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Tigers CEO Dave Dombrowski presents new manager Brad Ausmus with a team jersey (ESPN.com)

By Scott Barancik, editor

Until yesterday, Brad Ausmus‘s only experience at the helm of a baseball team was managing Team Israel in the 2012 World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

But that didn’t stop the Detroit Tigers from hiring the 44-year-old former catcher to replace Jim Leyland as manager. Much is at stake for the team, which made the 2013 postseason and is expected to be a leading contender in 2014.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for me,” Ausmus said at a news conference. “I’m well aware that you don’t generally get dropped into a situation like I will be this coming season…Very rarely is there a managerial change when a team is coming off a post-season appearance.”

Ausmus is hardly inexperienced. A former Tiger — he played three seasons in Detroit, one of them as an All-Star — the Connecticut native caught more games during his 18-year career than all but six catchers in MLB history (1,938) and won three Gold Glove awards. His cerebral approach to the game led the San Diego Padres to name him Special Assistant to Baseball Operations after his retirement in 2010.

“Frankly, when we interviewed, we were taken aback at how impressive he was,” Tigers CEO Dave Dombrowski said.

In addition to managing Team Israel, Ausmus holds Jewish records for most MLB seasons (18) and games played (1,971).

At least five other Jews have managed MLB teams. They include:

  • Lipman “Lip” Pike. Baseball’s first home-run king, Pike served as player-manager of the Troy Haymakers (1871), Hartford Dark Blues (1874), and Cincinnati Reds (1877), with an overall record of 20-51. He was just 26 years old when he took on the Haymakers’ job.
  • Andy Cohen. A former New York Giants infielder and minor-league manager, Cohen was coaching for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1960 when manager Eddie Sawyer stepped down after the season’s first game. Cohen managed one game before permanent replacement Gene Mauch arrived; the Phillies’ 5-4, extra-inning win gave him a perfect 1-0 record.
  • Lefty Phillips. Though he didn’t play Major League ball, Phillips coached the California Angels from 1969-1971, earning an overall record of 222-225. His best season was 1970, when the Angels finished in third place in the A.L. West division with an 86-76 record.
  • Norm Sherry. Like Ausmus a former MLB catcher, Sherry coached the California Angels from 1976-1977, finishing a combined 76-71.
  • Jeff Newman. A former catcher who played nine MLB season, Newman was the second of three Oakland A’s managers in 1986 and coached the team to a 2-8 record.

Click here to see a video excerpt of the Tigers’ news conference.

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