My friend Jules Tygiel passed this week.
Jules was a cultural historian, focusing on California and baseball. He was my professor at San Francisco State University, and wrote one of my college recommendation letters. When I hastily applied to graduate school, he came through with a letter on short notice without even a hint of complaint. He was an inspirational teacher who shared his passion for both history and baseball unreservedly.
In addition to his research, Jules was a wonderful writer. I read his book "Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and his Legacy" before I'd ever met him. In my childhood and teenage years, I read literally hundreds of books about baseball, and "Baseball's Great Experiment" was one of the best. Then as now I was impressed at its combination of academic depth and lucid, exciting prose. It's certainly the best book about Robinson, and when I sold my baseball books a few years ago, it was one of the dozen or so that I kept -- my special favorites. I have often recommended it to friends, both fans and non-fans. In Jules' San Francisco Chronicle obituatary, I was moved to read that it was Rachel Robinson's favorite book about her late husband. I'm not surprised.
Jules was also a friend, particularly close with the Weinstein-Zitrin family, with whom I spent many hours as a young teenager. He and Richard Zitrin, my childhood friend Gabe's father, would engage in heated discussions of baseball subjects -- I remember Richard having particularly strong opinions on whether Jack Morris was overrated, though I can't remember which side he was on and which side Jules was on. Jules was the commissioner of the Pacific Ghost League, the first fantasy baseball league on the West Coast, which was founded in 1981. I'm sure all the owners of the PGL have Jules in their hearts today.
Jules struggled long and hard with cancer, and his illness in recent months was very severe. I will be thinking of him, and of his family. I hope they can find peace in his passing. I also want to thank Jules Tygiel for all he did for me. He will be missed.