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The 16 Jewish Cubs

The first Jewish Cub

The first Jewish Cub

By Scott Barancik, Editor

On September 5, 1927, Lefty Weinert tossed a 6-1, complete-game win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader at Wrigley Field, yielding 5 hits and no earned runs.

It wasn’t just the 25-year-old southpaw’s Chicago Cubs premiere. It also marked the very first Jewish appearance in this storied franchise’s history.

Another lengthy dry spell would follow. The next Jewish Cub didn’t appear until September 7, 1942, when 23-year-old third baseman Cy Block went 2-for-4 with an RBI double in his Major League debut.

In time, the numbers grew. Through 2016, a total of 16 Jewish players had worn a Cubs uniform. The most recent: outfielder Ryan Kalish, who first played for Chicago in 2014 and earned a .444 on-base percentage in 10 plate appearances during the 2016 regular season.

 

Jewish Cubs

  1. Ryan Kalish, OF (2014, 2016)
  2. Scott Feldman, P (2013)
  3. John Grabow, P (2009-11)
  4. Sam Fuld, CF (2007, 2009-10)
  5. Jason Marquis, P (2007-08)
  6. Adam Greenberg, CF (2005)
  7. Andrew Lorraine, P (1999-2000)
  8. Jose J. Bautista, P (1993-94)
  9. Ken Holtzman, P (1965-71, 1978-79)
  10. Dave A. Roberts, P (1977-78)
  11. Steve Stone, P (1974-76)
  12. Art Shamsky, 1B (1972)
  13. Ed Mayer, P (1957-58)
  14. Hy Cohen, P (1955)
  15. Cy Block, 3B (1942, 1945-46)
  16. Lefty Weinert, P (1927-28)

The roster of Jewish Cubs is dominated by pitchers. Over the decades, a total of 11 hurlers have combined for 165 wins against 156 losses and a 4.07 ERA. Kenny Holtzman tossed two of the franchise’s 10 no-hitters and racked up 80 wins, tying him for 23rd-most in Cub history. Steve Stone, who also pitched for the White Sox, played three seasons with the Cubs before going on to earn a Cy Young Award with the Baltimore Orioles.

A partial box score from <a href=

Lefty Weinert's Chicago Cub debut on September 5, 1927 (click for full box score)" width="300" height="209" srcset="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/weinert-box-300x209.jpg 300w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/weinert-box.jpg 406w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> A partial box score from Lefty Weinert’s Chicago Cub debut on September 5, 1927 (click image for full box score)

Pitchers are so dominant on the list that they account for 75 percent of all at-bats by Jewish Cubs — and eight of nine Jewish home runs. Position players have hit .253 with a .343 on-base percentage for the Cubs but managed just one home run in 328 combined at-bats, a solo shot by CF Sam Fuld on the last day of the 2009 regular season.

Art Shamsky burned the Cubs twice. In 1969, the outfielder hit .300 with the New York Mets to help deliver Chicago its most devastating late-season collapse. In 1972, in the twilight of his career, Shamsky managed just two hits in his only 16 at-bats as a Cub.

Ryan Kalish played for the Cubs in 2014 and 2016

Ryan Kalish played for the Cubs in 2014 and 2016

Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, assembled the roster that led to the team’s 2016 World Series triumph. There were no Jewish players in uniform during the Cubs’ playoff run, however. Kalish, who hit .368 at Triple-A in 2016, was left off the Major League roster and declared his free agency on October 11.

There was one Jewish Cub in a World Series, if only briefly. Cy Block entered Game 6 of the 1945 Series against Hank Greenberg‘s Detroit Tigers as a pinch-runner in the 9th inning with the score tied 7-7. Although he didn’t cross home plate, Chicago went on to beat Detroit 8-7 in 12 innings despite a Greenberg home run.

Detroit, of course, won Game 7, launching what would be a 70-year World Series drought for the Cubs that would finally end, gloriously, in 2016.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

At least three players recently released by their Minor League teams have taken jobs in independent baseball leagues. All three played for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers last year.

Adam Greenberg has rejoined the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League, a team the 32-year-old center fielder last played for in 2011. Greenberg had been attempting to return to the Major Leagues but recently was released by the Baltimore Orioles.

Relief pitcher Jeff Kaplan signed a contract earlier this month with the Quebec Capitales, the reigning champion of the independent CanAm League. Kaplan, 27, had been released last month by the New York Mets’ Double-A affiliate. 

Designated hitter Casey Haerther has joined the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent American Association. Haerther had been released by the Los Angeles Angels’ Double-A affiliate..

A list of all independent league players known to be Jewish is available here. We thank Jewish Sports Review for helping us assemble it.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

With the regular season now underway, we’re taking a quick look back at how Jewish players performed in spring training.

The sheer number who played was impressive: a total of at least 24 Jews — 18 position players and six pitchers — got on the field for at least one MLB game this spring.

BATTING

Collectively,  position players hit .255 with 14 HRs and 64 RBIs in 384 at-bats (see table below). Several stood out:

  • Kevin Youkilis had an eye-popping debut with the New York Yankees. He led all Jewish players (as well as all Yankees) with 6 HRs, 6 doubles and 14 RBIs in just 50 at-bats, along with an .800 slugging percentage and a 1.139 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin made the most of his 16 plate appearances, cobbling together 3 singles, 2 doubles, 5 walks, and 3 RBIs to amass a .455 batting average and .647 on-base percentage.
  • Ike Davis, another Met, showed great poise at the plate, hitting .327 with 4 doubles, 1 HR, and 4 RBIs. Davis’s 9 walks boosted his on-base percentage to a healthy .431.
  • Danny Valencia lost his fight for a spot on the Baltimore Orioles’ opening-day roster but made a good impression on his new team, hitting .323 with 1 HR, 4 RBIs, and a .417 on-base percentage.
  • Maxx Tissenbaum, a 21-year-old San Diego Padres prospect with one minor-league season under his belt, knocked in 3 runs in just 4 at-bats.
  • St. Louis Cardinals prospect Adam Ehrlich walked in both of his plate appearances, St. Louis Cardinals prospect Charlie Cutler singled in his only appearance of the spring, and San Diego Padres prospect Cody Decker went 3-for-6 with a double.

Final hitting stats, 2013 MLB Spring Training

 
TEAM
G
AB
H
HR
RBI
AVG
OBP
Ryan BraunMIL1023636.261.357
Charlie CutlerSTL111001.0001.000
Ike DavisNYM21551815.327.431
Cody DeckerSD26300.500.500
Adam EhrlichSTL30000-1.000
Nate Freiman*HOU/OAK25541319.241.268
Sam FuldTB820514.250.286
Adam GreenbergBAL21000.000.000
Ben GuezDET11000.000.000
Ian KinslerTEX24631419.222.292
Ryan LavarnwayBOS1644606.136.188
Jake LemmermanSTL11000.000.000
Joc PedersonLAD710101.100.182
Kevin PillarTOR79100.111.111
Josh SatinNYM1211503.455.647
Maxx TissenbaumSD44103.250.400
Danny ValenciaBAL17311014.323.417
Kevin YoukilisNYY185014614.280.339
* Now with Oakland A's
Source: Jewish Baseball News collection of data from MLB.com, baseball-reference.com, and cbssports.com.

 

PITCHING

Among the six Jewish pitchers who played in at least one spring training game (see below), these ones stood out:

  • Houston Astros prospect Josh Zeid went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in six relief appearances, held opposing players to a .235 batting average, and drew 3.33 times as many groundouts as flyouts.
  • San Diego Padres veteran Jason Marquis went 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA in six starts and held opponents to a .239 batting average.
  • Toronto Blue Jays prospect Michael Schwimer earned a 3.00 ERA in three relief appearances and limited opposing teams to a .182 batting average.
  • Scott Feldman stood out for less desirable reasons. The newly-minted Chicago Cub went 0-3 with an 11.25 ERA, gave up nearly 2 hits per inning, yielded 7 HRs, and got lit up by opposing batters to the tune of a .396 average.

Final pitching stats, 2013 MLB Spring Training

 
 
TEAM
W
L
ERA
G
IP
H
BB
SO
1Jeremy BleichNYY000.0010.1000
2Scott FeldmanCHC0311.25620.038617
3Jason MarquisSD113.74621.2211515
4Danny Rosenbaum*COL214.5068.0930
5Michael SchwimerTOR003.0033.0224
6Josh ZeidHOU101.5066.0442
* Now with Washington Nationals
Source: Jewish Baseball News collection of data from MLB.com, baseball-reference.com, and cbssports.com.

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Adam Greenberg

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Adam Greenberg, the retired ballplayer who rode a wave of fan appreciation to an unlikely at-bat with the Florida Marlins this October, isn’t finished with his comeback.

The 31-year-old outfielder signed a minor-league contract this week with the Baltimore Orioles. It is his first deal with an MLB franchise since the Los Angeles Angels’ double-A team released him in 2008.

“I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity,” he told ESPN  Thursday afternoon (12/20/2012).

Greenberg’s story has become legend. Just 24 years old when the Chicago Cubs called him up from double-A in 2005, the 5-foot-9-inch Connecticut native was struck in the back of the head with the first pitch of what turned out to be his only Major League at-bat. He never fully recovered his form, spending several lackluster years in the minors before turning to the independent Atlantic League in 2008.

Although Greenberg performed well with the Bridgeport Bluefish, stealing as many as 53 bases in a season and finishing 2011 with 10 HRs, 12 triples, 44 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, a .259 batting average and a .393 on-base percentage, Major League Baseball never came calling. By 2012 he was done, ready to accept his fate, spend more time with his wife and family, and flex his entrepreneurial muscle with a plan to sell deer antler supplements.

But when Team Israel announced earlier this year that it was recruiting Jewish-American players for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Greenberg’s baseball dreams returned. A last-minute addition to the roster, he walked and scored a run in his only plate appearance. Two weeks later he was striking out against New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in front of tens of thousands of cheering Florida Marlins fans, courtesy of a one-game contract sparked by an online petition and inked by team owner Jeffrey Loria, who is Jewish.

Then came Major League Baseball’s winter meetings. Not content to passively wait for a call, Greenberg showed up to make his case in person to team executives (see interview). And this week the Orioles — whose executive vice-president of baseball operations, Dan Duquette, was a founding member of the short-lived Israel Baseball League — took him up on it.

Jewish Baseball News will follow Greenberg’s comeback as it progresses.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

The long wait to see which players will represent Israel at World Baseball Classic qualifiers this week is over.

Team Israel’s 28-man roster (see below) includes two former Major Leaguers (player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler), three Israelis, and 23 minor-leaguers. Because the MLB season is still underway, no current Major Leaguers are on the roster. Also missing are a number of Triple-A and even Double-A players whose teams wanted them around as potential call-ups later this month.

The double-elimination tournament takes place Sept. 19-23 in Jupiter, Fla., and pits Israel against teams from France, Spain, and South Africa. Whoever prevails will earn a spot in the main World Basic Classic competition, in November 2013. If Israel wins, the team it fields in 2013 likely will include a number of Major Leaguers (such as Kevin Youkilis, who already has committed to play) and Triple-A players.

Additional commentary on this week’s roster is shown below the table.

Team Israel: Roster for the WBC qualifying tourney
No.
Player
Pos.
Age
Hometown
Minor-league team
Parent club
27COLVIN, DavidRHP23Mill Valley, CAClinton LumberKings (A)Seattle Mariners
34KAPLAN, JeffRHP27Dana Point, CABinghamton Mets (AA)New York Mets
36KOPP, DavidRHP26Coral Springs, FLErie SeaWolves (AA)Detroit Tigers
16LEICHMAN, AlonRHP23Kibbutz Gezer, IsraelN.A.N.A.
22LIPETZ, ShlomoRHP33Tel Aviv, IsraelN.A.N.A.
10LORIN, BrettRHP25Laguna Niguel, CAMobile Bay Bears (AA)Arizona Diamondbacks
21PERLMAN, MaxRHP24Jupiter, FLStockton Ports (A+)Oakland A's
(-)ROTHEM, DanRHP35Tel Aviv, IsraelN.A.N.A.
26SCHUMER, JustinRHP24Houston, TXSan Jose Giants (A+)San Francisco Giants
28ZEID, JoshRHP25New Haven, CTCorpus Christi Hooks (AA)Houston Astros
14BERGER, EricLHP26Goldsboro, NCColumbus Clippers (AAA)Cleveland Indians
35BLEIER, RichardLHP25Davie, FLFrisco Roughriders (AA)Texas Rangers
17GOULD, JeremyLHP24Buffalo Grove, ILSavannah Sand Gnats (A)New York Mets
29URLAUB, JeffLHP25Scottsdale, AZStockton Ports (A+)Oakland A's
37CUTLER, CharlieC26San Fransico, CAAltoona Curve (AA)Pittsburgh Pirates
3MARDER, JackC/IF22Calabasas, CAHigh Desert Mavericks (A+)Seattle Mariners
19RICKLES, NickC22Ft. Lauderdale, FLBurlington Bees (A+)Oakland A's
6DECKER, Cody1B25Santa Monica, CASan Antonio Missions (AA)San Diego Padres
25FREIMAN, Nate1B25Wellesley, MASan Antonio Missions (AA)San Diego Padres
9ORLOFF, Ben2B25Simi Valley, CACorpus Christi Hooks (AA)Houston Astros
2SATIN, Josh2B27Hidden Hills, CABuffalo Bisons (AAA)New York Mets
33HAERTHER, Casey3B24West Hills, CAArkansas Travelers (AA)Los Angeles Angels
7LEMMERMAN, JakeSS23Coronoa del Mar, CAChattanooga Lookouts (AA)Los Angeles Dodgers
15GREEN, ShawnOF39Des Plaines, ILN.A.N.A.
24GUEZ, BenOF25Houston, TXToledo Mud Hens (AAA)Detroit Tigers
18KAPLER, GabeOF37Hollywood, CAN.A.N.A.
31PEDERSON, JocOF20Palo Ato, CARancho Cucamonga Quakes (A+)Los Angeles Dodgers
23WIDLANSKY, RobbieOF/3B27Plantation, FLBowie Baysox (AA)Baltimore Orioles

Here are some other facts and observations on Team Israel’s roster for the qualifiers:

  • Of the 23 minor leaguers on the roster, three ended the 2012 season with a Triple-A team, 12 at the Double-A level, six at A-advanced, and two with a Single-A team.
  • Adam Greenberg, a former Major Leaguer who is trying to mount a comeback, was invited to Jupiter for tryouts but is not on the roster.
  • Josh Satin, who played briefly for the New York Mets in 2011 and 2012, is the only player with MLB experience.
  • The youngest player on the roster is 20-year-old outfielder Joc Pederson, who is ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect by MLB.com. The oldest player is 39-year-old Shawn Green, whose 15-year MLB career included five seasons with the Dodgers and ended with the New York Mets in 2007. Green’s 328 career HRs are second only to Hank Greenberg’s 331 among Jewish ballplayers.
  • Israeli player Alon Leichman plays for Cypress College, a community college in California.
  • During the qualifiers for the 2012 European Championship, Israeli pitcher Shlomo Lipetz was masterful, giving up just one earned run over 16-and-a-third innings while striking out 18 and walking three.
  • Three players on Team Israel are 6-foot-7-inches tall: pitchers Brett Lorin and Max Perlman, and 1B Nate Freiman. At 5-foot-8-inches, Alon Leichman is the shortest.
  • Nate Freiman and Cody Decker, teammates on the San Antonio Missions (AA), finished 2nd and 3rd in HRs this season among Texas League players.

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Good news Monday (9/3/2012)

By Scott Barancik and Zev Ben Avigdor/Jewish Baseball News

Your weekly source of pride-inducing updates:

  • Ryan Braun hit his 37th HR on Sunday (9/2/2012), tying a career high. Thanks to the 3-run blast, he needs only 5 more RBIs to pierce the 100-RBI mark for the 5th straight season. So far, the only player to reach 100+ RBIs every season from 2008-2012 is Detroit Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera. Braun also enjoyed a 4-for-6, 5-RBI performance last Monday (8/27/2012).
  • The good news is that San Diego Padres prospect Cody Decker hit his 28th HR of the season last week (8/26/2012), a solo shot in the 7th inning. The bad news is that he did it off of Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) reliever Josh Zeid. Zeid got the last laugh, however, earning a “hold” in the Hooks’ 2-1 win over Decker’s San Antonio Missions (AA).
  • David Colvin, a 6’3″ reliever selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 27th round of the 2011 draft, was named Midwest League (A) pitcher of the week for July 23-30. The 23-year-old righty, who plays for the Clinton LumberKings, is 5-3 this season with a 3.15 ERA, 61 strikeouts in 68-and-one-third innings, and just 16 walks.
  • Jacob Booden is showing increasing mastery in his first pro season. Totally ignored in the 2012 amateur draft, the 6’7″ reliever signed a free-agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals afterward and was assigned to the Johnson City Cardinals (rookie). Booden ran up a 6.35 ERA in June, a 4.76 ERA in July, and an 0.79 ERA in August. The 22-year-old is averaging a strikeout per inning.
  • It’s good news all around for Nate Freiman. The San Diego Padres assigned him to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League once the minor-league season ends. Freiman also has been named a Texas League All-Star. As if to celebrate, the San Antonio Missions (AA) first baseman hit a score-tying HR in the 7th inning of Sunday’s (9/2/2012) game against the Corpus Christi Hooks, and a walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th inning. Freiman is hitting a career-high .301, with 24 HRs and 105 RBIs.
  • Other players picked to play in the AFL are Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson and Tampa Bay Rays prospect Lenny Linsky.
  • Tikkun magazine has published an article titled In Praise of Baseball. In it, author Andrew Kimbrell commends the sport for celebrating nonviolence, collegiality, natural time, agrarianism, diversity of place, sacrifice, the common man, transcendence, failure, and coming home. Thanks to The Izzy Project for sharing it.
  • Maxx Tissenbaum reached base in 10 straight plate appearances last week, including his final two chances on Monday (8/27/2012) and all four appearances both on Tuesday and Wednesday. An MLB.com article about the 21-year-old Toronto native called him a “tough out,” observing that Tissenbaum has walked 27 times this season, nearly twice as often as he has struck out (13 times).
  • Forget ‘People of the book’ —  just call us ‘People of the tweet.’ Twitter feeds authored by Toronto Blue Jays prospect Ian Kadish (Twitter) and San Diego Padres prospect Cody Decker (Twitter) are among minor-league baseball’s 20  best, according to Going 9 Baseball. Another top-ranked tweeter, Michael Schlacht, used to identify as Jewish but now is a practicing Christian.
  • Most of you know the story of Adam Greenberg, a Chicago Cub who was struck in the head by the first pitch of his first and only plate appearance in the major leagues. But you may not know about a new campaign, called One At Bat, to let the 31-year-old return to Wrigley Field later this season and get an official at-bat. Yahoo! Sports writer Kevin Kaduk argues that the Cubs have no roster space to accommodate Greenberg, but that the cellar-dwelling Houston Astros — who will play their final series of the season in Chicago — do. Click here to sign the petition.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

It’s not easy to muster a smile on Mondays, but here are a few good reasons:

  • There are only three possible explanations for pitcher Scott Feldman‘s recent dominance: a pact with the devil, alien body-snatching, or performance-enhancing drugs. Through July 4, the Texas Ranger had a 2-6 record and a 6.11 ERA, while opposing batters were hitting him at a .285 clip. But the 29-year-old Hawaii native has strangled his past 3 opponents, giving up just one earned run in 17 innings (an ERA of 0.53) while striking out 10 and walking zero. The performance has boosted his record to 5-6 and slimmed his ERA to 4.76.
  • Sam Fuld is back. After spending the first three months of the season on the disabled list, the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays outfielder returned to the field with a vengeance last week (7/24/2012). In five games since returning, Fuld went 6-for-16 (.375) with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs, and the slumping Rays won three of five.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson is surging. A 20-year-old outfielder with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A-advanced), Pederson has hit .333 in his past 10 games, including 3 HRs, 11 RBIs, 3 stolen bases, and a .429 on-base percentage. The Palo Alto, Calif. native was an 11th-round pick out of high school in the 2010 draft. At the beginning of this season, MLB.com ranked him the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect.
  • Baltimore Orioles prospect Robbie Widlansky is among Eastern League leaders in several offensive categories. A 27-year-old outfielder/DH with the Bowie Baysox (AA), Widlansky is hitting.301 with 6 HRs, 62 RBIs (3rd highest), 9 stolen bases, and an on-base percentage of .396 (4th).
  • Think the Chicago White Sox are happy they acquired 3B Kevin Youkilis? Check out this MLB.com compilation video titled “The Youk Effect.”
  • One of Israel’s few home-grown baseball stars is a 6’4″, 33-year-old pitcher whose day job is booking musicians for the City Winery in New York City. The Wall Street Journal has a terrific profile on Shlomo Lipetz and the challenges  he faced learning baseball in Tel Aviv after relatives first exposed him to the sport in a 1986 visit to Shea Stadium.
  • Ike Davis had a 3-HR game for the first time in his career on Saturday (7/28/2012). The Arizona native homered in his first three at-bats (see video) and added a single to go 4-for-4 in a 6-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. After an anemic start this season, Davis is tied for 6th place in the National League with 20 HRs, is third among N.L. first basemen with 60 RBIs, and has raised his batting average to .213. He has six HRs in his past 10 games.
  • According to our friends at Jewish Sports Review, a total of 13 Jewish players were selected in the 2012 amateur draft. We’ll publish the full list, along with short bios, very soon.
  • Adam Greenberg is vying for a spot on on Team Israel, which will be competing in a qualifying round for the World Baseball Classic in September. The 31-year-old former Chicago Cub is best known, unfortunately, for getting hit in the head by pitcher Valerio de los Santos during his first and only Major League at-bat, in 2005. Greenberg’s career was derailed by the resulting concussion and vertigo. But the 5’9″ fireplug has grit. He singled off de los Santos when he next faced him, in a 2011 independent-league game, and you can see both at-bats in this video profile by ESPN. Good luck, Adam!
  • Nearly 3 months after being demoted to AAA, Danny Valencia has returned to the Minnesota Twins. The 27-year-old third baseman immediately chipped in with an RBI double and two runs scored in a 12-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday (7/28/2012). His stay is likely to be short, as regular 3B Trevor Plouffe is suffering only from a bruised right thumb.
  • Congratulations to U.S. women’s gymnastics captain Aly Raisman, a tribe member who advanced to the Olympics’ all-around finals with a terrific floor exercise she performed to the tune of Hava Nagila on Sunday night (7/29/2012).

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Boker tov, fellow Hebrews! Here’s some good news for your Monday morn:

  • Seattle Mariners prospect Jack Marder was out most of June with injuries, but you wouldn’t know it from his first 3 games back, when he went 7-for-15 with 2 HRs, a double, and 5 RBIs (July 6-8). A 22-year-old catcher with the High Desert Mavericks (A-advanced), Marder is hitting .360 this season with 8 HRs, 15 doubles, and 40 RBIs in just 186 at-bats. By the way, Jack isn’t the only catcher in his family. Sister Sam Marder, Ohio State’s all-time HR leader, plays professional fastpitch softball with the Akron Racers. Check out this article about the siblings.
  • There’s no sadder story in baseball history than that of Adam Greenberg, which is why the latest news about New Haven, Conn., native is so great. Greenberg, you may recall, had been called up by the Chicago Cubs in 2005 and was enjoying his first Major League at-bat when Florida Marlins P Valeria de los Santos accidentally beaned him, ending his MLB career and giving him a dubious footnote in the record books. But the still-young Greenberg — he’s only 31 — reportedly has begun training to play for Team Israel in the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifying round, in September. Can’t wait to see you there, Adam.
  • Sure, Ike Davis has struggled at the plate this season, with his batting average only recently edging up above .200. But there’s a good reason the New York Mets continue to use him as a starter: run production. Davis’ 50 RBIs place him among the top 20 in the National League and have him 0n pace to crush his career high of 71. He also has 13 HRs, compared with a career-high of 19. Now if he can just start walking and singling a little more, and striking out a little less…
  • The New York Mets reportedly are interested in Boston Red Sox backup catcher Kelly Shoppach. If Shoppach is traded, hard-hitting prospect Ryan Lavarnway, who had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox last year, will likely be called-up for good.
  • One of the greatest home-run duos in Jewish baseball history is together again. San Diego Padres slugger Cody Decker is back with the San Antonio Missions (AA) and teammate Nate Freiman after a brief stint in AAA, and the pair is on fire. Decker, who hit a grand slam last week (7/12/2012) and homered in the same game as Freiman for at least the second time this year (7/9/2012), has 22 HRs overall, including an astounding 18 in just 186 at-bats with the Missions. Freiman has 20 HRs, leads the Texas League with 75 RBIs, and was profiled in this recent article.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays seem eager to get Sam Fuld back on the field. Despite a mediocre rehab assignment in which he went 2-for-13 with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Fuld has been promoted to the Durham Bulls (AAA).
  • Max Fried, an 18-year-old lefty who was the No. 7 overall pick of the San Diego Padres in last month’s amateur draft, has yet to give up a run in three appearances with the rookie-league AZL Padres. According to jewishsportsreview.com, only four Jews have been drafted higher in baseball history: Ron Blomberg (No. 1 in 1967), Mike Lieberthal (No. 3 in 1990), Justin Wayne (No. 5 in 2000), and Ryan Braun (No. 5 in 2005).
  • Speaking of Ryan Braun, the reigning N.L. MVP is leading his league in HRs with 26 — that’s one in every 12.2 at-bats — and is on pace to crush his career high of 37 (2008). He’s also among league leaders with 64 RBIs (2nd/tie), a .640 slugging percentage (2nd), nine hit-by-pitches (2nd), a .401 on-base percentage (5th), .313 batting average (8th), and 16 stolen bases (10th/tie). All without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs, mind you.
  • Kevin Youkilis returns to Fenway Park today (7/16/2012) for the first time since the Red Sox traded him. The Chicago White Sox are mighty happy with Youk so far. In 61 at-bats, the 33-year-old 1B/3B is hitting .295 with 3 HRs, 15 RBIs, and a .397 on-base percentage. Read Kevin’s love letter to Boston fans here.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Authors: Peter Ephross, Martin Abramowitz

Published: 2012

Pages: 227

Price: $35 (Amazon.com or McFarland Publishing/800-253-2187)

Our rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Reviewed by Stuart M. Katz for Jewish Baseball News

Overview

In Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words, authors Peter Ephross and Martin Abramowitz present oral histories of 23 of the Jewish players who were on Major League rosters between 1918 and 2005. Beginning with Bob Berman, who played for the Washington Senators in 1918, and ending with Adam Greenberg, who played one fateful game for the Chicago Cubs in 2005, the book provides an unusual window into America’s pastime.

What’s Jewish about it

Some interesting and common themes emerge in the book. Most of the players from the first half of the 20th century identify themselves as traditional Jews, say they experienced anti-Semitism (although not as virulent as the discrimination they saw African-American players suffer), and typically didn’t play on the High Holidays. Jews who played more recently were more likely to be from mixed marriages and less likely to take the High Holidays off.

Jesse Levis, who played for the Indians and the Brewers, recalls playing on Yom Kippur in 1996. He explains that because he wasn’t a superstar, he didn’t feel he had a choice, although he did fast that day. “I’m not Sandy Koufax…I’m a Major League player trying to make a living,” he says. As it happened, Levis didn’t get a hit that day — or for that matter, he says, the rest of the season. “God punished me anyway.” Former 1st-round draft pick Ron Blomberg recalls playing in a game in 1973 that lasted into the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “The game was tied with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but we had a man on third base. I had to make the decision: quit the game for Rosh Hashanah, or get a base hit….I got a clutch base hit to win the game – the biggest hit of my career. I cherish that at-bat more than anything else in my life.”

Regardless of the era, Jewish pride resonates throughout many of the interviews. Hank Greenberg, who died in 1986, said that when a Jew hears about a gifted Jewish athlete, statesman or artist, “you take a certain pride in the fact that one of your own people (has) made good.”

My take

Although much has been written about Greenberg and Koufax, far less is known about the careers of others featured in the book, men like Sam Nahem, Cy Block and Mike Epstein. Their stories as non-superstars are no less interesting. Among the most compelling chapters are the ones devoted to Elliott Maddox and Jose J. Bautista, whose Judaism was less obvious because they are African-American and Hispanic, respectively.

The obstacles that Jewish ballplayers faced in the 20th century resembled the assimilation struggles that most American Jews faced during that era. But as these oral histories reveal, maintaining Jewish traditions remained extremely important to the players. I look forward to a future volume featuring interviews with Braun, Youkilis, Breslow, Ian Kinsler, Gabe Kapler and other more recent players. I wonder if they will describe their connection to Judaism as clearly and proudly as those who blazed the trail for them.

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Stuart M. Katz is a die-hard Yankees fan. An attorney at Cohen and Wolf in Bridgeport, Conn., he chairs the firm’s Employment & Labor Group and represents employers as well as executives.
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