates his paintings are part of an exhibit to encourage others. “It is always good to inspire people,” Wallich said, “as I was by Leroy Neiman.”
Recalling Moe Berg
The story of Jewish baseball player turned spy Moe Berg is becoming popular with a Hollywood movie staring Paul Rudd “The Catcher Was A Spy” in production and documentarian Aviva Kempner set to release her film in 2018.
Freedman said he just created a Berg exhibit that is on display on the ground floor of the Lawrence synagogue.