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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 Lefty Weinert's Chicago Cub debut on September 5, 1927 (click for full box score)

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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