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Museum Celebrates the Wondrous Glory of the Philadelphia Athletics
When Max Silberman was growing up in the 1950s, the baseball-loving kid from Wynnewood cited his favorite ball player as little-utilized Philadelphia Athletics first-baseman Lou Limmer, rather than more popular guys like home-run hitter Gus Zernial, Most Valuable Player Bobby Shantz or player-manager Eddie Joust.
"To all the kids from Har Zion, Lou Limmer was a big hero," said Silberman, 62, of the Jewish slugger who played for the A's in 1951 and 1954. "He was ours," he added.
Limmer became etched in Jewish sports history when he stepped into the batter's box against the Detroit Tigers on May 2, 1951. With pitcher Saul Rogovin throwing to catcher Joe Ginsberg, it marked the only time in history that a Jewish batter faced a Jewish pitcher with a Jewish catcher behind him, according to various news reports. In fine style, Limmer hit a home run.
After winning five World Series titles and nine American League pennants, the A's moved to Kansas City, Mo., following the 1954 season -- then eventually on to Oakland, Calif. Limmer never played in the majors again.
He died April 1 at his home in Florida.
Although the A's are gone, they are remembered fondly at the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society Museum in Hatboro. The museum displays a variety of A's uniforms, game-day programs, old equipment, autographs, even an original turnstile from Connie Mack Stadium.
Silberman, the vice president and historian of the society, noted that the museum organizers are proud to celebrate the four Jewish players from the A's -- Henry Bostick in 1916, Heinie Scheer in 1922 and 1923, Mickey Rutner in 1947, and Limmer in the 1951 and 1954 seasons. Rutner, he said, is currently the oldest living Jewish ballplayer at 87.
The A's historical society began around 20 years ago, after Silberman and about seven other collectors met one another at baseball memorabilia shows.
"We thought we were the only A's fans on Earth!" recalled Silberman.
For years, the small group met informally, then finally swelled to its current size of around 950, according to Silberman. After members pooled their memorabilia, they opened the museum in 1998.
Silberman got a chance to meet his childhood idol at one of the society's annual reunion weekends, where former A's players sign autographs and swap stories about the old days.
"Lou and I became very, very close. He was my favorite ballplayer, even though he wasn't a star," said Silberman. "We spoke several times a week."
Carl Goldberg, who sits on the organization's board of directors and personally contributed much of his collection to the museum, noted that Limmer liked the attention he got from fans, even if it was well after his playing days.
"He didn't realize it at the time because ... he didn't play all the time," said Goldberg, 71. "After they were done ball, they figured -- that's it, they're forgotten."
Looking over the vast amount of articles in the museum, Silberman downplayed the importance of its contents, focusing more on connections between people.
"Now, in the last week, it means very little to me because the fun was sitting there with Lou and his wife, Pearl, and his sons Dan and Craig, and going over it with them -- evoking memories," he said. "All the things I collect are nice, but the relationships with the players are far more important."