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Kinsler, Pederson help smash season HR record

By Scott Barancik, Editor

A total of 146 seasons have passed since Lip Pike became the first Jewish player to homer. Now, we have a new milestone to celebrate.

Joc Pederson‘s game-tying, 2-run blast last night was the 113th Jewish home run of the season, tying the mark set in 2012. Pederson’s home run, his 25th of the year, left his bat at a blistering 110.6 mph, tops in the MLB for the night.

Joc Pederson hits record-tying 113th Jewish HR of 2016

Joc Pederson hits record-tying 113th Jewish HR of 2016

Less than half an hour later, Ian Kinsler crushed a 2-run, go-ahead shot for the record-breaking 114th round-tripper of the year. Kinsler’s 27th home run traveled 410 feet to left-center and left him one behind Lou Whitaker (28) on Detroit’s all-time list of most HRs in a season by a second baseman. The 3rd-inning blast almost didn’t count: despite heavy rain, umpires allowed the Tigers and Cleveland to complete the 5th inning before calling a delay and, eventually, the game.

Ian Kinsler hits 114th Jewish HR of 2016 to break season record

Ian Kinsler hits 114th Jewish HR of 2016 to break season record

Both players likely were unaware they were making history. Earlier this month, Alex Bregman smashed the 3,000th Jewish home run in Major League history.

Although rookie Lip Pike led the National Association with four home runs in 1871, his rookie season with the Troy Haymakers, Jewish players and home runs have not always been so prolific.

In 49 of the past 146 season, Jewish players did not hit a single dinger. During the five seasons from 1986 to 1990, in fact, there was not a single Jewish at-bat.

Aside from Pike, the concept of a Jewish power hitter is, historically speaking, a relatively new one. No Jewish player had hit even 10 HRs in a season until a Detroit Tigers rookie named Hank Greenberg stroked 12 in 1933. This helps explain why Jewish fans went so crazy over Greenberg, who went on to hit a then-N.L. record 58 home runs in 1938, two short of Babe Ruth’s then-Major League record of 60.

By comparison, today is a golden age for Jewish baseball fans. Three players have 25 or more home runs — Ryan Braun (30), Ian Kinsler (27), and Joc Pederson (25) — an accomplishment matched only once before, in 2010.

Jewish HRs by season

YearABHR
199000
198900
198800
198700
198600
189940
188740
190290
1881180
1985220
1901260
1903270
1920310
1882410
1919470
1991510
1910560
1908580
1927740
1895740
1916760
1918810
1909910
1911920
1907950
1906990
19051110
19041180
19641640
19762380
18753120
19174330
190000
189800
189700
189600
189400
189300
189200
189100
189000
188900
188800
188600
188500
188400
188300
188000
187900
1984631
19572041
18742341
19132491
18762821
18784191
19652372
19252862
19831323
19812233
19593023
19364903
19216373
18711344
19582254
18772664
18732854
19633154
19243554
19305984
19426804
19144225
19266145
19297015
19239495
19622576
19822636
19933116
19125246
18722857
19154367
19614817
19225767
19924248
19318988
19603789
19773959
19435359
19757149
19287579
19321,1609
199447110
194180911
194469913
196775213
195669516
197887518
19331,26118
198085119
199596521
19741,22121
196650622
197979323
194955726
19961,32226
19341,18927
194857930
19681,12231
19731,70534
19551,06035
19711,33536
19451,34837
194789739
19701,48540
20031,80540
19351,28741
20051,64141
19971,71845
20132,00647
19691,43750
19981,52750
19461,30454
19401,47154
19721,90754
20062,41455
19541,61456
20142,29556
19391,87457
20001,99160
19521,87962
20042,04563
19371,95764
19501,19465
20021,86866
19511,90269
20011,70973
19531,71077
20102,30978
19382,45681
20152,82781
20072,44484
20112,16294
20082,223100
20092,277101
19992,089102
20122,598113
2016*2,730114
Total*107,3153,012
* Through games played 9/28/2016
Note: The 3,012 Jewish home runs hit through 9/28/2016 were slugged by these Major League players. The tally includes home runs hit by David Newhan before 2000, when he began identifying as a Messianic Jew. It excludes home runs hit by Jim Gaudet, who converted to Judaism after his playing career ended.
Source: JewishBaseballNews.com



As great a season as Jewish players are having collectively, 2016 isn’t close to the most prodigious in terms of home-run frequency.

Through games played 9/28/2016, Jewish players are homering once every 23.95 at-bats, or 13th-best on the home-run frequency chart. The best year came way back in 1950, when Jewish players such as Al Rosen (37 HRs) and Sid Gordon (27 HRs) homered a total of once every 18.37 at-bats.

Jewish home-run frequency, by season

YearAB/HR
195018.37
194819.30
199920.48
194921.42
195322.21
200822.23
200922.54
201222.99
196623.00
194723.00
201123.00
200123.41
2016*23.95
194624.15
194027.24
195127.57
200228.30
196928.74
195428.82
200729.10
201029.60
195530.29
195230.31
193830.32
199830.54
193730.58
193531.39
200432.46
193932.88
200033.18
187133.50
197934.48
201534.90
197235.31
196836.19
194536.43
197137.08
197037.13
199738.18
200540.02
187240.71
201440.98
196042.00
201342.68
196242.83
195643.44
198243.83
197743.89
200643.89
198344.00
193444.04
198044.79
200345.13
199545.95
199447.10
197848.61
197350.15
199650.85
199351.83
199253.00
194453.77
195856.25
196757.85
197458.14
194359.44
191562.29
198463.00
187766.50
196168.71
193370.06
187371.25
194173.55
198174.33
196378.75
197579.33
192282.29
192884.11
191484.40
191287.33
192488.75
1959100.67
1931112.25
1965118.50
1926122.80
1932128.89
1929140.20
1925143.00
1930149.50
1936163.33
1942170.00
1923189.80
1957204.00
1921212.33
1874234.00
1913249.00
1876282.00
1878419.00
1990na
1989na
1988na
1987na
1986na
1899na
1887na
1902na
1881na
1985na
1901na
1903na
1920na
1882na
1919na
1991na
1910na
1908na
1927na
1895na
1916na
1918na
1909na
1911na
1907na
1906na
1905na
1904na
1964na
1976na
1875na
1917na
1900na
1898na
1897na
1896na
1894na
1893na
1892na
1891na
1890na
1889na
1888na
1886na
1885na
1884na
1883na
1880na
1879na
Total*35.63
* Through games played 9/28/2016
Source: JewishBaseballNews.com

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kinsler 200th hr 7-3-2016xxxx
By Scott Barancik, Editor

Detroit 2B Ian Kinsler crushed his 200th career home run today in a 5-1 win over the Rays.

The two-run shot, his second in two days, came off P Danny Farquhar in the 9th inning and struck the catwalk high above Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field.

Kinsler is the fifth Jewish player to reach the 200-homer threshold. He joins Hank Greenberg (331 HRs), Shawn Green (328), Ryan Braun (268), and Sid Gordon (202). Kinsler passed Al Rosen (192) earlier this season.

Kinsler’s 200th came in his 1,460th MLB game. By comparison, Greenberg reached 200 HRs in his 860th game, Braun in his 867th, Green in his 1,084th, and Gordon in his 1,458th. All four other players hit multiple homers on the day they reached 200: Green hit a record-tying four round-trippers (May 23, 2002), Greenberg hit two (September 7, 1939), Braun hit two (September 16, 2012) and Gordon hit two (August 14, 1955) — one each in both games of a double-header.

It’s not the only milestone Kinsler reached today. According to MLB.com, he now is one of only three active players — and 40 total in MLB history — with 200 home runs, 1,000 runs scored, 1,600 hits and 200 stolen bases. The other active players are Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.

Kinsler is enjoying an unexpected power surge this season. Since peaking at 32 home runs in 2011, the 34-year-old Arizona native has yet to hit 20 again. With 16 so far in 2016, however, he already has exceeded his season totals from 2013 (13 HRs) and 2015 (11) and is on pace to breach 30.

Kinsler’s home run was just one of his contribution’s to today’s win over the Rays. With Detroit down 1-0 in the top of the 8th inning, the Arizona State alum doubled and later daringly scored from second base on an attempted double-play. “That got us going, really,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told MLB.com. “It was great heads-up baserunning, aggressive baserunning.”

The 11th-year player also shone in the field, making a slick backhanded stop and toss to retire Curt Casali in the 3rd inning.

Ausmus summed up Kinsler’s attitude thusly. “He definitely plays with an edge, in a good way. He wants to beat the other team. It’s almost as if he’s a little bit mad at the other team.”

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AL CLARK book coverBy Scott Barancik, Editor

From 1976 until MLB officials told him “You’re out!” in 2001, Al Clark was one of baseball’s most respected umpires, and among very few who were Jewish.

In a new memoir written with Dan Schlossberg, the 66-year-old Clark recalls the highlights and lowlights of his life in and out of baseball, from seeing Bucky Dent’s playoff home run and Nolan Ryan’s 300th win at field level to going to jail after a memorabilia scandal.

The son of a sportswriter, Clark also reflects on things Jewish: how blowing the shofar on the High Holidays prepared him for life on the diamond; his admiration for Shawn Green (and contempt for Bud Selig); and anti-Semitism he faced while umpiring in the minors.

The following excerpt is reprinted from Called Out But Safe: a Baseball Umpire’s Journey, published by University of Nebraska Press on May 1, 2014. Please note that while Jewish Baseball News received no compensation for this coverage, the website will receive a small commission for any books purchased via our Amazon link.

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Chapter 8 – The Yiddishe Umpire

When I was growing up in New Jersey, Jewish boys became doctors, lawyers, or accountants – certainly not professional umpires. I’m proud that I was able to change that.

Because of my career choice, my name is actually the answer to two Trivial Pursuit questions, in the sports edition. One is, “Who was the only person in professional sports who wore his name on his hat?” And the other is “Who was the first and only Jewish umpire in American League history? “

There have been National League umpires who were Jewish — Dolly Stark, Stan Landes, Al Forman, to name three. Later, Paul Schreiber served in both leagues after the staffs were combined. But I was the first and only Jewish American League umpire.

People were surprised when they found out I was a Yid. They said to me, “Geez, that’s not a profession for a Jewish boy, an umpire?” And they’d say umpiring is difficult and getting to the big leagues even more so, adding that if it were easy, more Jews would’ve tried.

I’m very proud I’m Jewish. I was bar mitzvahed in Ahavath Israel, an Orthodox synagogue in Trenton, New Jersey, in a January that had a lot of snow. I even learned to blow the shofar for the high holidays.

My rabbi, Solomon Poll, took religion very seriously and was a very good teacher. Before the High Holy Days, he would bring out the shofar and show all the kids how to blow it. For some reason, maybe I was full of hot air even then, I could put the shofar on the side of my mouth and could hold the ram’s horn. I could blow the shofar and make it have a true sound.

It’s not easy but I didn’t think it was that tough either. The rabbi took a liking to the way I could blow the shofar and assigned me to do it in synagogue during the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays. I was a rookie who came in cold. It’s a good thing the rabbi let me take the shofar home; I did a lot of practicing.

When the holidays finally arrived, I was more skittish than a cat in a room full of rockers. I was more nervous than I ever was on a baseball diamond – probably because I was so young and inexperienced.

But my grandparents couldn’t have been more proud. Their grandson, little Alan, was blowing the shofar on the High Holy Days. It was kind of cool.

Blowing the shofar was not only a good experience but helped make me comfortable years later. I was never nervous in front of people or nervous about public speaking. And isn’t public speaking supposed to be one of the most nerve-wracking things people do?

By the time I walked onto a big-league baseball diamond, I had years of training and experience in dealing with crowds.

I probably could have used shofar spring training but went to Yankee spring training instead. I grew up listening to Mel Allen broadcast Yankees games. We knew Mel was Jewish and came from Alabama; his real name was Mel Israel.

Religion wasn’t a big deal for me in the big leagues. I never forgot that I was Jewish. All I did was work hard.

With the exception of a handful of players, a few owners, and lots of writers – who wanted to be part of the game but probably weren’t good enough to play – baseball is primarily a world of non-Jewish people. The fact that I am Jewish never came into play, although some people did know about it.

Some of the players today don’t have a feeling of the history of the game and feel like major league baseball wasn’t important until they arrived. They don’t know the history. There are some African-American players today who don’t have a grasp on who Jackie Robinson was and what he did, nor Henry Aaron or Willie Mays. That’s a shame. They are cheating themselves of the great multi-ethnic foundation of our game.

There weren’t too many Jewish players in baseball history, but the ones who were there knew who Hank Greenberg was, what he did, and how he did it. And Moe Berg.

What a great story Berg was, whether you’re Jewish or not. He was a covert operative for the United States during World War II. Can a baseball story get any better than a player being a spy?

One story concerning Berg and Babe Ruth is priceless. Berg was a very intelligent man. He spoke multiple languages. After the 1934 season, players took a barnstorming trip to Japan for an exhibition tour. They didn’t fly in those years but took a cruise ship. They left from Los Angeles. The Babe asked Moe if he knew Japanese. Moe indicated he did not. After arriving, Ruth saw Berg speaking to their Japanese greeters in fluent Japanese.

After greetings and salutations, Babe went approached Berg and said, “Moe, you lied to me. Two weeks ago, I asked you if you knew Japanese and you said no.” Berg just looked at him and said, “Babe, that was ten days ago.” On the voyage, Berg learned Japanese.

Stories like that are inherent in our history—and when I say “our history,” the baseball lineage history. Players today should know more about that. The history of our game is what makes our game the greatest game in the world.

Later in life, I realized how important Moe Berg was; I read the book The Catcher Was a Spy. I was proud to know that people in our game were such tremendous patriots – not only Berg but many other players who served during WW II: Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, and others who selflessly gave of themselves to our country. They are to be admired and honored forever.

I never met Greenberg. I know he was Jewish and that bit of ethno-centrism, that we were both Jewish, made me proud Jews can excel in our national game.

Like Greenberg, Sandy Koufax retired long before I began my own baseball career. But I did meet Sandy a number of times. He is a gentleman above all, a quiet man. He gave of himself very sparingly but when he did, he was all in. He talked to pitchers whenever the situation warranted. He held nothing back once he was committed.

When I was a kid, I met Berg, a friend of my next-door neighbor John “Sparrow” Moran [Flip’s dad]. I even remember playing catch with him in my backyard. I do remember that Berg took the train with Sparrow Moran from Princeton to New York most days and I remember he was a catcher. Moran was a conductor on the now-defunct Pennsylvania Railroad.

My Jewish pride stems from the fact that these players were as good as they were AND we shared a heritage. Greenberg, Koufax, Al Rosen, and Ryan Braun won Most Valuable Player awards while Koufax and Steve Stone, along with half-Jew Jim Palmer, won Cy Young Awards.

Among today’s players, Shawn Green carved his own niche in baseball history, hitting four home runs, a double, and a single in one game. That gave him 19 total bases, one more than Joe Adcock, who hit four home runs and a double for the Milwaukee Braves against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the ‘50s.

I was always a Shawn Green fan. He came to the big leagues as a Toronto Blue Jay. I knew he was Jewish and did go out of my way to be a little nice to him, to make him feel welcome to the big leagues. It was because of the kindred spirit that we all kind of have.

I’m glad he did well but I never would do anything to help. There was one American League pitcher who shall remain nameless. He had a very Jewish name. We were in the dugout one day, before a game when he came to me and said, “Hi, Al.” I said, “How you doing?” He said, “You know, it’s good to see you. I hear that you’re Jewish.” I said, “Yeah, I am.” He said, “You know, I am too.” I said, “Yeah, it’s pretty obvious.” He said, “I’d like to stay up in the big leagues, and any time you’re back there, calling balls and strikes, would you give me a little help? I’d really appreciate it.”

I curtly and strongly told him that was not the way it was going to be. I told him to rest assured that this conversation will never be repeated, not to any other umpires or to anyone else. Thank goodness, baseball’s umpires do not think of anything except the merits of play.

I don’t think that guys knew I was Jewish. Or cared. Green knew because I told him. Rod Carew knew. Jesse Levis knew. And a few others.

1-Al Clark cartoon

There was one September game in Milwaukee when Green was batting, Levis was catching for the Brewers, and I was the home-plate umpire. It was almost Rosh Hashanah. We wished each other a Happy New Year when we were together at home plate.

Shawn was a good guy. After he had established himself as a star, he came to me once between innings of a game and said, “Listen, anytime you need anything, you know, autographs or bats or balls or anything like that for any charity events, you make sure you call me first.” I thought that was very nice of him.

There are so few Jews in baseball that there’s a fraternity or a family that supersedes baseball. Maybe it’s the heritage we’ve all shared. It’s certainly not anything overt; it’s just a feeling.

I’ve never been to Israel but my dad was there. He went over on a Jewish Times trip.

He used to write for that publication so they took him over there and he had a great time. There was a Jewish magazine convention in Jerusalem he attended.

Long after my career ended, a six-team professional league was founded in Israel. Dan Duquette, now general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, was the American contact and a number of Jewish players – Ron Blomberg, Ken Holtzman, and Art Shamsky – were involved as managers. Blomberg’s team won the championship. Unfortunately, the Israel Baseball League (IBL) lasted just one season, 2007.

I tried to become a consultant to that league, helping their umpires, but it never materialized. I would’ve loved going over and doing some clinics and working with the umpires in Israel.

I never experienced any overt anti-Semitism in the major leagues but had three shaky incidents back in the minors.

My partner Ted Hendry and I were walking out of the ballpark in Indianapolis after the Indians played a game against the Iowa Oaks. When Ted and I were walking to our car an hour after the ballgame, there weren’t a lot of people around. Denny McLain, once a 30-game winner for the Tigers who was back in the minors and on his way out of the game, and Ray Busse, a shortstop who had a cup of coffee in the big leagues, were both on the Iowa roster. Iowa had lost that night and I had worked home plate. Unprovoked by anything, they both started verbally attacking me, “You kike son of a bitch. What the fuck is a Jew doing in our game? You don’t deserve to be here. Go the fuck home, you kike motherfucker.” The players both thought their rant was quite funny but neither Ted or I did.

It shook us up tremendously. Ted and I went back to our hotel and called Joe Ryan, then president of the American Association. He was appalled. Ryan called the Iowa general manager and the two guys were suspended that night. When Joe Sparks, the Iowa manager, came out to home plate the next day, he couldn’t have apologized more. He couldn’t have been more professional. And it was certainly appreciated. I’m sure the news of that evening’s after-game activity made its way around the country quite quickly.

Another anti-Semitic incident occurred in 1974, two seasons before I reached the majors. Once again, Hendry and I were together. That time, we were sitting in a restaurant in Des Moines with former National League (and future Hall of Fame) umpire Al Barlick. He was working as an NL umpire supervisor and scout.

We were just talking when the conversation turned to minorities in baseball when Barlick proclaimed, “I’ll tell you one thing. As long as I’m alive, there will never be another fuckin’ Jew umpire in my league.”

I looked him straight in the eye and just as boldly proclaimed, “I’m Jewish.” I then excused myself, got up from the table, and left. Fortunately, I never saw him again.

I felt the same way about John (Red) Davis, a career minor-league manager who was running the Oklahoma City ballclub during the 1975 season. We had run-ins previously but certainly nothing out of the ordinary. He would voice his displeasure with my umpiring ability. I would allow him his argument, then usually eject him from that day’s contest. Just no big deal.

During one particular evening, a call went against the Oklahoma City club. Davis stormed out of the dugout and headed right towards me. Instead of talking or yelling about the play, his first words were, “You’re nothing but a fucking Hitler.” I ejected him immediately, then walked away, leaving him to argue with no one. He finally left the field and we finished the game.

The next day, Davis said to my partner, Jerry Young, “Why did Clark run me so fast last night?”

All I did was call him ‘a fucking Hitler.’” Young started to laugh uncontrollably while on the field, much to Davis’ dismay. After regaining his composure, Young told Davis I was in fact Jewish.

It took Davis another two months but eventually he did apologize and said, “That kind of shit is out of bounds.”

There aren’t many Jews in baseball, now or when I was active, but there certainly was a kindred spirit, a sharing of relationship, among us. I’m not even talking about anti-Semitism, which often lies right under the surface but doesn’t become overt.

I worked with a lot of umpires. One thing we did in clubhouses and locker rooms was tease each other unmercifully. Whether it was race, religion, politics, cleanliness, wives, nothing was off limits. With my short, squat physique, my religion, and my multiple marriages, I was an obvious target. But it was good, clean fun.

However, if anyone attacked any of us outside of our clubhouse, we would circle the wagons and defend each other always. We were and are family.

I certainly wasn’t the only Jewish major-leaguer: in addition to media members and players, Bud Selig, Jerry Reinsdorf, Fred Wilpon, Bob Lurie, Ted Lerner, Jeffrey Loria, Theo Epstein, and Stan Kasten are Jews on the ownership side.

Probably the most prominent Jew in baseball today is Selig, who became Commissioner in 1998. Except for Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, he served longer in that position than anyone. But I’m not one of his fans. He did something very phony early in my career and I never trusted him after that.

Long before there was any talk of him becoming Commissioner, Selig was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. Before a game in Milwaukee, it rained. As a result, the dugout steps were wet and slippery.

I was working with Lou DiMuro. He slipped going up the steps, hit his back, and hurt himself so badly that he had to be hospitalized. An ambulance came onto the field and transported him to a local hospital.

I personally went to Selig’s office after the game for an update on Lou’s condition and to thank him for caring. Little did I know that all he really cared about was getting Lou off the field and and getting on with the game. He may have said the right words, but his actions portrayed something totally different. And ever that happened, I was skeptical of him.

The next day, nobody from the Brewers organization asked about Lou’s injury or well-being. Now this wasn’t necessarily Selig but the Brewers brass did say, “How come you guys only have three umpires today? Why didn’t you bring another umpire to work?”

Once again, the only time they cared about the umpires was five minutes before the game, then they said, “Geez, where the hell are the umpires?” I never forgot that about Selig, about him not caring about Lou DiMuro.

I’m sure that as Commissioner, for the game, and for the owners, he’s done a good job. Some of his innovations have proven to be popular, and the newest one (the second wild-card) will prove to be tremendously profitable for the owners.

I’m not sure Selig did a great job for the umpires. I think he let his director of labor relations handle us. I don’t know that for a fact. I don’t know how much involvement he had. I do know that if he ever came into our umpires’ room, it was only for a photo opportunity. He never came in and asked how our families were, never cared about us on a personal basis. And we represented him. I always thought that was kind of squirrely.

There are only a handful of Jews active anywhere in our game and only one Jewish commissioner in baseball history. I’d like to be proud of my lantzmen but that’s not always possible. For me, that’s a great disappointment.

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Jewish HR records fell in 2012

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

If it seemed like Jewish ballplayers were smacking a lot of home runs this season, it wasn’t your imagination. Several records were broken or matched in 2012.

Jewish major leaguers (excluding pitchers) hit a combined 116 HRs, topping the prior record of 109 in 2011. Home-run hitting is a growing trend among Jewish players, with seven of the 10 biggest one-year totals coming since 2000 (see table).

Most Jewish HRs, by year*

YearTotal HRsBiggest contributor
2012116Ryan Braun (41)
2011109Ryan Braun (33)
1999102Shawn green (42)
2009101Ryan Braun (32)
200898Ryan Braun (37)
193887Hank Greenberg (40)
201085Ryan Braun (25)
200783Ryan Braun (34)
195377Al Rosen (43)
200173Shawn Green (49)
* Excluding Jewish pitchers
Source: JewishBaseballNews.com

Two key figures behind this year’s home-run barrage were Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun, who smashed a career-high 41 HRs, and New York Mets 1B Ike Davis, who hit a career-high 32. Kevin Youkilis, who split the season between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox, hit 19, and Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler followed with 18.

Braun’s 41 dingers made him the No. 1 home-run hitter among National League players in 2012. The last time a Jewish ballplayer led a league in HRs was 1953, when Cleveland Indians 3B Al Rosen hit 43 to lead the A.L.

Davis hit 19 HRs as a rookie in 2010 and spent much of the 2011 season on the disabled list. By the 2012 All-Star break he had 12 HRs, then pounded 20 more during the rest of the season to rank No. 5 among N.L. hitters (tie).

Braun and Davis made quite a pair. The only other time two Jewish players have hit at least 40 and 30 HRs, respectively, in a single MLB season was 2002, when Los Angeles Dodgers RF Shawn Green crushed 42, and Philadelphia Phillies C Mike Lieberthal hit 31. Braun (37) and Youkilis (29) came close in 2009, as did Al Rosen (37) and Boston Braves LF Sid Gordon (27) in 1950.

Braun’s 41 HRs launched him into a tie with Sid Gordon for No. 3 on the all-time Jewish HR leaders list, with 202. Detroit Tigers 1B Hank Greenberg leads the list with 331, followed closely by Shawn Green with 328.

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Braun hits the first of 3 HRs (Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

When Ryan Braun smashed three HRs against the San Diego Padres on Monday night (see video), Jewish baseball fans everywhere celebrated.

Here are a few more reasons to be proud:

  • The Milwaukee Brewers right fielder is just the fifth Jewish player since 1918 to homer 3 or more times in a 9-inning game, and the first to do so in nearly 10 years.

Players with 3+ HRs in a 9-inning game, since 1918

NameTeamDateHRsNotes
Ryan BraunMilwaukee Brewers4/30/20123Went 4-for-5 with a triple, 6 RBIs, and 15 total bases
Mike LieberthalPhiladelphia Phillies8/10/20023Went 4-for-5 with a single and 4 RBIs
Shawn GreenLos Angeles Dodgers5/23/20024Went 6-for-6 with a single, double, 7 RBIs, and 19 total bases
Shawn GreenLos Angeles Dodgers8/15/20013Went 3-for-5 with 7 RBIs
Mike EpsteinWashington Senators5/16/19693Went 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs
Al RosenCleveland Indians4/29/19523Went 4-6 with a single, walk, and 7 RBIs
  • Hank Greenberg, who leads all Jewish players with 331 career HRs, never had a 3-HR game. He did hit two HRs in a game 35 times.
  • Thanks to an added triple Monday night, Braun finished with 15 total bases. The last time a major-leaguer had 15 or more total bases in a 9-inning game? Nearly 8 years ago, when Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals hit 3 HRs, a double, and a single against the very same San Diego Padres (7/20/2004).
  • Monday night’s game took place in a venue — San Diego’s Petco Park — that is unfriendly to HRs, though much more so to lefties than righties. As this article points out, the Padres as a team hit just 6 HRs in their first 14 home games this season. Braun matched half that number in just one game. (Thanks to Jewish Baseball News contributor Jack W. for the tip.)
  • Monday’s performance vaulted Braun into a tie for 2nd-most HRs in the National League this season, behind Matt Kemp’s 12 dingers. The Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder finished 2nd to Braun in last year’s N.L. MVP vote.

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Ryan Braun ends HR drought with a doozy

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Call it the Jewish Baseball News curse.

Last month, we reported that Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun was leading the National League with 12 HRs and dared to speculate whether he might become the first Jewish home-run king since Cleveland Indians 3B Al Rosen in 1953.

Braun, 27, didn’t hit another HR in the next 16 games, a period during which he fell from 1st to 3rd behind Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce (17 HRs) and the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp (13 HRs). Jewish Baseball News hung its head.

But on Friday (6/2/2011), Braun broke out of his HR slump with a flourish, smashing a pinch-hit, 2-run shot in the 9th inning to defeat the Florida Marlins 6-5 (see video).

“Brauny came up with a big pinch-hit home run off a closer who’s having a good year,” Brewers  pitcher Randy Wolf told MLB.com. “That’s a huge win for us. We know that this Marlins team is a very talented young team that’s capable of winning games. To come back and sneak a win here was big for us.”

Braun had been on the bench nursing a sore shoulder when he was called in to pinch-hit.

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Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun leads the N.L. with 12 HRs

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — It’s been quite a while since a Jewish ballplayer won a major-league home run crown. Fifty-eight years, to be precise.

The last to do it? Cleveland Indians 3B Al Rosen, whose 43 HRs led the American League in 1953. Today, Rosen is 87 years old, which is a pretty good measure of how long a drought it’s been.

That brings us to Ryan Braun. Through his first 40 games of the 2011 season, a period that ended May 15, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger was leading the National League with 12 HRs. Could he be the one to break the spell?

Jewish Baseball News crunched the numbers. Here’s what we discovered.

Braun has always been a strong starter

As shown in the table below, Braun has always been a fast starter. In each of his five years with the Brewers, the left fielder has smacked anywhere from 7 to 12 HRs over the first 40 games.

Year 40th gm Dbl Trpl HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG
2011 5/15 3 2 12 33 7 .309 .399 .597
2010 5/21 12 1 7 30 9 .338 .415 .556
2009 5/22 9 1 8 31 3 .331 .452 .572
2008 5/15 14 1 10 30 1 .286 .316 .560
2007 7/8 14 2 11 32 8 .350 .391 .663

Braun’s HR pace hasn’t fizzled out in past

Based on his first 40 games this season, Braun is projected to hit 49 HRs, assuming he plays all 162 games.

He’s done a pretty good job of keeping pace in the past. In 2008, as the table below shows, he hit 10 HRs in his first 40 games, was projected to hit 41 HRs in 162 games if he maintained the same frequency, and ended up hitting 37 in 151 games. In 2009, his 32 HRs matched the projected total, even though he didn’t play all 162 games. He fell several HRs short of his projected total in 2010.

To be fair, three years of data isn’t much to go on. (We don’t count his rookie season because he played only 113 games.) Maybe Braun will surprise us by fizzling out the rest of 2011 — or by increasing his HR pace as the season goes on.

Year 40 gms Proj. Actual
2011 12 49 ?
2010 7 28 25
2009 8 32 32
2008 10 41 37
2007 11 45 34*

* Braun played only 113 games in 2007, his rookie year.

Braun has some very tough competition

Braun has never hit more than 37 HRs in a season. The last time an N.L. player won the HR crown with 37 or fewer dingers was in 1992, when San Diego Padres 1B Fred McGriff hit 35.

And the players who currently trail Braun in the N.L. home-run race are no slouches, as the table below shows.

Player 40 gms Hi Year
Ryan Braun 12 37 2008
Alfonso Soriano 11 46 2006
Lance Berkman 11 45 2006
Troy Tulowitzki 10 32 2009
Ryan Howard 9 58 2006
Prince Fielder 9 50 2007

1B Prince Fielder, Braun’s teammate in Milwaukee, has 9 HRs so far this year but has hit as many as 50 in a season. Philadelphia Phillies 1B Ryan Howard, who also has 9 HRs, hit 58 in 2006 and has hit 45 or more HRs four times. Only Colorado Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki, with 11 HRs this season, has a lower career high than Braun. His best was 32 HRs, in 2009.

Conclusion: Braun has a chance to win, if slim

A lot will have to go right for Ryan Braun to win a HR crown this year. He’ll have to surpass his current record of 37 HRs. During the final 120 games of the season, he’ll have to maintain or exceed the HR pace of his first 40 games. And the powerful men who currently trail him will have to have subpar years.

So could this be the year of the Jewish home-run king? Absolutely. After all, this is only Braun’s 5th year in the Majors. We really don’t know what he’s capable of doing.

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Matzoh Balls and Baseballs

Support Jewish Baseball News by clicking on this image and buying Matzoh Balls and Baseballs at Amazon.com.

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Baseball, as we all know, is a stats-obsessed sport.

Fans tend to be more interested in a player’s career HR total or on-base percentage than in his personal journey to the Majors.

That’s one of the nice things about Matzoh Balls and Baseballs, a book recently published by longtime Georgia State University broadcaster Dave Cohen. Cohen sat down with 17 retired Jewish pros, turned on a tape recorder, and, with a minimum of questions, let them talk.

The result is a Q&A format where athletes like Elliott Maddox and Cy Young Award winner Steve Stone tell us their stories in their own words.

Maddox, for example, discusses his conversion to Judaism, why his mother was so supportive of it, and what it was like to play minor-league ball in Rocky Mount, N.C., where a billboard welcomed visitors to “Klan country.”

Barry Latman talks about striking out 19 batters during a perfect game in high school, his unlikely friendship with Ty Cobb, and how his grandfather temporarily disowned him when he dropped out of the University of Southern California.

Norm Miller tells about “Gibsonitis” (the paralyzing fear of facing pitcher Bob Gibson), being one of four Jews on the Houston Astros’ 1967 roster, and being in the dugout when Hank Aaron hit his record-breaking 715th home run.

Other players Cohen interviewed include Larry Yellen, Ron Blomberg, Jim Gaudet (who converted to Judaism after his MLB  career), Richie Scheinblum, Joe Ginsberg, Ross Baumgarten, Mike Epstein, Ken Holtzman, Norm Sherry, Steve Hertz, Don Taussig, Norm Miller, Morris Savransky, and Al Rosen.

In short, Dave Cohen has interviewed roughly 10 percent of all the Jews who ever played major-league baseball. And for $10.76, you can read what they have to say.

Note: Support Jewish Baseball News by clicking this Amazon.com link and buying Matzoh Balls and Baseballs there. Amazon will pay JBN a small commission (about 43 cents).

Disclosure: Havenhurst Books provided Jewish Baseball News with a free review copy of Matzoh Balls and Baseballs. No other consideration was provided.

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