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October 24, 2016 / 22 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

1941: Baseball In America, War In Europe

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

The year 1941 brought a season of baseball excellence from Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. It was also a year of anguish for Jews on both sides of the ocean.

Radio provided escapism from the war in Europe and most Jewish males, like most males in America, were following the adventures of the Lone Ranger.

Broadcast from the Detroit radio studios of WXYZ, the three-times weekly Lone Ranger program was more popular than ever. National surveys indicated that 63 percent of the listening audience was made up of adults.

The deep, authoritative voice of Earle W. Graser was perfectly suited for the role of the Lone Ranger. Tragically, as he was returning home from the studio late one night, Graser fell asleep at the wheel. His car veered into a parked trailer, and one of America’s most popular radio voices was forever silenced. He was only 32.

National publications carried obituaries and editorials. Time magazine called the Lone Ranger “the most adored character ever to be created on the U.S. air.”

Graser was gone but the Lone Ranger galloped into America’s homes the following evening as WXYZ announcer Brace Beemer assumed the role of  the masked man. Beemer would fill the radio role for the next 13 years.

Eight days later, on April 18, 1941, Yugoslavia surrendered to Germany. Nazi bombing squadrons soon targeted Belgrade, causing 700 Jewish casualties. Yugoslavia’s chief rabbi, Dr. Isaac Alcalay, was among the victims.

Hundreds of Jews were killed and more than 2,000 wounded during a five-day pogrom in Romania. Hundreds of Jews sought and were granted shelter at the American consulate. Jews trying to escape to Hungary were machine-gunned, as were others who tried to flee in small boats. Criminals were released from jail in Romania by Iron Guardists to help butcher the Jews.

In America, meanwhile, superstar Hank Greenberg, who over the previous four seasons had averaged 43 home runs and 148 runs batted in, was inducted into the United States Army in May.

Less than a month later, Lou Gehrig died. Gehrig, who retired from baseball two years earlier after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, had set a record for endurance that would stand for decades, playing in 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees. His fatal neuro-muscular disease would become known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Gehrig was only 38.

In her book My Luke and I, published 36 years after her husband’s passing, Eleanor Gehrig told of her bedside vigil as her celebrity husband lay dying.

“I often had to look out the window to find out whether it was night or day. The heavy breathing was slower and slower, like a great clock winding down,” Mrs. Gehrig wrote.

“Then on the evening of June 2, 1941, suddenly everything was still, and the doctor was by my side. The most beautified expression instantly spread over Lou’s face, and I knew the precise moment he was gone.

“The expression of peace was beyond description. A thing of ecstatic beauty, and seeing it we were awe-stricken and even reassured. We seemed stronger, and not one of us left that room without feeling: There is a better place than this. Wherever it is.”

Jewish baseball history was made by the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds on Sunday, September 21, 1941, as the team had four Jews in its starting lineup – the first and thus far only time that’s happened in the major leagues.

Bronx-born Harry Feldman was making his second big league start after spending most of the season in the minor leagues. Thirty-year-old catcher Harry Danning was calling the pitches for the 21-year-old rookie. (The game marked the first time a Jewish pitcher and a Jewish catcher formed the battery.)

Irwin Cohen

New Jewish Baseball Museum Features Starting Lineup Online

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

In Israel, homesick baseball fans have tried desperately to start a major league setup — or even a minor league round — or anything, as long as a few teams could play semi-professional baseball.

It worked for one season and then fizzled out. But Americans in Israel never forgot. Families still send their kids to Little League teams each year. Guys gather to play when the weather is good. Bats, balls and gloves abound. It’s out there.

Jews love baseball.

That’s not reflected in baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York though, where you’d think there were never any Jewish players. Only two Jewish major leaguers – Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg, ‘The Hebrew Hammer’ — ever made it in.

But there were so many others.

Now The Jewish Baseball Museum has gone one better, making the Jewish baseball lover’s dream of seeing a hero’s face immortalized a virtual reality on the Internet.

Creator Jeff Aeder, 54, has taken the concept above and beyond the basic meat-and-potatoes Hall of Fame, but for Aeder it never was about “basic” anyway. The Chicago real estate mogul is one of the biggest collectors of Jewish baseball memorabilia in the United States, the owner of some 2,000 items. His collection is on the site with other things.

Is he a fanatic? He’s a Cubs fan.

But he believes that younger Jewish generations need to know about their sports history, especially in baseball.

Aeder showcases his Rom Blomberg bat with the Star of David on the knob on the site. He also exhibits a letter written by Hank Greenberg to a friend during World War II; these are things that Jews around the world relate to.

How about pre-1990 baseball cards featuring Jewish players? Aeder has 2,500 of those. (Wanna trade?) Consider Lipman Pike, the first Jew who went to the big leagues in 1871. The stories of so many others.

Nearly every Jew who ever made it to The Show is on the site, which features biographies of each Jewish major league player.

One can find a time line of Jewish baseball stories dating from the 1860s, and interviews with former players and prominent personalities in the industry.

Aeder is, perhaps not surprisingly, also a philanthropist. He and his wife, Jennifer Levine, were named 2013 Chicagoans of the Year for opening the Wolcott School, a high school for students with learning challenges.

He’s also the founding owner of Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed – a kosher BBQ eatery near Wrigley Field. The home of old-fashioned ribs and sides donates its profits to worthy causes, and is the dining choice of Cubs fans of all faiths, including the 2015 Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta.

Aeder’s next project is likely to be the materialized museum from his virtual launch.

As with the first, the founder’s collection will form the core of the museum’s permanent exhibit, although others are expected to rotate through as well. At present, he’s told media that if the project is a “go” he might build on the city’s North Side; he hopes to open it some time in 2017.

When Theodore Herzl said “If you will it, it is no dream,” he probably had never heard of baseball. How many Jewish baseball fans have ever known of Theodore Herzl?

Aeder did.

Hana Levi Julian

Dodgers Stadium has Minyans but no Kosher Food

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Could it be that one of America’s largest Jewish communities and kosher markets does not offer kosher fare at its premier ballpark?

Apparently so, say fans who voiced their complaints with the Jewish Journal. Second only to New York, Los Angeles is estimated to have more than 600,000 Jews, yet no kosher food at Dodger Stadium, home of the LA Dodgers for at least the last three years.

A growing number of sports stadiums offer kosher food to accommodate Jewish and Muslim fans. With the 2015 baseball season underway, there will be kosher food in New York, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, San Diego, Washington, Kansas City, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Seattle. With the exception of New York, all of these cities have far smaller Jewish populations.

Kosher Today spoke to a Dodgers season ticket holder who says he orders in kosher food especially when he entertains. “I don’t get it,” he says. “On any given night you can see many Orthodox Jews and there are even several minyanim, so why no kosher food?”


Kosher Today

Diplomatic Ties with US May Strike Out Baseball in Cuba

Monday, December 29th, 2014

To the dismay of baseball fan Kit Krieger, future travels to Cuba will no longer include get-togethers with ex-Washington Senators pitcher Connie Marrero.

Marrero, who played for Washington from 1950 to 1954, died in Havana last April at age 102, a few months after Krieger’s last visit and three years after Krieger helped arrange for Marrero a $10,000 annual pension from Major League Baseball.

Theirs was a special friendship, one of many forged by Krieger, a Vancouver resident who will return to Cuba in late February — his 30th visit there beginning with a 1997 trip related to his job with the British Columbia teachers federation. That trip spawned a love affair with the country and its baseball scene.

Krieger, 65, would go on to found Cuba Ball, a company bringing baseball-mad tourists to the island nation — a venture begun really to enable himself to visit affordably with groups.

With President Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement on renewing diplomatic relations broken off by the United States in 1961, Krieger sees a double-edged sword: Cuba will emerge from U.S.-imposed isolation, but the country’s professional baseball scene could ultimately disappear, like America’s Negro Leagues following the integration of Major League Baseball.

In the near term, he figures, Cuban baseball will remain unchanged, since the country can hardly be expected to allow foreign teams to poach its premier talent — at least not without hefty payments, as in Japan. Individual players, Krieger adds, are unlikely to risk defecting while knowing that renewed diplomacy could prompt Washington’s lifting of an economic blockade, enabling them to legally sign lucrative contracts abroad.

Following Obama’s announcement, MLB released a statement saying that it will monitor whether the policy shift affects “the manner in which [teams] conduct business on issues related to Cuba.”

Krieger says he sees Cuba as “the largest pool of untapped baseball talent in the world, and no one knows if [the news] will open this pool.” But he fears “the beginning of the end” of a Cuban baseball reality caught in a sweet time warp evoking America of the 1890s. Eventually, Krieger says, Cuban baseball “will become integrated into the international baseball community, which it isn’t now.”

His love for Cuban baseball led him more than a decade ago to join the Society for American Baseball Research, where he recruited like-minded fans for the trips. He’s similarly passionate about family history, frequently conducting research on Jewish genealogy websites. Thanks largely to meticulous records kept by his ancestors, Krieger (his given first name is Ernest) can trace several branches in Poland and Germany back to 1700.

“I can even tell you the name of my grandfather’s mohel,” he quips.

Krieger’s baseball and genealogy interests at times have coincided: His late mother, Ann Kohlberg, grew up in an apartment building at 320 Riverside Drive in Manhattan, across the hall from New York Giants star Mel Ott. Kohlberg’s cousin, Don Taussig, went on to play outfield with the franchise after its move to San Francisco.

While Krieger doesn’t usually seek out Jewish residents or sites while in Cuba, another Jewish traveler, retired professor Oscar Soule, does.

Soule, of Olympia, Wash., who will be traveling with Krieger to Cuba in February, has been to the Caribbean nation five times and makes a point of going to a Havana synagogue on each visit. The draws for him are the baseball games and meetings with government officials, as well as such diamond legends as Omar Linares and Victor Mesa that wouldn’t happen without Krieger.

Marrero, a 5-foot-5 right-hander who posted a 39-40 record in the majors and made the American League’s All-Star team in 1951 at age 40, benefited from Krieger’s attention in his final years as he lost his eyesight and hearing. Krieger solicited notes of appreciation from the aging pitcher’s American contemporaries, all of whom Marrero fondly remembered. More than 90 letters arrived, and scores more for Marrero’s 100th birthday, including from Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Tommy Lasorda, George Kell and Harmon Killebrew.


Detroit Tigers’ New Jewish Relief Pitcher Brings Team Closer to a Minyan

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The Detroit Tigers have acquired Jewish relief pitcher Josh Zeid , one season after bringing in a Jewish manager, Brad Ausmus, and second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Zeid was claimed recently off waivers from the Houston Astros.

In Motown, Zeid will be reunited with Ausmus, who managed the Tigers to the American League Central Division title in his first season at the helm. Zeid was a member of the Israeli team skippered by Ausmus that fell short in its bid for the 2012 World Baseball Classic.

Zeid is coming off a difficult sophomore season with the Astros – a 6.97 earned run average and six home runs allowed in 20 2/3 innings.

The righty reliever said he was pleased to receive calls welcoming him to the Tigers from Ausmus, general manager Dave Dombrowski and vice president Al Avila.

“It’s another opportunity to make another ball club and to have a successful career elsewhere,” said Zeid, who will be reunited in Detroit with former Vanderbilt University teammate David Price, a starting pitcher. “I couldn’t be more excited than to go to a team with a rich playoff history, recent and historically.”

Zeid isn’t the only Jewish major leaguer to change teams of late – even before the winter meetings in San Diego on Dec. 7.

Josh Satin, an infielder for the New York Mets and Zeid’s teammate on Team Israel, signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. And the Pittsburgh Pirates dealt Ike Davis, who started last season with the Mets before being traded, to the Oakland Athletics.

Jews are making news in the front office, too.

Former outfielder Gabe Kapler, a coach for Israel’s WBC team, was named director of player development earlier in November for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kapler had been working as a baseball analyst on television as well as a consultant to the Tampa Bay Rays.

For Zeid, it’s shaping up to be a busy off-season in other ways, too. His wife Stephanie is about to deliver the couple’s first child, a son.

Meanwhile, could the Tigers be bringing in another Team Israel alumnus for 2015? Outfielder Ben Guez played last season with Detroit’s AAA team in Toledo and will be shooting for the big club this spring.

Said Zeid, “I’m sure Hank Greenberg would be proud.”

Hillel Kuttler wrote this article for JTA.



Ump Says Boy Can’t Play Ball With Tzitzit; Team Walks Off Field

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

For most nine-year-olds, a choice between playing Little League baseball and honoring a religious commandment would be an easy one to make: Mitzvot might be nice, and all, but when there’s a game on the line… well, you know. Not for Yossi, of Fountain Hills, Ariz. When an umpire told him he couldn’t take his turn at bat recently, he calmly tried to explain that the “illegal uniform” was a religious garment mandated by the Torah called tzitzit. The umpire, however, was unmoved, and ordered Yossi to remove the tzitzit for fear that “it could produce some type of interference or unfair advantage.” According to COL Live, Yossi –the only Jewish boy, not just on the team, but in the entire league– respectfully but assuredly walked off the field. In addition, Yossi’s team also volunteered to forfeit the game in solidarity with Yossi. Eventually, following a lengthy on-field meeting between the coaches and the umpire, Yossi was allowed to play, “double uniforms” and all. COL Live offered four lessons to be gleaned from Yossi:

  1. Tzitzit is a sign of Jewish pride.
  2. Religious tolerance means to refrain from discriminating against others who follow a different religious path.
  3. The freedom of individuals to believe in, practice, and promote their religion of choice without interference, harassment, or other repercussions shall always prevail.
  4. Ignorance and religious intolerance is still prevalent. The correct way to combat it is to wear “Jewish uniforms” – kippot, tzitzit – with pride.

The website also said that “self-assertion often demands a lot of humility. Doing something out of the ordinary requires putting our image on the line. It means that I care more about my truth than what other people think about me. This is self-esteem that is rooted in soul-consciousness.” It also cited a lesson from The Lubavitcher Rebbe about the relationship between the Torah and the value of humility.

“The Midrash tells us that God chose Mt. Sinai, and not a more impressive mountain, to teach us the value of humility. The question, of course, is this: If humility is paramount, why did G-d give us the Torah on a mountain at all? Why not a plain, or even a valley? The mere term “Mt. Sinai” is an oxymoron. It’s a mountain, towering and majestic. And it’s Sinai, meager compared to her sister mountains, humble. If humility is paramount, why did G-d give us the Torah on a mountain at all?

“When G-d gave us the Torah and inaugurated us into Jew-hood, He said, “You are going to need to be real strong to be a Jew.” Be a mountain. Have a backbone. Be a charismatic light unto the nations, and don’t give a hoot if people laugh at you. “But be a humble mountain. Humble in your recognition that your strength comes from G-d. Your life’s value is not about your image, it’s about your higher calling. Don’t measure yourself against the standards set by your neighbors; measure yourself against your soul’s potential,” said COL Live.

Jewish Press Staff

Kerry, Livni and Abbas Take a Seventh-Inning Stretch

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Here is an on-the-spot play-by-play report on Wednesday’s action in the Peace Talks Charades.

Tzipi Livin screws up her face and throws a spit ball at the Palestinian Authority, which swings and misses.

John Kerry calls Abbas and reaches first base.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman steps up to the mound and pitches a curve ball by announcing he will vote against any proposal to release Arab murderers who carry Israeli citizenship.

Martin Indyk takes a walk to Jerusalem and scores a triple play with Livni and Saeb Erekat.

Commentator Samantha Power puts in her two cents, which is about all it is worth, and opines that unilateral actions by the Palestinian Authority “will be a profound threat to Israel and devastating to the peace process.”


Housing Minister Uri Ariel, playing right field, urges Netanyahu to find another game and cancel the Oslo Accords, forgetting that they sank long ago in Foggy Bottom except when the State Dept. fishes them out for stale news.

Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, the government’s biggest windbag, carries his bat, points to the bleachers, and says that Israel can punish the Palestinian Authority by annexing Judea and Samaria and slapping sanctions on Ramallah.

His home swing misses by a mile, and he takes a shower.

The Arab League, playing shortstop, forces everyone to take a rain check for a week, when it will meet to grunt and groan and come up with a face-saving pitch for Abbas.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/kerry-livni-and-abbas-take-a-seventh-inning-stretch/2014/04/03/

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