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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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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).


Career stolen base leaders (thru 7/22/2013)

 
Player
SB
CS
SB%
1Ian Kinsler (A)1633781.5%
2Shawn Green1625275.7%
3Buddy Myer15710959.0%
4Ryan Braun (A)1303678.3%
5Brad Ausmus1025365.8%
6Gabe Kapler773072.0%
7Sammy Bohne755956.0%
8Elliott Maddox605452.6%
9Hank Greenberg582669.0%
10Lipman Pike501576.9%
Key: A=active player, SB=stolen bases, CS=caught stealing, SR=percentage successful
Source: JewishBaseballNews.com manipulation of Baseball-Reference.com data.


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 — MLB.com 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.”

Year Tm AB HR RBI SB CS
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 Baseball-Reference.com: 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.


Career stolen base leaders (thru 7/22/2013)

 
Player
SB
CS
SB%
1Ian Kinsler (A)1633781.5%
2Shawn Green1625275.7%
3Buddy Myer15710959.0%
4Ryan Braun (A)1303678.3%
5Brad Ausmus1025365.8%
6Gabe Kapler773072.0%
7Sammy Bohne755956.0%
8Elliott Maddox605452.6%
9Hank Greenberg582669.0%
10Lipman Pike501576.9%
Key: A=active player, SB=stolen bases, CS=caught stealing, SR=percentage successful
Source: JewishBaseballNews.com manipulation of Baseball-Reference.com data.



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.


Career base-stealing success (thru 7/18/2013)

 
Player
SB
CS
SB%
1Morrie Arnovich170100.0%
2Goody Rosen140100.0%
3Harry Danning130100.0%
4Ian Kinsler (A)1623781.4%
5Ryan Kalish (A)13381.3%
6Ryan Braun (A)1263178.3%
Note: Includes players with at least 10 career stolen bases
Key: A=active player, SB=stolen bases, CS=caught stealing, SB%=percentage successful
Source: JewishBaseballNews.com manipulation of Baseball-Reference.com data



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

Year Tm AB HR RBI SB CS
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 Baseball-Reference.com: 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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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*

Year
Total HRs
Biggest 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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Team Israel's Nate Freiman gets a high five from bench coach Gabe Kapler after hitting the first of his two HRs on Wednesday night. (J. Gwendolynne Berry/The Palm Beach Post)

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 www.worldbaseballclassic.com. 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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