November 8, 1936
Playing their final match of an eleven match American tour, the Maccabi Tel-Aviv Football Club lost 4-1 to an American all-star team at Yankee Stadium in front of 20,000 spectators. The team had arrived in the United States on September 14th for a tour that was arranged by the Federation of Polish Jews in America as a fundraiser for relief of Polish Jewry. New York’s Fiorello LaGuardia was the honorary chairman of the tour. Maccabi Tel-Aviv shared in the proceeds of tour to promote sports in the Yishuv.
Beginning in the fall of 1935, a series of anti-Jewish riots had broken out in Poland, As they continued into the spring of 1936, they increased in their intensity. In January 1936, the Federation of Polish Jews in America organized a relief committee and announced a fundraising goal of $1 million to help Polish Jews in distress. According to the American Jewish Year Book, in March 1937, the committee announced that it had sent $60,000 to Poland.
Playing games in Boston, St. Louis, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York, the Maccabi Tel-Aviv played soccer matches in front of large crowds in Yankee Stadium, Braves Field (Boston), Ebbetts Field (Brooklyn), and Wrigley Field (Chicago). One observer who was impressed by the large crowds that came out to see Maccabi Tel-Aviv in their matches was legendary reporter Damon Runyon. Writing for the Universal News Service in October 1936, Runyon commented, “The attendance figures on the tour of the Maccabees, celebrated Palestine soccer champions are enlightening us.
Furthermore, they disclose to us our amazing lack of knowledge of sport in other lands, and of sporting interest in our own land. Soccer, we discover, is a mighty big game in this country; the Maccabees expect to wind up their tour at Yankee Stadium…with a record of at least 300,000 in attendance at the big games they have played.”
Runyon’s attendance figure is probably exaggerated however, the team did play in front of 30,000 people in their first Yankee Stadium game and 25,000 at Ebbets Field. Runyon is also probably misguided in regards to the interest of these American crowds. He did not understand that the majority of crowds attending the games during the tour were American Jews showing up not necessarily for their love of soccer, but for their interest in Polish Jewish relief and the upbuilding of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
The photo, from the New York Times, shows the game played at Yankee Stadium on September 27, 1936. The two Maccabi players are Kurt Platchek (Number 6) and Lieberman (with the ball on the right).