Al Rosen (Ed Widdis/Associated Press)

By Scott Barancik, editor

Baseball great Al Rosen died Friday night (3/15/2015) in Rancho Mirage, Calif., just two weeks after his 91st birthday.

A native South Carolinian who learned boxing as a youth to defend himself against anti-Semitic attacks, “Flip” Rosen had a storied career with the Cleveland Indians despite playing just 8 full Major League seasons, cut short in part by military service. He went on to become a successful executive both inside and outside baseball, including as president of the New York Yankees under the late George Steinbrenner.

According to the New York Times

  • Rosen fell a mere footstep short of winning the A.L. Triple Crown in 1953, when he batted .336 and led the league with 43 HRs and 145 RBIs. “Going into the final game of the 1953 season, Rosen was battling Mickey Vernon, the Washington Senators’ first baseman, for the batting title. In Rosen’s last at-bat, against the Detroit Tigers at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, he hit a slow groundball to third base and seemed to have beaten the throw on a close play. ‘Everybody on the bench thought I was safe,’ Rosen told Baseball Digest in 2002. But the umpire, Hank Soar, called Rosen out, and he agreed.” Had he been called safe, Rosen would have hit .337 and beaten Vernon.
  • “Ralph Kiner, the future Hall of Fame slugger who joined the Indians in 1955, came to admire Rosen. ‘He was the leader of the team and the best all-around player I ever played with, Kiner was quoted by Danny Peary in the oral history We Played the Game (1994).”
  • The lingering effects of his 1954 finger injury, which he sustained fielding a grounder while playing first base, and an injury from an auto accident brought on Rosen’s retirement, at age 32, after the 1956 season. He had a career batting average of .285 with 192 homers and 717 R.B.I.”
  • “After working as a stockbroker and casino executive, Rosen embarked on a second baseball career in 1978 when the Yankee owner George Steinbrenner named him the team’s president. Steinbrenner had known Rosen from his years as a shipping executive in Cleveland, and Rosen was already a minority owner of the Yankees. ‘George tapped me on the shoulder and said he wanted me to run the Yankees,’ Rosen once told The Akron Beacon Journal. ‘It’s like having a tiara put on your head.'”
  • “Rosen’s playing career was too short to merit serious Hall of Fame consideration, or even eligibility.”

According to Sports Illustrated:

  • “Rosen shined brightly but only briefly as a player and would later reach similar levels of accomplishment as a general manager, becoming the only former MVP to also earn the Executive of the Year award.”
  • “His father, described by his mother as a ‘ne’er do well’ abandoned his family when Rosen was an infant. He suffered from asthma in his earliest years, and after his mother moved the family from South Carolina to Miami’s Little Havana in an effort to find a more agreeable climate for her ailing son, Rosen spent the rest of his youth battling anti-Semitism as one of the few Jews in his new neighborhood. As a result, Rosen grew up tough. An amateur boxer while at the University of Florida, his professional baseball career was halted almost as soon as it started by World War II. Rosen enlisted in the Navy in 1942, saw action in the South Pacific and rose to the position of lieutenant before returning to baseball in 1946 at the age of 22.”
  • Rosen’s 10.1 Wins Above Replacement in 1953, when he was unanimously named MVP, “stand as the most ever in a single season by a third baseman.” Sports Illustrated thus said Rosen “may have had the best season ever by a 3B.”
  • After the 1954 season ended, “Rosen’s car was rear-ended, leaving him with whiplash and chronic back pain. He was never the same player, though he did make one more All-Star team and hit another 21 home runs in 1955. After a second disappointing season in ’56, Hank Greenberg, then the Indians’ general manager, tried to cut Rosen’s pay for a second consecutive season. Disgusted, Rosen retired at 32.”

 According to ESPN

  • “We lost a cherished member of the Indians family,” said former Indians owner Larry Dolan. “Watching Al play was a true joy and something Indians fans of our generation still cherish.”
  • Rosen served as president and general manager of the Houston Astros for five years. “Said Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan: ‘Al Rosen is a baseball legend.'”

According to The Jewish Daily Forward:

  • “Rosen received his nickname because he was a former amateur boxer, a sport he reportedly picked up after being beaten up in his neighborhood where he was one of the few Jewish boys. His boyhood idol was Detroit Tigers’ first baseman Hank Greenberg, who refused to play on Yom Kippur.”
  • He was an inspiration to us all and had a special presence, strength and intellect. His fierce competitive nature and toughness was legendary,” said Indians President Mark Shapiro.

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