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mayo reporter Jonathan Mayo is making a documentary about Team Israel, but donations are needed to send his film crew to the World Baseball Classic in South Korea

By Jonathan Mayo, special to Jewish Baseball News

I never thought the two sides of my life would ever come together. Baseball and Israel. I mean, for most of my life, that would be like peanut butter and tomato sauce.

Jews and baseball, now that’s long been a thing. That “Great Jews in Sports” pamphlet they joke about in the movie Airplane? I had that book. There was the documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, written by the great sportswriter Ira Berkow. Throughout my career covering baseball – two decades’ worth at this point – I’ve long sought out Jewish players and talked to them about their background. I vividly remember standing behind the batting cage at Shea Stadium talking to Shawn Green about how he grew up calling his grandparents Bubbe and Zayde without totally understanding why.

But baseball and Israel? My favorite sport that I’ve been lucky enough to turn into a career, and the Jewish homeland where I studied for a year before college? The American national pastime, combined

with the nation my sister calls home (on Kibbutz Lotan)? No way, no how.

There has been some baseball in Israel over the years, mostly brought over by Americans who moved there. There was an ill-fated attempt at a professional Israel Baseball League that lasted just one season in 2007, but the country wasn’t ready.

But now, maybe it is, which is unbelievable to say. I recently returned from a life-changing trip to Israel with professional baseball players. There were 10 in total – 9 active and one retired – on the trip, along with significant others, children and friends. About two weeks’ worth was crammed into six days of touring. Historical sites, meeting dignitaries, floating in the Dead Sea, a lot of good food and even a little baseball-related activity. The players soaked up every bit of it.

kickstarter heading home

Click here to see a video about Heading Home and become a supporter

They weren’t just ambassadors of the game, which was the most important objective in many ways. They were ambassadors of American Jewry. Many of these players suited up for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifier, held in Brooklyn last fall (Israel won). They all had spoken how proud they were to play because they were Jewish.  Now, after this trip, the connection, their bond to Israel, is exponentially stronger. All of them spoke of wanting to come back (7 of the 10 had never been before).

They also spoke of the impact they could have on the growth in Israel of the sport they have loved so long. They made two baseball stops on this whirlwind tour. One was at Baptist Village, where the country’s only real baseball field stands. The players took some batting practice, and then they took questions from the crowd, mostly kids eager to hear every word.

Then there was a groundbreaking at Beit Shemesh for what will be the first full-fledged baseball facility in the country. There were a few hundred, again largely from the younger set, on hand to get autographs and pictures with these Jewish ballplayers. Many of them were American, or their parents were American, and having baseball to play was painted as a way to help them ease into life in a new country and culture.

I was lucky enough to witness all of this first-hand. And I have Jewish sleepaway camp to thank. I went on the trip – organized by the Israel Association of Baseball and Jeff Aeder, who founded the website – to help make a documentary film about the trip, about Team Israel, and maybe a little bit about these players exploring their Judaism and building a bond with the Jewish homeland. It’s called Heading Home, and the professional filmmakers are from Ironbound Films. Ironbound’s CEO is Jeremy Newberger, who I met at Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake some 30 or so years ago. We’re embarking on a KickStarter fundraising campaign to raise money so we can follow the team’s exploits in the World Baseball Classic in South Korea in March and include that footage in the film.

Baseball in Israel is still very much in its infancy. There won’t be a coda to the film with an Israeli in the Major Leagues.  Playing in international competition this March might help push it closer to toddlerhood, but there is still a long way to go. The touring players understood this wasn’t going to happen overnight, that it could take 15-20 years to take hold.  Whether the end game was to produce professional-level players from the country was beside the point. Just growing the game, helping people – their people – learn to play it and love it, that would be the biggest Dayenu for all of them.

But players saw a fit there, no matter how foreign the game might seem right now. Baseball, one of them told me, is a game of failure. It will knock you down repeatedly, and success comes to those who keep getting back up. It requires a resilience few people have, a trait the players all saw in the Israelis who welcomed them warmly.

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Jonathan Mayo has been a reporter for since 1999, covering Minor League prospects and the Draft. He spends his spare time trying to make sure he knows who every Jew in baseball is. Follow him on Twitter or at


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, 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 “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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By Scott Barancik, Editor

When Oakland 3B Danny Valencia hit a career-best three home runs against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 15, it was by definition something special.

After all, only 354 MLB players have hit a trifecta during the course of a 9-inning game since 1913. Heck, Hank Aaron — whose 755 career home runs are second only to Barry Bonds’ asterisked 762 — did it just once in his 22-year MLB career.

But Valencia’s triplet was far from average. Consider these factoids, most of them cribbed from

  • Valencia’s blasts were no-doubters. He is the first player to smash  three home runs at least 425 feet apiece in the same game since ESPN Stats & Information began tracking home-run distances in 2009.
  • Valencia was just the second Oakland player in 12 years to have a three-homer game — and the first Athletics third baseman to do so since 1935, when the team was known as the Philadelphia Athletics.
  • Valencia is only the second visiting player to accomplish the feat in Tropicana Field history. (Carlos Delgado did it for the Blue Jays in 2001.)
  • Valencia’s three-homer game came two days after he homered twice, giving him five HRs over three games, one short of the A.L. record. The MLB record is held by Dodgers RF (and fellow Jew) Shawn Green, who clubbed seven over a three-game stretch in 2002: four home runs on May 23, one on May 24, and two more on May 25.
  • All three of Valencia’s home runs were consequential. The first gave Oakland a 1-0 lead, the second cut a 5-2 deficit to 5-4, and the third converted a 6-5 deficit into a 7-6 victory.

For more on Valencia’s feat and his overall hitting prowess this season, check out

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By Scott Barancik, editor

Now here’s something you don’t see very often: two Jewish players, both centerfielders, smacking 2 HRs apiece on the same day.

Dodgers phenom Joc Pederson and Toronto’s Kevin Pillar accomplished the rare feat Tuesday night. Pederson hit the more prodigious bombs, launching a 477-foot monster in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Colorado and a 472-foot shot in Game 2.

The 23-year-old Palo Alto native added his first Major League triple and drove in 4 RBIs overall. He has homered in 4 straight games and is tied for second in the N.L. with 16 round-trippers.

Pillar was the bigger surprise. Entering Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Nations with just 2 HRs in nearly 200 at-bats this season, the 26-year-old launched a solo shot in the 2nd inning and a 3-run shot in the 6th that plated teammate Danny Valencia, who contributed a double and a sacrifice fly Tuesday. Pillar didn’t his 2nd HR of 2015 until May 30.



Ryan Braun owns the record for HRs by a Jewish rookie, with 34 in 2007, and was named N.L. Rookie of the Year.  All-time Jewish home run leader Hank Greenberg hit 12 his rookie year (1933), and runner-up Shawn Green hit 15 in his (1995).

The all-time N.L. rookie record of 38 HRs is shared by Baltimore’s Frank Robinson (1955) and the Boston Braves’ Wally Berger (1930). With 16 HRs in the Dodgers’ first 52 games this season, Pederson is on pace to hit 50.

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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.


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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Ian Kinsler races home on a single, shortly after recording his record-setting 163rd stolen base (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ian Kinsler races home on a single shortly after recording his record-setting 163rd stolen base (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

By Scott Barancik, editor

Ian Kinsler became the career leader in stolen bases among Jewish players Monday night (7/22/2013) with his 163rd theft in 200 attempts (box score).

The 31-year-old Texas Ranger drew a first-inning walk off of New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova, promptly stole second off of catcher Chris Stewart, and then scored on a single by Adrian Beltre. The steal nudged Kinsler ahead of retired slugger Shawn Green, who dropped to 2nd on the career leader list (see below).

[table “21” not found /]

Kinsler climbed the career leader list with relative efficiency, reaching the top spot in his 8th MLB season (compared to Green’s 15th), his 4,502th plate appearance (Green had 7,963), and his 200th attempted steal (Green attempted 214), giving him a success rate of 81.5 percent (Green’s was an admirable 75.7 percent) .

Although there is video of Kinsler stealing his record-tying 162nd base — he tied the record on July 13 — did not post video of the 163rd theft. By coincidence, Kinsler’s 162nd stolen base made him the Texas Rangers’ career leader.

Kinsler had attempted to steal his 162nd base on July 8 against former teammate (and fellow Jew) Scott Feldman, but Orioles catcher Matt Wieters tossed him out. The Arizona State alum had spent a month on the disabled list earlier this season.

Kinsler is one of only a dozen players in MLB history to twice hit 30 HRs and steal 30 bases in the same season (2009, 2011), making him a two-time member of the “30/30 club.”

2006 TEX 423 14 55 11 4
2007 TEX 483 20 61 23 2
2008 TEX 518 18 71 26 2
2009 TEX 566 31 86 31 5
2010 TEX 391 9 45 15 5
2011 TEX 620 32 77 30 4
2012 TEX 655 19 72 21 9
2013 TEX 285 9 36 6 6
8 Yrs 3941 152 503 163 37
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/23/2013.

# # #

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Ian Kinsler stealing his record-tying 162nd base (7/13/2013); click photo to see video

Ian Kinsler stealing his record-tying 162nd base (7/13/2013); click photo to see video

By Scott Barancik, editor

The Eighth Commandment orders us not to steal. For Ian Kinsler, we make an exception.

When the 31-year-old Texas Ranger singled and stole second base uncontested in the 9th inning of Saturday’s win over the Detroit Tigers (see video), it was the 162nd theft of his felonious 8-year career. Rangers number-crunchers celebrated: the steal made Kinsler the team’s all-time leader, just ahead of Bump Wills‘ 161.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the swivel-hipped star is the son of a prison warden.

Saturday’s theft also left Kinsler tied with retired slugger Shawn Green for the career record among another tribe of players: Jews.

[table “21” not found /]

Kinsler’s base-stealing prowess is well-documented. One of only a dozen players in MLB history to twice hit 30 HRs and steal 30 bases in the same season (2009, 2011), the second baseman has stalked the career record with remarkable efficiency, reaching base safely 81.4 percent of the time.

[table “23” not found /]

He also has been consistent, stealing bases within a narrow range of 11 to 31 per season (see below).

2006 TEX 423 14 55 11 4
2007 TEX 483 20 61 23 2
2008 TEX 518 18 71 26 2
2009 TEX 566 31 86 31 5
2010 TEX 391 9 45 15 5
2011 TEX 620 32 77 30 4
2012 TEX 655 19 72 21 9
2013 TEX 270 9 36 5 6
8 Yrs 3926 152 503 162 37
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2013.

Yet Kinsler’s crowning  comes at the nadir of his base-stealing arc. His 5 stolen bases in 307 at-bats this season are a career low. He’s been caught stealing 6 times so far in 2013, tying him for most in the American League. This dismal performance has been enough to knock him down from 10th on the all-time list of best career base-stealing percentages in MLB history at the start of 2013 (among players with 100+ thefts) to 26th today.

“I’ve got to keep running,” Kinsler recently told the Dallas Morning News. “My timing is a little off, and I really haven’t had many chances to go on a straight steal. Mostly they’ve been busted hit-and-runs or running with two strikes. My mentality isn’t quite there yet.”

If history is any guide, Kinsler will return to form soon. And when he steals his record-breaking 163rd, we’ll be there to cheer.

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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

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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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Team Israel defeated South Africa 7-3 on Wednesday night (9/19/2012) to take Game 1 of the World Baseball Classic qualifiers held in Jupiter, Fla. (see video recap and box score).

The greatest Jewish team in baseball history earned its victory both at the plate and on the mound, hitting a collective .278 while holding South Africa to just 3 hits and an .097 batting average. With the exception of a 9th-inning error, Team Israel dispatched grounders and fly balls with ease and worked well together despite its players’ relative unfamiliarity with one another.

San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman (1B) put Israel on the board with a solo HR in the 1st inning and followed up with another solo shot in the 9th (see video). Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Charlie Cutler (C) drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double down the right-field line in the 8th inning to break open the game (see video).

Strong pitching kept the score a close 1-0 through the sixth inning. South Africa starter Dylan Unsworth, a Seattle Mariners prospect, struck out 6 batters and walked none while scattering 5 hits across the six innings. Team Israel starter (and Cleveland Indians prospect) Eric Berger was lifted after three scoreless innings to avoid a 50-pitch threshold that, under WBC rules, would have kept him out of service for four days. Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Brett Lorin followed with two-and-a-third scoreless innings, and Houston Astros prospect Josh Zeid earned post-game kudos from manager Brad Ausmus for getting Team Israel out of a sixth-inning jam. Zeid entered the game with men on second and third and one out but retired the meat of South Africa’s order without giving up a run.

“A big momentum shift,” Ausmus said of Zeid’s stint.

Shlomo Lipetz, the only native Israeli to take the field Wednesday night, was charged with all three South African runs after giving up three walks in a shaky 9th-inning appearance. Teammates nevertheless greeted him with smiles and fist bumps after he was replaced by Israel’s sixth and final hurler of the 3-hour, 16-minute game, New York Mets prospect Jeff Kaplan.

Among the most anticipated appearances of the night was that of Team Israel player-coach Shawn Green (DH). The most accomplished person in uniform Wednesday — his 328 HRs over a 15-year MLB career are second only to Hank Greenberg‘s 331 among Jewish pros — Green also was the oldest, at 39, and hadn’t played baseball since retiring in 2007.

He looked overmatched in his first two trips at the plate, striking out on three pitches in the 2nd inning and grounding weakly into the evening’s only double play in the 4th. But Green’s baseball instincts seemed to take over afterward. After grounding-out sharply to shortstop in the 6th inning, he legged-out an infield single in the 8th inning, took second base on a passed ball, and scored on Cutler’s double. In the 9th inning, he added a bloop single to left field but proceeded to second base after South Africa’s Karl Weitz bobbled the ball, ending the night 2-for-5.

Team Israel’s second game will take place Friday (9/21) at 1:00pm EST against the winner of Thursday’s contest between Spain and France and will be streamed online at The eventual winner of the four-team, double-elimination qualifying tournament will advance to the main World Baseball Classic competition in March 2013.

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It’s here: Team Israel reveals its roster

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.PlayerPos.AgeHometownMinor-league teamParent 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 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 (8/20/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Fear not: there is still some good news in the world:

  • Sam Fuld‘s heroic fielding and hustle have earned him the nickname “Super Sam,” but Tampa Bay Rays fans may just want to call him “Sparkplug.” Though a wrist injury kept Fuld off the field this season until July 24, the club has gone 18-and-7 since his return. The 30-year-old utility outfielder’s impact was never more clear than on Saturday (8/18/2012). The Rays were down 8-0 to the Los Angeles Angels when Fuld singled in his team’s first run, launching a 7-run inning that ultimately propelled the Rays to an improbable 10-8 win.
  • Detroit Tigers prospect Ben Guez continues to enjoy a breakout year with the club’s AA and AAA teams. The diminutive outfielder — he is listed at 5’10” and 180 pounds, about the same size as Sam Fuld — is hitting a combined .300 with 8 HRs, 5 triples, 42 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, and a preposterously high .423 on-base percentage. He has spent roughly three-quarters of the season with the Toledo Mud Hens (AAA).
  • Two of the N.L.’s top home-run hitters are Jewish. Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun, the reigning N.L. MVP, hit four dingers over a 3-game stretch last week and leads the league with 33 overall. New York Mets 1B Ike Davis has hit a career-high 22 HRs, good enough for 12th place.
  • Not to be outdone are San Diego Padres prospects Nate Freiman and Cody Decker. Teammates on the San Antonio Missions (AA), the pair rank 4th and 5th among all double-A players in home runs, with 23 and 22 respectively. Decker had an additional 5 HRs with the Padres’ AAA team, giving him 27 overall. Freiman, a 6’7″ first baseman, is hitting .298 and leads all AA players with 98 RBIs8.
  • Craig Breslow made the most of his two-pitch appearance Saturday (8/18/2012). The Boston Red Sox reliever entered the game with one out in the 8th inning, a 3-1 lead, a man on first base, and New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano at the plate. Breslow’s second pitch, a cutter, lured Cano into an inning-ending double play, but what caught the eye of many observers was his batterymate: catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Several Jewish Baseball News readers, including Jerome Deutsch, noted the rarity of this all-Jewish battery. (Yes, it has happened before.) But even rarer was the fact that both men attended Yale University. According to the Yale Daily News, Breslow (Class of 2002) and Lavarnway (Class of 2009) were the first Yale batterymates since 1883. Said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the game: “I got a lot smarter having them out there.”
  • We’re only a month away from Team Israel’s appearance at the World Baseball Classic qualifying round in Jupiter, Fla. Among those scheduled to play in the team’s September 19 opener against South Africa are player-coaches Shawn Green (ranked second among Jewish major-leaguers in career HRs), former MLB’er Gabe Kapler, a variety of of other current and ex-pros, and a handful of Israelis. Click here for tickets.
  • Joc Pederson is on a roll. Ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect by, the 20-year-old son of former major-leaguer Stu Pederson is batting .400 over his past 10 games with 5 HRs, 4 doubles, 11 RBIs, 3 walks, and 2 stolen bases. An outfielder with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A-advanced), Pederson is hitting .313 this season with 17 HRs, 59 RBIs, 22 stolen bases, a .397 on-base percentage, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .918.
  • Danny Rosenbaum is the Jekyll & Hyde of 2012. After starting the year 5-0 with an 0.71 ERA and just four walks for the Harrisonburg Senators (AA), there was talk the Washington Nationals might call-up the 6’1″ lefty in September. (See Rosenbaum’s May 2012 interview with Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor.) But when his go-to catcher Sandy Leon was called-up to the majors, everything seemed to fall apart, and today the 24-year-old’s record is a less stellar 8-and-9 with a 3.73 ERA. On Saturday (8/18/2012), though, it looked like the ‘old’ Rosenbaum had returned. Danny pitched 7 shutout innings in a 2-1 win over the Erie SeaWolves, giving up just five hits and one walk.

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Good news Monday (7/2/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Get ready to kvell, brothers and sisters. It’s Good news Monday!

  • San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman won the Texas League Home Run Derby last Thursday (6/28/2012). A 6’7″ first baseman with the San Antonio Missions (AA), Freiman’s first swing of the contest reportedly was “the sweetest.” He launched a shot that not only struck the scoreboard but hit the “i” in “Freiman.”
  • Talk about cleaning up your own mess. When Augusta GreenJackets (A) reliever Andrew Berger entered Friday’s (6/29/2012) game against the Savannah Sand Gnats in the 7th inning, he promptly gave up a single and double. But the 24-year-old San Francisco Giants prospect didn’t lose hope. Instead, Berger struck out the side, knocked down the Sand Gnats in order the following inning (one of them by strikeout), and struck out the side again in the 9th.
  • Texas Rangers reliever Scott Feldman and his wife hosted a softball game at Rangers Ballpark yesterday (7/1/2012) for  injured soldiers. The couple previously has hosted families of deployed soldiers as well as patients from a local veterans’ hospital.
  • Baseball fans voted two Jewish players into next week’s All-Star game. Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, who also played in 2008 and 2010, will be the back-up to New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano on the A.L. squad. On the opposing team, Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun was chosen for the 5th consecutive year, this time as a reserve player.
  • Today is the deadline for Team Israel to turn in its 50-player roster for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in September. According to a person involved in the process, the roster includes players who have committed to play (including player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler) as well as players who the team wants who have not yet committed.
  • Boston Red Sox prospect Ryan Lavarnway had a heck of a June. A catcher with the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), the Yale University alum erupted with a .405 batting average, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, 10 doubles, a .469 on-base percentage, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.136.
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin probably wishes he could play against the Durham Bulls every day of the season. As Jewish Baseball News writer Zev Ben Avigdor pointed out in his Twitter feed, the Buffalo Bisons (AAA) first baseman was on fire during a recent 4-game series against the Bulls, going 10-for-14 with 2 HRs, 4 RBIs and 4 walks.
  • When Tampa Bay Rays OF Sam Fuld had surgery on his right wrist during Spring Training, doctors predicted he wouldn’t return to the lineup before August. But after taking batting practice Friday (6/29/2012), his first time doing so since March, Fuld was optomistic. “I think we can be looking at the end of this homestand,” he said.
  • New York Yankees prospect Jeremy Bleich, who hadn’t pitched a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2010, is back. In three short appearances with the rookie-league GCL Yankees, the 25-year-old Stanford alum is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Bleich has given up 3 hits and one walk in 5-and-2/3 innings while striking out 7.
  • In case you missed it, here is a clip of President Barack Obama, a Chicago native, teasing Boston Red Sox fans for trading Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. Judging from the boos, the joke was too soon.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

It’s been nearly 5 years since Shawn Green hung up his cleats, marking an end to a Major League career in which the tall slugger with the elegant swing hit .283, smashed 328 HRs, and drew a respectful 80 intentional walks.

Since then, the two-time All-Star has penned a book, created a social media site, and expanded his charity work.

But Green’s retirement is over. Former Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Brad Ausmus, who has agreed to coach Team Israel in the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifiers, confirmed Monday that the Tustin, Calif., native will be on the roster.

It’s exciting, if nerve-wracking, news. Reflexes and eyesight degrade quickly, and few ballplayers have successfully returned from so long an absence. Green could be a hero; he also could embarrass himself.

Green has several things going for him. Because he skipped college to turn pro, the 15-year MLB veteran is just 39 years old. He also won’t be facing MLB-type pitching, or at least not right away; Israel’s opponents in the WBC qualifiers are baseball-weak Spain, France, and South Africa. If the outfield proves too difficult, he is an experienced first baseman. And though it’s not clear how fit he is, Green has not let his weight balloon since retiring, as this 2011 video shows.

Joining Green on the Team Israel roster will be former Major League outfielder Gabe Kapler, a fitness fanatic who last played for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 and undoubtedly remains in great condition.

One thing is for sure: we’ll be rooting for these guys to succeed.

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Shawn Green

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

When Josh Hamilton hit 4 HRs and a double in a single game last week (5/8/2012), it was a rare and spectacular event (see video and box score). The Texas Rangers CF went 5-for-5 with 8 RBIs in the Rangers’ 10-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Only 11 Major Leaguers have hit 4 HRs in a 9-inning game since 1918. Hamilton’s 18 total bases set an American League record.

But his performance still fell short of what arguably was the greatest single-game performance in MLB history: Shawn Green‘s 4-HR barrage in 2002.

In a lopsided 16-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers (5/23/2002), the Los Angeles Dodgers RF went 6-for-6 with 4 HRs, a double, and a single. And while his RBI total (7) fell one short of Hamilton’s, Green recorded 19 total bases, which remains the all-time MLB record (see box score).

Chances are Hamilton will end up with better season totals in 2012 then Green did in 2002 (.285, 42 HRs, 114 RBIs). Through the Rangers’ first 34 games, Hamilton already has wracked up an incredible .402 batting average with 18 HRs and 41 RBIs.

But for the best single-performance performance, Green has our vote.

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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

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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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun clubbed 2 HRs in Friday night’s 6-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds — and launched himself into the record books.

Braun’s HRs (see video) were his 29th and 30th of the season. Combined with his 31 stolen bases, Braun now joins one of the most exclusive groups in baseball history: the 30/30 club. He is just the 36th player in MLB history, and the second Brewer, to have at least 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases in a single season.

Remarkably, three of the 36 club members are Jewish. RF Shawn Green had 35 HRs and 35 stolen bases for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, while Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler had 31 HRS and 31 stolen bases in 2009. Jewish fans will also appreciate that Braun is the 36th club member — 36 being double ‘chai.’

Speaking of Kinsler, the 29-year-old is threatening to become a 2-time member of the 30/30 club. With 11 games remaining in the 2011 season, he has 29 HRs and 25 stolen bases.

The 30/30 club’s 36 members have accomplished the feat a total of 55 times. The all-time leaders are father/son duo Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds, who had five 30/30 seasons apiece. The leader among active players is Chicago Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano, who has accomplished the feat four times for three different teams.

Soriano belong to an even more exclusive club. He is one of just four players in MLB history with at least 40 HRs and stolen bases in the same season, having accomplished the feat in 2006 with the Washington Nationals. The three other members Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez.

Also joining the 30/30 club this season is Los Angeles Dodgers CF Matt Kemp.

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Ryan Braun, shown on cover of Aug. 29, 2011 issue

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — It’s good to be Ryan Braun.

This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated features the 27-year-old outfielder on its cover, along with Milwaukee Brewers teammates Prince Fielder and Nyjer Morgan. The headline refers to Braun and Fielder as “two wallbanging MVP candidates.” (Braun was 3 years old the last time SI devoted a cover to the Brewers, in 1987.)

Braun’s Brewers are 78-54 and lead the N.L. Central division by 10 games over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, the largest cushion in baseball.

What’s more, Braun is closing in on one of baseball’s most exclusive fraternities, the 30/30 club. Since 1901, only 34 MLB players have had one or more seasons in which they tallied at least 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases (see table). With 30 games remaining in the 2011, Braun has 25 HRs and 29 stolen bases.

The only Brewer so far in the 30/30 club is Tommy Harper, who joined in 1970. If successful, Braun would join two other Jewish members: Shawn Green (1998), and Ian Kinsler (2009).

Calling Braun an MVP candidate may be premature, but it’s not a huge stretch. The fifth-year player is among N.L. leaders in multiple categories, according to

  • 1st in slugging percentage (.586)
  • 1st in on-base plus slugging (.985)
  • 1st in runs scored (90)
  • 1st in offensive win percentage (.798)
  • 2nd in batting average (.328)
  • 2nd in wins above replacement (6.2)
  • 2nd in power/speed number (26.4)
  • 3rd in doubles (31)
  • 3rd in fielding percentage among left fielders (.995)
  • 5th in RBIs (85)
  • 5th in on-base percentage (.399)
  • 7th in stolen bases (29)

Braun, the 2007 N.L. Rookie of the Year, has been here before. In 2008 he finished 3rd in the MVP vote, behind Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Middle East politics got you down? Strike out again at the company softball game?

Cheer up! Life is good for Jewish baseball fans these days. Here are 12 reasons to smile:

  1. So far this season, MLB Jews are out-hitting their peers .266 to .257, and out-slugging them .460 to .400.
  2. At least 59 Jews currently play major- or minor-league ball, with many more playing in independent leagues or overseas. And the list is growing.
  3. The topic of Judaism probably didn’t come up last week when sports radio celeb Jim Rome interviewed former outfielder Shawn Green about his new book, The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph. And while some listeners may have known Green is Jewish, few would have guessed that Rome is, too.
  4. For the first time, Israel is being given a chance to compete in the World Baseball Classic. At least half a dozen current or former American pros have publicly expressed interest in playing for or coaching Team Israel in the 2012 competition, including Jewish home-run king Shawn Green, Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun (whose father was born in Israel), and St. Louis Cardinals prospect Charlie Cutler.
  5. Speaking of Israel, last week the country hosted a qualifying tournament for the 2012 European Championship — and narrowly missed winning the tourney itself. Team Israel made it to the finals against Great Britain but lost the series 2 games to 1. Particularly impressive was 32-year-old Shlomo Lipetz, an Israeli native and New York resident who gave up just one earned run in 16.33 innings during the tournament while striking out 18 batters and walking three.
  6. Coming off an injury-laden season in which he missed a third of his team’s games, Boston Red Sox 3B Kevin Youkilis (.275/16 hr/76 rbi) is once again among A.L. leaders in multiple categories. Youk is ranked 5th in on-base percentage (.389), 7th in RBIs (76/tie), 8th in doubles (28/tie), and 10th in wins above replacement (4.1 wins/tie), a measure of a player’s total offensive and defensive contributions to his team. Youkilis has been typically fearless (or perhaps nuts) at the plate, where he ranks 2nd in times hit by pitch, with 12. And despite having to switch back from first base to third this season, he’s 2nd among A.L. third basemen in putouts (73) and 3rd in fielding percentage (.968).
  7. The St. Louis Jewish Light published an article last week about 3 of the 4 Jews who play on the Springfield Cardinals, the St. Louis Cardinals’ “AA” team: C Charlie Cutler (see above), P David Kopp, and P Scott Schneider. (The fourth Jewish player for Springfield, CF James Rapoport, arrived after the article was written.) Cutler, who told the Light he’d “love to play for Israel” in the World Baseball Classic, has made the most of an injury-shortened season. In just 143 at-bats he’s hitting .364 with 4 HRs, 27 RBIs, a .423 on-base percentage, and a .503 slugging percentage.
  8. Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun (.322/21 hr/73 rbi) is enjoying one of the best seasons of his 5-year career. He has yet to make an error in the field for the first-place Brewers; ranks 2nd among N.L. players in batting average (.322) and power-speed combination; 3rd in wins above replacement (5.1), slugging percentage (.585), total bases (213), and extra-base hits (50); 5th in RBIs (72); 6th in runs scored (68) and on-base percentage (.394); 7th in HRs (21); and 10th in doubles (26). Braun’s 19 stolen bases are one shy of a career best, and he’s one of few players this season with a legitimate shot at joining the “30-30” club — players with 30-plus HRs and stolen bases in a single year.
  9. Most minor-leaguers see their performance dip after being promoted to a higher league, but not C Ryan Lavarnway. The Boston Red Sox prospect and Yale philosophy alum has been on fire since moving up from “AA” Portland to “AAA” Pawtucket mid-season, where he is batting .343 (versus .284 in Portland) with 13 HRs, 16 doubles, and 42 RBIs in just 169 at-bats, along with a .425 on-base percentage and .669 slugging percentage.
  10. ESPN Boston recently published a terrific article on Lavarnway and fellow Red Sox prospect Matt Kramer, a former catcher and Ivy League rival (Harvard) who was released by the Atlanta Braves franchise last year and is trying to reinvent himself as a pitcher. Viewing the statistics on Kramer’s growing pains is a curious joy. In 6 games and 5 total innings with Boston’s rookie-league team, the St. Louis native has faced 28 batters without giving up a single hit. However, he has walked 11 opponents, hit 3 more, struck out none, and recorded a 5.40 ERA. Who wouldn’t want to go watch this kid pitch?
  11. Just to prove you never know who’s Jewish: the most recent Jewish player to be signed by a major-league club, Tampa Bay Rays recruit Dave Laufer, attended Jesuit-founded Boston College. And he did so after graduating from Christian Brothers Academy. (Thanks to Jewish Baseball News contributor Bill Ressler for the tip on Laufer’s hiring.)
  12. Can you imagine an MLB team composed entirely of Jewish players? A fiction writer named Ross Ufberg can. The Jewish Daily Forward is now publishing weekly installments of his story about the Lions of Zion, an N.L. team playing in 1933. Here are links to chapters one and two.

— Scott Barancik, Editor

Jewish Baseball News

August 3, 2011

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LF <a href=Ryan Braun" width="150" height="150" />

Ryan Braun

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — If Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun finishes the 2011 season the way he’s started it, he’ll be joining one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs: those with 30+ HRs and stolen bases in a single year.

Only 34 MLB players have joined the 30/30 club since 1901 (see table). Two are Jewish: Shawn Green (1998), and Ian Kinsler (2009). The only Brewer on the list is 3B Tommy Harper, who had 31 HRs and 38 SBs in 1970.

Braun, a 27-year-old now in his 5th MLB season, hasn’t come close before. Power has never been the problem; Braun has hit 30+ HRs in 3 of his 4 full seasons. What’s kept him from joining the club is stolen bases. Since his rookie year in 2007, he has averaged 16 thefts and never stolen more than 20.

Improbably, Braun’s base-stealing prowess is improving. Through 78 games this year he has stolen 17, 6th best in the A.L. and more than full-season totals in 2007, 2008, or 2010. Braun’s prior high at the 78-game point was 11 stolen bases, in 2010 (see table below). Having said that, his  base-stealing efforts typically decline in the latter half of a season.

Ryan Braun, through 78 games/full season
Year HRs SBs Doubles
2007* 24/34 10/15 17/26
2008 20/37 8/14 21/39
2009 16/32 6/20 18/39
2010 11/25 11/14 23/45
2011 16/n.a. 17/n.a. 17/n.a.
* Played only 113 games

Why Braun is stealing more bases now is up for debate. (Jewish Baseball News readers are encouraged to offer their opinions in the ‘comments’ section below, or on our Facebook page.) But it’s worth noting that he’s on pace to reach career highs in walks and on-base percentage.

The only other MLB player on pace to join the 30/30 club in 2011 is Los Angeles Dodgers CF Matt Kemp, who has 22 HRS and 21 stolen bases through 80 games.

If both Kemp and Braun join the club this season, Jews will account for three of all 36 members, a percentage far in excess of our MLB representation.

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POTD: Ryan Braun (5 hits)

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here is your player of the day for Monday, August 2, 2010:

  • LF Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers went 5-for-7 (all singles) with 2 RBIs in an 18-1 massacre of the Chicago Cubs, lifting his season batting average seven points to .281. Braun’s only other five-hit game came on 4/21/2009, when he went 5-for-5 with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs in an 11-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Braun started the 2010 season on fire but has cooled off considerably since then, batting .355 in April, .286 in May, .264 in June, and .200 in July. He hit .320 in 2009. According to Martin Abramowitz of Jewish Major Leaguers, the record for hits in a single 9-inning game by a Jewish batter is six, shared by Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler and Shawn Green. Kinsler went 6-for-6 and hit for the cycle last year against the Baltimore Orioles (4/15/2009), driving in 4 runs and crossing the plate 5 times. Green, then in right field for the Los Angeles Dodgers, went 6-for-6 with four home runs against the Milwaukee Brewers on 5/23/02, with 7 RBIs and 6 runs scored.


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