Speed skating on an ice rink is not the best-known or most popular
sport among aspiring young American athletes. Traditionally, many of the great racers come
from Europe, especially the Scandinavian and Slavic countries with their cold climates.
Those Americans who do take up this specialized pastime are often from the West or
Midwest, and are almost always All-American types from small towns. In this context, the
achievements of Irving Jaffee were particularly remarkable. The Jewish boy from the
sidewalks of New York fought his way past numerous obstacles, including racial prejudice,
to become one of the great speed skaters of all time, a two-time Olympian and
Ironically, Jaffee, like so many other young American boys, originally
dreamed of being a hero not on an ice rink but on a baseball diamond. "I had my heart
set on becoming a major league baseball star," he said in looking back at his life
and career. "I was brought up in the Crotona Park section of the Bronx, the same
section that spawned Hank Greenberg.
"We used to go to the park and play baseball. Hank's parents would
look at him and say, there he goes, with his shtickel holtz, his piece
of lumber, his baseball bat. They didn't think much of what he was doing and my parents