#Shortstops: Hero on the diamond

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Leah Buhagiar

While many Olympic triumphs and defeats have been forgotten to history, memories of the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics have stood the test of time.

Though the Olympics were awarded to Germany before Adolph Hitler and the Nazis rose to power, their influence over the games did not go unnoticed. In fact, the 1936 Olympics are now often referred to as the Nazi Olympics.

German-Jewish athletes were barred from competing for the German National team and participation of any Jewish athletes from any country was strongly discouraged.

While many remember track and field superstar Jesse Owens as the face of American resistance to the Nazi regime during the Olympic Games, a small group of brave Jewish-Americans traveled to Berlin to represent their country.

One of these individuals was baseball player Herman Goldberg.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Goldberg got his start in the game playing youth baseball.

He then went on to play baseball in high school, and eventually was the catcher for the Brooklyn College baseball team.

While at Brooklyn College, Goldberg traveled to Baltimore, where tryouts were being held for the U.S. Olympic men's baseball team.

Baseball would be making its return to the Olympics in 1936 after a 24-year hiatus.

However, baseball was only to be featured as a special demonstration in an attempt to increase international knowledge of America’s pastime.

While in preparation for the Olympics, there was talk amongst both the American athletes and Olympic Committee about boycotting the games in protest of the Nazi regime.

When asked if he ever considered not attending the games, Goldberg replied: “Not for one minute, absolutely not one minute.”

On Aug. 12, 1936, nearly 100,000 people gathered to watch the exhibition game. The two teams on the field were both American: the World Champions and the U.S. Olympics. The game programs had official baseball rules and terminology outlined for the predominantly German spectators who were unfamiliar with the game.

Ultimately, the World Champions were victorious over the U.S. Olympics by a score of 6-5 and Goldberg served as the left fielder for the winning team. Prior to the Olympic Games, the two teams toured Germany, playing exhibition games to promote baseball to German citizens. During Goldberg’s stay in Germany, he took notice of the influence that the Nazis had over the country.

Upon return to the United States, Goldberg had a brief career in Minor League baseball, but by 1939 had begun his career as an educator.

Goldberg was a Fulbright scholar, earned a doctorate degree from the University of Rochester, and even served as the Assistant Secretary of Education.

Dr. Goldberg passed away in 1997, and while he is not often remembered for his accomplishments in baseball, the jersey he wore as he proudly represented his country as a Jewish-American in 1936 can be found at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a testament to the bravery he showed in the face of adversity.

Leah Buhagiar was the 2019 collections intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series