(Note: The article below has been updated to include a 2015 pitching stint by Oakland’s Ike Davis.)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

In the 144 years since OF Nate Berkenstock debuted with the Philadelphia Athletics, in 1871, scores of Jewish position players have taken the field in a Major League game, but only five of them have gotten the chance to pitch.

Sam Mayer, 1915

Sam Mayer, a 22-year-old RF with the Washington Senators, was the first. The year was 1915, the date September 17, the place D.C.’s Griffith Stadium, the opponent the St. Louis Browns. Although the Senators entered the game with a healthy 75-61 record, they were in 4th place in the American League, a full 16 games behind the 1st-place Boston Red Sox. With just 19 games remaining in the regular season, Washington was all but out of the running to reach the World Series.

A box score for the Friday afternoon game tells the story. Washington starter Joe Boehling was pulled from the mound with just one out in the bottom of the 1st inning, having allowed three earned runs on four hits. Doc Ayers, a 6’1″ reliever/starter, faced the next 19 batters, shutting down the Browns on 6 hits and no walks.

Player Year Team G IP H BF ER BB SO W L ERA
Ike Davis 2015 OAK (AL) 1 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Sam Fuld 2013 TAMP (AL) 1 0.1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Jeff Newman 1977 OAK (AL) 1 1.0 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Milt Galatzer 1936 CLE (AL) 1 6.0 7 29 3 5 3 0 0 4.50
Sam Mayer 1915 WAS (AL) 1 0.0 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0.00

With his Senators down just 3-0, Senators manager Clark Griffith inexplicably opened the bottom of the 7th inning with Mayer — a rookie RF who had joined the team earlier in the month — on the mound. Because play-by-play information isn’t available for the game, we don’t know who Mayer faced. We do know that he walked the first two batters he saw and then was promptly removed. The Browns ultimately prevailed 9-0 in a complete-game effort by rookie Tim McCabe.

The game, Mayer’s 10th that year, would prove to be his second to last. He went 1-for-1 in a 20-5 rout of the Philadelphia Athletics on September 29, and thus ended his Major League career.

Milt Galatzer, 1935

Milt Galatzer, a 29-year-old RF with the Cleveland Indians in 1935, was the second Jewish position player to take the mound in a Major League game.

The 5’10” Chicago native was enjoying the best season of his career when the second-place Indians (67-55) faced the Washington Senators on August 26, once again at Griffith Stadium (see box score). Senators starter Denny Galehouse was getting shellacked in the first inning. By the time manager Chris O’Neill pulled him, the righthander had retired just two of 10 batters and surrendered 8 runs. Righty reliever George Blaeholder didn’t fare much better, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits over 1.1 innings. That left Cleveland down 11-0 after two innings.

Galatzer took the mound in the top of the third inning and held it until the game’s 14-1 bitter end. Though no masterpiece, his performance nevertheless exceeded his teammates’. Galatzer gave up 3 earned runs on 7 hits and 5 walks over six innings, and he walked away with three strikeouts to his name. He would finish the 1935 season with a career-high .301 batting average and 35 walks against just 8 strikeouts. Galatzer never pitched again.

Jeff Newman, 1977

By the time the Oakland Athletics showed up for a doubleheader at Royals Stadium on September 14, 1977, they probably wished the season were over.

Twenty-nine games under .500, the A’s were facing a Kansas City team that was 34 games over .500 and on a 13-game win streak. Game One went as expected, the Royals prevailing 5-2. Game One was looking no better (see box score). Through the top of the 8th inning, the Royals had staked Cy Young candidate Dennis Leonard to a 6-0 lead.

A’s manager Bobby Winkles — who’d replaced Jack McKeon (26-27) a third of the way through the season, only to see the team go into a free fall — found his next pitcher just 60 feet, 6 inches from the mound: 29-year-old catcher Jeff Newman, who’d started the game batting ninth. A second-year player out of Texas Christian University, Newman had thrown out 56 percent of would-be base stealers in his rookie season and obviously had an arm.

Winkles might have regretted the move at first. Newman plunked Royals DH Hal McRae, who led the A.L. that season in times hit by pitch. Future Hall of Fame 3B George Brett followed with a single. But Newman found his groove, retiring the next three batters in order.

As chance would have it, Newman –up that point 0-3 for the day — came to bat with one on and two outs in the top of the 9th. He flied out to end the game.

Sam Fuld prepares to make his fifth and final pitch against J.B. Shuck (2013)

Sam Fuld prepares to make his fifth and final pitch against J.B. Shuck (2013)

Sam Fuld, 2013

Thirty-six years passed before another Jewish position player threw from the hill.

The date was September 2, 2013, and the visiting Tampa Bay Rays were seeking to end a five-game skid on a day when the host Anaheim Angels were nursing a five-game win streak. The Angels weren’t cooperating, however. By the bottom of the 8th they were trouncing the Rays 11-2, and now the Angels had two on with two outs (see box score).

Rays manager Joe Maddon had already cycled through five pitchers, and his bullpen was tired. In a bid to boost team morale, he called up second-string OF Sam Fuld, a 31-year-old southpaw who had not pitched since his junior year of high school. Fuld tossed four fastballs and a sinker to leadoff hitter J.B. Shuck at a range of 86.2 mph to 87.8 mph, and on the fifth pitch, Shuck popped out to center field to end the inning (see video).

It doesn’t appear in the box score, but Fuld had taken the mound once before, in a 2011 game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Rays manager Maddon sent him there at the start of the 8th inning, let him throw some warm-up pitches, and then pulled him in favor of reliever Cesar Ramos. Maddon later apologized to the Brewers, admitting he had used Fuld to buy time for Ramos to warm up.

A's first baseman <a href=

Ike Davis is congratulated by teammates after pitching a perfect 8th inning against the Angels on 4/212015 (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)" src="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/davis-pitch-300x206.jpg" width="180" height="124" srcset="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/davis-pitch-300x206.jpg 300w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/davis-pitch-150x103.jpg 150w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/davis-pitch.jpg 715w" sizes="(max-width: 180px) 100vw, 180px" /> A’s first baseman Ike Davis is congratulated by teammates after pitching a perfect 8th inning against the Angels on 4/21/2015 (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Ike Davis, 2015

The Oakland A’s had little to lose on 4/21/2015. Down 14-1 at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels in the bottom of the 8th inning, Oakland sent first baseman Ike Davis to the mound.

The first A’s position player to pitch since 2000 and only the fifth Jewish position player to pitch since 1871, the 28-year-old Davis rolled, retiring all three Los Angeles Angels batters he faced on groundouts (see video and box score). He tossed five changeups and three 4-seam fastballs, all of them between 86mph and 88mph, as well as a 78mph slider.

It’s possible Davis drew comfort from his center fielder: Sam Fuld, who pitched for the Rays in 2013.

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