Anne Goldstein: Chicago’s Most Outstanding Jewish Woman Athlete Between the Wars; Essay by Robert Pruter

Anne Goldstein’s many athletic triumphs, particularly in basketball and softball, represents one of the grand achievements of Jewish-American culture in modern urban Chicago.

Anne Goldstein was one of the premier players in Chicago women’s amateur basketball and softball for some fifteen years from the late 1920s to early 1940s. She competed annually in the American Tournament in basketball in various softball leagues during the Depression years. Goldstein was also an outstanding volleyball player.  She was born in Chicago on January 16, 1913, to immigrant parents, Abe and Rose Goldstein, on the city’s near West Side in the heavily Jewish Maxwell Street area. Her parents had emigrated from Russia in 1905, her father establishing himself as a tailor in the area. Anne was the youngest of the four children of Abe and Rose.1

By 1923, Abe Goldstein had advanced from working as a tradesman to becoming a proprietor of a menswear shop, Abraham Men’s Clothing, and that year he moved his family along with tens of thousands of other Jews who as they grew more prosperous moved further west to the North Lawndale community.2

To illustrste concept in text

Jewish People’s Institute Girls, 1927-28, with Anne Goldstein, bottom row, second from right

In 1927, the Jewish People’s Institute relocated from the Maxwell Street area to North Lawndale. The settlement house sponsored a variety of athletics for young people, and supported a number of basketball team, including one of the top amateur women’s teams in the city, the Jewish People’s Institute Girls. With the inauguration of the 1927-28 season, the JPI Girls added Anne Goldstein. She was only 14 years at the time, which might seem a bit questionable, as the team was playing at the elite level of competition, with a busy schedule in armories and out-of-town teams several days a week. In the first public notice of Goldstein’s appearance on the team, the Chicago Herald and Examiner in January 1928, excitingly reported the ending of the JPI Girls’ two-overtime victory over the Beloit Fairies: “And then little 14-year-old Annie Goldstein made a basket, beating the overtime whistle by a second and winning, 13 to 11, for dear old JPI. The game was played on the Beloit floor before 3,000 fans.”3

The time Goldstein spent in school while she was playing high-level amateur basketball is suspect. She finished Marshall High School in January 1932, at a late age of 19, and one wonders how much her basketball at the Jewish People’s Institute took her away from her classes and slowed her educational progress.4\

The JPI team was extraordinarily successful during the 1927-28 season with little Annie Goldstein in the lineup. The team at this time was being coached by Emil Gullubier and he had such top players as Rae Silverman, Rose Olbur, Mildred Christenson, and Gertrude Goldfein. Invariably sportswriters remarked on the foot speed and the rapid passing of the JPI Girls to explain their success; and Goldstein was the fastest, who could out guard, out run, and out shoot everyone else. The team went through the season with 29 wins and only 1 loss. Goldstein did considerable traveling with the team, notably in trips to play the Beloit Fairies in Wisconsin and the YWHA Girls in St. Louis. The policy of the Institute at this time was to have the girls travel to surrounding states to spread the name of the JPI Girls and to showcase the athletic progress of young Jewish women, with the unstated aim of Americanization and ending the stereotype of the unathletic Jew. The Institute’s director, Philip L. Seman, in his annual report noted this: “In the last few years our girls have made a number of annual trips to cities within 150 miles of Chicago and are always in demand. For example, when the team travelled to Beloit, Wisconsin, all the Jewish families living there and in neighboring towns came to greet the team.”5

The JPI team was one of the few white amateur teams to play African-American teams, often on their home courts, fully aware that as Jews who faced exclusion in mainstream society they would not visit it on other people. The team, for example, competed against the Roamer Girls in 1926 and 1928; and against the Olivet Baptist Church in 1927 and 1929.6

The athletic girls of this era in the schools, settlement houses, churches, industrial, and commercial sports programs, and other programs tended to participate and excel in several sports, and the Jewish People’s Institute likewise developed female multi-sports stars. Beginning in 1928, Goldstein and her teammates at the end of each basketball season would join the JPI volleyball team and compete for a two-week period in April and May in the Amateur Athletic Federation (AAF) women’s tournament. From 1928 through 1933, Goldstein, despite her small stature, starred on the volleyball team, helping the team win five city championships in six years. Goldstein proved one of the stars on the team, as one of many accounts that singled her out related: “…and finally Annie, who was everywhere, got every thing (sic), and was always accurate in passing.a”7

To illustrate concept in text

Jewish People’s Institute Girls championship 1931 team with Anne Goldstein second from the right

By 1931, the JPI Girls, still top-drawer featured a veteran lineup that included not only Anne Goldstein (now called Anne), but Gertrude Goldfein (now Edelcup), Mildred Christenson, Rose Olbur, and Captain Rae Silverman (now Levine). Goldstein played forward, and was one of the shortest (5 feet, 3 inches). In February the team won the annual Calumet Region Basketball tournament, and at the end of the season, before a grand season-ending finale against the vaunted Taylor Trunks. JPI reported as having won 157 games and losing only six in the previous five years. From four annual figures provided by the Jewish People’s Institute, the number of wins probably did not exceed 125 and losses probably ranged around 11-12.8

Goldstein led the Jewish People’s Institute Girls to another successful season during 1931-32, repeating as champions of the Calumet Region Basketball Tournament.   Goldstein was an all-star selection. Goldstein had become one of the big stars in women’s basketball and garnered particular mention in the Chicago dailies. She was the subject of a headlined story (a rarity at this time) in the Daily Times, which was sponsoring a citywide free throw contest, and Goldstein was one of the leaders. The paper said, “Partly because of her fame as a star forward on the speedy Jewish People’s Institute girls’ quintet, little Anne Goldstein seems to be the outstanding choice to win the senior women’s crown in the grand finals of the Daily Times’ first annual free throw championship tournament.” At the Central AAU meet in the spring of 1932, the JPI Girls were handedly eliminated in the semi-finals by the eventual champions May & Malone  Girls. The team was disbanded at the end of the season due Depression era financial difficulty of the Jewish People’s Institute.9

With the termination of the JPI Girls program, three of their top players—Anne Goldstein, Rose Olbur, and Rae Levine—found a new home with a newly formed team in the fall of 1932, the Spencer Coals, sponsored by the Spencer Brothers Company, a coal supply concern.   Goldstein’s star status in the Chicago was evident when the Chicago Tribune thought the acquisition of Goldstein worthy of a small story headlined, “Spencer Coal Quintet Signs Anne Goldstein.” The Spencer Coals team was coached by Mark Singer, who with every woman’s squad he coached during the 1930s turned them into champions. With three ex-JPI women starting on the team, the Spencer Coals was heavily Jewish in makeup, but this fact was never publicly noted.10

The Spencer Coals proved themselves the dominant team in the 1932-33 season. In March, 1933, having earlier experienced only one loss—to the powerful Six Point Co-eds team—the team led by Goldstein’s playmaking got its revenge against the Six Point Co-eds, 17-16, to win the prestigious American Tournament. In April Goldstein led the Spencer Coals to a narrow victory over the Six Point Co-eds for the Central AAU championship, 42-40. Goldstein was spectacularly dominant in the game, scoring 27 of the 42 winning points, with 7 baskets and 13 free throws. The Spencer Coals ended the season with a 60-2 record, no small part to the work of Goldstein, who generally was the leading scorer.11

The 1933-34 season for the Spencer Coals was as successful as their inaugural season. In the season-capping  American Tournament, the Spencer Coals played for the open title and for the girls’-rules title, Anne Goldstein and her teammates playing on each. The team easily won the girls-rules title, but lost a tight game for the open title. With Goldstein leading the team, the Spencer Coals, however, went on to win the Central AAU title for the second year in the row. Goldstein and team then finished their season winning the National AAU experimental men’s rules “Tomboy” competition.”12

In 1934-35, Goldstein led the Spencer Coals to another successful season, but in the American Tournament the Spencer Coals lost the championship in the title game. The Spencer Coals disappeared as a team at the end of the 1934-35 season, as Coach Mark Singer took Goldstein and the entire team with him to play as the T.J. Bowlers, a new team sponsored by a local Democratic political leader, Thomas J. Bowler, who served as a democratic committeeman and president of the sanitary district.13

Anne Goldstein also continued to play softball, playing in local leagues. There she met Hy Gomberg, who was a coach and official in local softball organizations. She married Gomberg on June 22, 1934. In July of 1935, Goldstein along with two notable basketball players, Mary Fandell and Marguerite Eastham, joined the Kilmer Trees to play softball in the Chicago Major Girls Softball League. Goldstein played at the higher level of softball, fast pitch. The mere fact that Chicago Tribune and other local papers reported on the teams that Goldstein played on indicates she competed at the highest level, as the papers gave minimal coverage to women’s softball, limiting it reporting on games of the Chicago Major Girls Softball League.14

This overview of Anne Goldstein’s athletic endeavors during the Depression years shows considerable achievement, but largely it was not fully recognized during this time. The sports pages gave little coverage to women’s basketball and softball, except for the Hearst’s two papers, Chicago Herald and Examiner and Chicago American. Newspapers at that time did not devote much coverage to individual profiles and the games coverage was intermittent. The role of Jewish athletes in American sporting culture, however, was a staple of the Jewish-American press, which provided coverage of such notable Jewish athletes as Lillian Copeland in track and field and Hank Greenberg in baseball. Thus, it might be surmised that Anne Goldstein would have received some notices. The Sentinel, a weekly magazine that served the Chicago area Jewish community regularly featured a sports column, which occasionally discussed Jewish women in sports. The periodical’s coverage of women in sports remained robust until 1935, when it began a new column, “Sports,” by a former local Jewish sports figure, Irving Kupcinet. Decades later, as simply Irv Kupcinet, he became an institution in the city as a long-time gossip columnist in the mainstream newspapers.15

Kupcinet did much to call attention to the many unheralded sports achievements by Jewish athletes, but he was sparse in his coverage of women. His only mention of Goldstein was in the June 13, 1935 issue. He set up his mention in an unclear metaphor: “Jewish girl athletes are almost as rare as a June day in Chicago….Mrs. Hy Gomberg, formerly Annie Goldstein, is rated as tops…” After listing two more such athletes, he referred to the “Jewish-girl-athlete problem,” a reference he assumed his readers knew. Despite the efforts of Jewish People’s Institute to bring women into sports, there was still apparently some reluctance in the Jewish population to allow their daughters to play sports.16

In the 1935-36 basketball season, Goldstein was with the formidable T. J. Bowlers, which included her old JPI teammate Rae Levine. In April of 1936, ten players of the T. J. Bowlers team, including Goldstein, were banned by the Central AAU over the issue of professionalism. The AAU at this time had stringent rules on amateurism, and did not allow any of the players on teams to engage in any form of work that might involve sports, such as physical education teachers, playground instructors, and park district employees. At this time Anne Goldstein was working as a “physical instructor” (not clear where), and the AAU ordered Coach Mark Singer to bar Goldstein from the team. Singer ignored the order, and continued to use Goldstein, and as a result the entire team was banned from all AAU sports participation for playing with Goldstein.17

Goldstein and her basketball teammates on the T. J. Bowlers as well as her softball team had their eligibility restored, however, in time for the 1936-37 season, Goldstein was valuable to the team in its competition in the Windy City League, a conference of industrial and club teams—amateur and probably semi-pro—where the women’s amateur games would open for the men’s games. Goldstein and her teammates also made a 3,000-mile sweep throughout the southwest in December and January, probably variously using women’s and men’s rules depending upon the opponent. The team did well during the season, and when at the end of February they were eliminated in the semi-finals by the Queen Anne Aces in the American Tournament, 19-17, it was considered an upset.18

To illustrate concept in text

Anne Goldstein a member of the top Bill Rand Girls, 1938

In the 1937-38 season, Goldstein found a new home with a powerful new team, the  Bill Rand Girls, built with top Chicago talent, most notably Goldstein and the DeSutter sisters, Marion and Mercedes DeSutter. In the 1938-39 season, Goldstein was perhaps the oldest player on the team and evidently had diminished skills, but she played an active role in the Windy City League competition and the annual American Tournament. She was no longer small rapid Annie Goldstein, and had developed an adult heavier physique, and was slower. The Rand Girls won the league championship and the Central AAU tournament winner that year, but indicative of Goldstein’s lessened skills was a January game where her team prevailed 35-22. Goldstein, however, contributed no baskets and committed four fouls.19.

The 1938-39 season was the last for Anne Goldstein in basketball, but the larger and stronger Goldstein made her a more powerful hitter in softball as well as a stronger pitcher. She continued in that sport, playing in the top women’s softball conference. Beginning in the summer of 1938, she began serving as the star pitcher for the McCabe Boosters, who in one game with Goldstein pitching beat the area’s top team, the Down Drafts. The following summer, Goldstein was playing on the Down Drafts softball team, which Anne’s husband, Hy Gomberg, coached. The Down Drafts won the prestigious American Tournament, which was equivalent to the city championship, and the American Softball Association’s Metropolitan Tournament, the winner of which enters the national tournament. The 1940 census shows that Anne and her husband were living with her parents on the North Side, now in a rented residence. Anne showed no occupation, but her husband was listed as a truck driver for a bakery, and her father was listed as manager of a fruit and vegetable store.20

Goldstein’s last mentions in the Chicago press related to softball. The Chicago Tribune notably, in May of 1945, in a small notice reported that she had just signed with Charley Bidwell’s Bluebirds softball team. But what was most telling about the item is that the reporter knew well of Goldstein’s athletic legacy, describing her as “one of the greatest girl athletes ever developed in Chicago.” She played on the team as the catcher, one of the leadership positions on a softball team. The Bluebirds played in the National Girls Professional Softball League, a semi-pro outfit that despite its exalted title represented six teams from the Chicago area. The league, in its second year, was the highest level softball league in the area, and was considered a powerful rival to the All-American Girls Baseball League.21

Not long after Goldstein’s softball exploits in the summer of 1945, Anne and her husband moved to California, where Hy Gomberg built a career as a baseball scout, first with the St. Louis Browns, then later for the Chicago Cubs, and other teams. Anne Goldstein Gomberg died on March 14, 1983, while living in retirement in Seal Beach, California. Hy Gomberg died on July 3, 1998.22

Anne Goldstein left a remarkable athletic legacy, but unfortunately it has been utterly forgotten, and particularly unfortunate is that it has been forgotten in the Jewish-American community. She was able to achieve that legacy because she had the virtue of being born in Chicago in a community that had the Jewish People’s Institute. The institution promoted not only young men into sports but also young women; and together with Chicago’s amateur athletic establishment that encouraged and promoted women sports, Goldstein was one of the city’s most highly accomplished athletes for nearly two decades. Her superlative career arc in the Chicago amateur sports world was a microcosm of the Jewish-American experience in the city. Anne Goldstein’s story represents one of the grand achievements of Jewish-American culture in modern urban Chicago.

Notes

1.  Fifteenth of the United States, 1930 Population Schedule, Bureau of the Census, Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, Ward 24,, Enumeration District 16-872, Sheet 36A and Sheet 36B (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002). Telephone Directory, Chicago and Adjoining Counties, October 1914, p. 276.

2. Fifteenth Census; Bell Telephone Directory: Chicago, June 1923, p. 276; Bell Telephone Directory: Chicago, June 1927, p. 468; Undoubtedly, the Goldstein quarters extended into the basement, and the building extended from near the front sidewalk extensively to the rear. From observations by the author, 29 September 2012.

3.  Fifteenth Census; Irving Cutler, “Lawndale, the Largest of All,” The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1996), pp. 209-233 (population data p. 211);

4. The Review, John Marshall High School, Commencement Annual, January 1932 (Chicago: John Marshall High School, 1932), 116-117. .

5.  Fayette Krum Mulroy, “Women’s Sports,” Chicago Herald and Examiner, 7 January 1928; Fayette Krum Mulroy, “Women’s Sports,” Chicago Herald and Examiner, 20 March 1928; Observer Vol. XVII, no. 41 (3 April 1928), p. 315; “St. Louis Y Girls Even Series,” Observer Vol. XVII, no. 43 (24 April 1928), p. 321; “Report of the General Director,” Observer, Vol. XIX, No. 1, 11 July 1929, p. 121; “J.P.I. Girls’ Five Defeats I.W.A.C. Brownie, 24 to 21,” Chicago Tribune, 4 February 1931; Bill Margolis, “Watch Anne Goldstein in Diamond Ball Shoot!,” Chicago Times, 9 March 1932.

6.  “Peoria H. Beats Phillips Five,” Chicago Defender, 6 March 1926; “Olivet, 10; J.P.I., 15,” Chicago Defender, 19 February 1927; “Jewish Institute Girls Five Beats Roamers,” Chicago Defender, 4 February 1928; “Olivet Quintet Upset Fast J.P.I. Team,” Chicago Defender, 20 March 1929.

7.  Observer Vol. XVII, no. 42 (17 April 1928), p. 323; “Girls Win Second Place in A.A.F. Volleyball Tournament,” Observer XVIII, no. 43 (2 May 1929), p. 508; “J.P.I. Girls Place Second in A.A.F. Tournament,” Observer XX, no. 2 (8 May 1930), p. 209; “J.P.I. Girls Volley Ball Team Wins A.A.F.,” Observer XXI, no. 52 (14 April 1932), p. 408; “J.P.I. Girls Win Senior A.A.F. Volleyball Championship,” Observer XXII, no. 42 (27 April 1933), p. 341.

8.   “J.P.I. Girls’ Basketball Squad,” The Sentinel, Vol. 81, No. 5 (30 January 1931), p. 16; “J.P.I. Girls Win Basket Ball Tourney,” Observer, Vol. XX, No. 47 (26 March 1931), p. 416; “Taylor Trunks Defend Record Against J.P.I.,” Chicago Tribune, 9 April 1931; “Trunks Beat J.P.I. Girls In Last Half, 36-22,” Chicago Tribune, 10 April 1931; “Girls Win Place in C.A.A.U. Tournament,” Observer Vol. XVI, no. 49 (3 May 1927), p. 380; “Report of the General Director” Observer Vol. XIX, no. 1 (11 July 1929), p. 121; “Report of the General Director” Observer Vol. XX, no. 1 (1 May 1930), p. 160; “Report of the General Director” Observer Vol. XXI, no. 1 (23 April 1931), p. 131.

9.  “J.P.I. Girls’ Quintet Wins Calumet Region Championship,” The Sentinel , Vol. 85, No. 8 (19 February 1932), p. 19; “May & Malone Girls Defeat J.P.I., 29-15,” Chicago Tribune, 18 April 1932; Bill Margolis, “Watch Anne Goldstein in Diamond Ball Shoot!,” Chicago Times, 9 March 1932; “Basketeer” , Chicago Times, 17 February 1930; “Stars for the J.P.I.” , Chicago Times, 3 December 1930; “Queen—The Best Score” , Chicago Times, 14 March 1932.

10.  “Spencer Coal Quintet Signs Anne Goldstein,” Chicago Tribune, 18 October 1932. Speculating on the basis of names alone can be problematic, but two other players, Lillian Rozhon and Helen Weise, may also have been Jewish.

11.  “Spencer Coals Defeat Ohio Quintet, 24-18,” Chicago Tribune, 1 January 1933; “Six Points Beat Spencers for Y.M.C.A. Title, 26-22,” Chicago Tribune, 10 April 1933; “Spencer Girls Take Basket Honors,” Chicago American, 22 April 1933. The JPI would later organize a new team, but one that never reached elite status.

12.  “Hail District Cage Champs,” Chicago American, 12 March 1934; “Spencer Coals Win Title,” 27 March 1934.

13.  Leo Fischer, “Tourney Ends Wednesday,” Chicago American, 11 March 1935.

14.  “Kilmer Trees Sign Two Girl Softball Stars,” Chicago Tribune, 14 July 1935; “Montgomery Team Signs Up Three Players,” Chicago Tribune, 23 July 1935. Coverage was so meager that box scores were rare and that individual player’s statistics never given.

15.  George Joel, “Jewish Sports Notes,” The Sentinel, Vol. 65, Issue 3 (21 January 1927), p. 4; George Joel, “Jewish Sports Notes,” The Sentinel, Vol. 65, Issue 4 (28 January 1927), p. 5; George Joel, “Jewish Sports Notes,” The Sentinel, Vol. 70, Issue 10 (8 June 1928), p. 35. Irving Kupcinet, “Sports,” The Sentinel, Vol. 98, Issue 5 (2 May 1935), p. 22.

16.  Irving Kupcinet, “Sports,” The Sentinel, Vol. 98, Issue 11 (13 June1935), p. 22.

17.  “T. J. Bowler Girls Beat Guv Bush Boosters, 26-12,” Chicago Tribune, 19 February 1936; “A.A.U. Suspends 5 Girl Cagers,” Chicago American, 4 March 1936; “Central A.A.U. Suspends Ten Girl Athletes,” Chicago Tribune, 18 April 1936. The Central AAU originally suspended just five of the players, but eventually decided to punish the whole team.

18.  “Bowler Girls Basket Team Starts on Tour,” Chicago Tribune, 27 December 1936; “Decide Cage Meet Titles This Week,” Chicago American, 1 March 1937.

19.  Leo Fischer, “Final Champs Crowned in Big Cage Tourney,” Chicago American, 4 March 1939; Charles Bartlett, “Cavaliers Top Phillips A.A.U. Five, 55 to 48,” Chicago Tribune, 24 January 1939.

20.  “Play Softball Tonight,” Chicago Tribune, 24 August 1938; “McCabe Boosters in Double Win,” The Garfieldian, 1 September 1938; “”Play Three Games Tonight in District Softball Meet,” Chicago Tribune, 13 August 1939;   “Down Drafts and Pohlars Lose in Softball Meet,” Chicago Tribune, 10 September 1939. “Six Teams Enter Race for Girls’ Softball Title,” Chicago Tribune, 6 April 1941. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, Population Schedule, Bureau of the Census. Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, Ward 26, Block 6, Enumeration District No. 112-2914, Sheet 62A, 3-24 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012)..

21.  “Anne Goldstein Joins Bidwell Bluebirds,” Chicago Tribune, 23 May 1945; “Girls Softball League Opens Friday Night,” Southtown Economist, 16 May 1945; “Grange Named National Girls Baseball Chief,” Chicago Tribune, 17 April 1947; Larry Walters, “Baseball Girls Give Television Neatest Curves,” Chicago Tribune, 24 May 1947; Susan M. Cahn, “No Freaks, No Amazons, No Boyish Bobs,” Chicago History Vol. 18, no. 1 (Spring 1989), pp. 26-41. The league changed its name to the National Girls Baseball League for the 1946 season, and modified the rules to make the game closer to baseball.

22.  Baseball Guide and Record Book 1948. St Louis, MO: Sporting News Publishing Co., 1948, p. 44; Keith Sharon, “Anaheim Man Sports 70-year Love Affair with Baseball He Umpired and Coached in Presence of Hall of Famers,” Orange County Register, 26 May 1988; United States Social Security Death Index, Genealogybank [www.geneologybank.com], accessed 12 August 2012; United States Social Security Death Index, FamilySearch [https://familysearch.org], accessed 4 August 2012.

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7 Responses to Anne Goldstein: Chicago’s Most Outstanding Jewish Woman Athlete Between the Wars; Essay by Robert Pruter

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  7. Pingback: Spencer Coals: Chicago’s Renown Team of the 1930s that Advanced the Men’s Rule Game over the Prevailing Women’s Rules Game; Essay by Robert Pruter | The World of Early Amateur & Youth Sports in Chicago

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