A "Great Match Race" and another Surprising Jewish Athlete
Next up is Alan S. Katchen's Abel Kiviat, National Champion: Twentieth-Century Track & Field and the Melting Pot. Even though I'm a running geek, I'll confess that I had never heard of Kiviat until I saw this title. So I'm very excited to read it, and recommend it to all my running geek friends...
Abel Kiviat (1892-1991) was one of track and field’s legendary personalities, a world record-holder and Olympic medalist in the metric mile. A teenage prodigy, he defeated Hall of Fame runners before his twentieth birthday. Alan S. Katchen brings Kiviat’s fascinating story to life and re-creates a lost world, when track and field was at the height of its popularity and occupying a central place in America’s sporting world. The oldest of seven children of Moishe and Zelda Kiviat, Jewish immigrants from Poland, Abel competed as "the Hebrew runner" for New York’s famed Irish-American Athletic Club and was elected its captain. Katchen’s engaging biography centers Abel Kiviat’s life and his sport firmly in the context of American social history. As a quintessential New Yorker, Kiviat embodies the urban and ethnic roots of American track. From his first schoolboy competitions on city playgrounds, to his world records at Madison Square Garden, to his pioneering role as track’s press steward in the age of emerging media, Kiviat’s life reveals how his sport was shaped by the culture of the emerging metropolis.
Without reading either book, I can only speculate that both emphasize that America's sporting landscape wasn't always dominated by the "holy trinity" of sports: baseball, basketball, and football. Additionally, it seems that they do what good sports histories should do--show how sports shape and are shaped by the powerful social forces of a given time and place.
So it would seem that my summer is off to a great start. We'll see what happens by August.