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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Oak Park’

1951: A Great Year In Baseball

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I was one of 2,400 people at the recent Yeshiva Beth Yehudah dinner held in downtown Detroit.

That’s not a misprint – 2,400 people turned out at the annual dinner for the day school I attended decades ago and my grandchildren attend today.

It’s the biggest yeshiva day-school dinner in the country and has been for several years. The biggest names in local politics (such as Michigan Sen. Carl Levin) show up and the biggest names in national politics are guest speakers.

This year the guest speaker was Vice President Joe Biden. After a very pro-Israel speech from Biden, it was strolling dessert time and I ran into some familiar old faces from my early yeshiva days. After  talking politics, the subject turned to baseball, specifically the first full year we started following the game.

All of us could think back 60 years to 1951. What a baseball year it was.

It was the last season for Joe DiMaggio and the first for Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. It was the year the St. Louis Browns’ flamboyant owner Bill Veeck sent up a 3-foot-7 inch pinch-hitter (who walked on four pitches that would have been strikes to any other major league batter).

It was the year Ralph Kiner won his sixth consecutive National League home run crown. It was the year Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe won 22 games and lost only three. And, of course, it was the year the Dodgers blew the pennant.

The arch-rival New York Giants lost just nine of their final 47 games to tie the Dodgers for first place at season’s end, setting up a three-game playoff. In the bottom of the 9th of the final playoff game at the Polo Grounds, Brooklyn was ahead 4-2. With two Giants runners on base, Ralph Branca was brought in to pitch to Bobby Thomson. Thomson homered to left in the late afternoon gloom to send Brooklyn into mourning. Thomson’s memorable homer became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

 

But 60 years ago Jewish baseball history was made in Detroit. And our young class was there. In those days the Tigers gave away tickets for some May and June midweek games against bad teams like the Philadelphia Athletics.

 

It was May 2, 1951. The Tigers had their Jewish battery working at the time – Saul Rogovin pitching and Joe Ginsberg catching.  Rogovin was pitching a no-hitter when he yielded a hit with one in the seventh inning. In the ninth, with Detroit leading 3-1, Lou Limmer came to bat in a pinch-hitting role. Rogovin, Ginsberg and Limmer had two things in common – they were born in New York and were Jewish.

 

When Limmer reached the batter’s box, umpire Bill Summers stated, “I got me three Hebes, let’s see who wins.” Rogovin eyed the runner on first base and aimed his pitch for the target Ginsberg presented with his glove. However, Limmer lined the pitch into the lower right field seats to tie the score and send the game to extra innings and Rogovin to the showers.

 

The Tigers went on to win the game and less than two weeks later Rogovin, who would go on to become a teacher in the New York public school system after his baseball career, would be traded to the Chicago White Sox.

Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds were the center of the baseball universe in 1951.The Harlem River separated the homes of the American and National League champs and hosted the World Series.

 

As May was nearing its end, Cal Abrams of the Brooklyn Dodgers had a 14-for23 streak to lead the National League with a .470 batting average. Abrams’s hitting inspired a headline in the New York Post that went, “Mantle, Shmantle, We Got Abie.”

 

Abrams cooled off as the weather warmed up and was used less frequently. When the season ended for Brooklyn, Abrams totaled 155 at-bats and posted a .280 batting average. Lou Limmer batted 214 times with five homers, but his low .159 batting average would earn him a ticket back to the minor leagues for the next two years.

 

Saul Rogovin became one of the best pitchers in the A.L. leading the league with a 2.78 ERA while winning 11 and losing seven. Joe Ginsberg was a backup catcher but eleven years later would make history as the Mets’ starting catcher in their first-ever home game.

 

The big Jewish stars of ’51 were Al Rosen of the Cleveland Indians and Sid Gordon of the Boston Braves. Rosen batted .265 with 24 home runs and 102 RBI while Gordon outslugged him (.287, 29, 109). Both were third baseman while Gordon was also used in the outfield.

Another Season In The Books

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Wow! What a finish to the 2011 baseball season. Even before the interesting seven-game World Series won by St. Louis, there was incredible drama in the final month.

On the final day of the 162-game regular season, the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox both ended bad Septembers with one-run losses that ended any hope of a postseason berth.

Boston won only seven games while losing 20 in September, leading to exits by long-time manager Tito Francona and general manager Theo Epstein. The latter was for years considered baseball’s resident young genius by the media, but he was always helped out by the Red Sox having more money to spend than most franchises. The Sox, with baseball’s third highest payroll ($161.8 million) were caught and overtaken by the Tampa Bay Rays with a payroll of only $41.1 million (29th out of 30 teams).

The Yankees had the largest payroll at $202.7 million – and were eliminated in the first round of playoffs by the Detroit Tigers, who shelled out  $105.7 million on their players. The Texas Rangers, with the 13th highest payroll ($92.3 million), survived both playoff rounds to get to the World Series.

Theo Epstein spent big bucks on a full-page ad in the Boston Globe to thank Red Sox fans and the Red Sox organization. Epstein, who was responsible for the signing of several free agents who produced to less than their capabilities, opted to leave his native Fenway stomping grounds to try to produce better results with the  Chicago Cubs.

While the Red Sox were saddled with hefty contracts, injuries and some bad performances by highly paid players were responsible for keeping Boston out of the postseason. Free agent Carl Crawford, who batted .319 with 19 home runs and 47 stolen bases for Tampa Bay in 2010, hit just .255 with 11 homers and had 18 stolen bases for Boston in 2011. Red Sox Nation expected a lot more as Crawford inked a seven-year $142-million deal.

Adrian Gonzalez, the star first baseman for the San Diego Padres lured to Boston, played up to expectations (.338, 27 homers, 117 RBI). Kevin Youkilis, one of the few big leaguers with two Jewish parents, hit .285 in the first half of  the 2011 season and only .199 after the All-Star break. Lingering injuries kept Youkilis from playing the final two weeks of the season.

Boston needs pitching but the bats should be back strong in 2012. The Cubs, however, are a different story. Even if Epstein signs a big bat like first baseman Prince Fielder, the lovable Cubbies have several aging players who are hard to trade because of hefty contracts and reputations for not being too popular with their teammates.

General managers have  to be careful shelling out the big bucks. The White Sox are stuck with Adam Dunn for three more  years. Dunn, who averaged 40 homers a year in the six season from 2004 through 2010 with thee Washington Nationals, had a dismal 2011. Ken Williams, the White Sox general manager, expected a lot more from Dunn, who batted .159 and contributed 11 home runs before he was benched for the season.

There will be lots of excitement this off-season until free agent stars such as Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes sign their new long- term megabuck pacts.

My prediction is that Pujols will stay with St. Louis, Fielder will opt for the Cubs and Reyes will join the Detroit Tigers.

Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Downtown Detroit is making a comeback, and Tigers fans are hoping Mets shortstop Jose Reyes will sign with Detroit as a free agent.

The Man And His Book

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

  


In the four years-plus I’ve been writing this column, I’ve received many questions from readers. This month would be a good time to showcase some of the more popular questions and tell you of a book about an Orthodox Jew in the baseball field.

 

Were you always Orthodox and were you born in Detroit?

 

Yes. My father was born in Brooklyn and my mother in Cleveland. Both of their families came to Detroit prior to 1920 to join relatives. All their siblings grew up and remained Orthodox and when a day school yeshiva started in Detroit in the 1940s, all sent their children there. My mother’s family is directly descended from the Baal Shem Tov, and in fact my parents gave me the Hebrew name Yisroel after the Baal Shem.

 

   From the time your column began, the tagline has always said you’re the president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul. Do you win the election every year?

 

The last time we had an election was 25 years ago and the rabbis asked me to be president. We haven’t had elections since. It would be a waste of time, as I’d win easily.


   Here’s why: Everybody in shul is taller than me, better looking, more learned and more moneyed, so no one is jealous of me. Besides, I set a high standard. Other presidents sit up front and make the announcements; I sit in the very last row in the back and let the gabbai make the announcements. I handle the behind-the-scenes jobs, such as seating for Shabbos HaGadol meals and for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

 

   What does the Detroit Orthodox community offer for those who may be thinking of relocating?

 

   It’s the best in the country. The main Orthodox community consists of two of Detroit’s adjoining northern suburbs – Oak Park and Southfield. I live in Oak Park and the shul (Agudas Yisroel Mogen Avrohom) I’m president of is in Southfield. When I leave my house and get to the corner, if I turn to the left there are two shuls a few minutes away that I like and use in bad weather.

 

But my usual routine is to turn right every weekday morning and go to the kollel for Daf Yomi and Shacharis. In the evenings and on Shabbos and Yom Tov I go to the Agudah shul. In good weather it’s about a 12-minute walk. Our community has 18 Orthodox minyanim on Shabbos and Yom Tov within a 15-minute walk from my home. Also within the same time-frame walk there are several kosher eateries, a large all-kosher supermarket, yeshivas and three kollels. There are about 50 men learning full-time among the three. Of course, that doesn’t count the retirees that learn there, too.

 

There are three different frum girls’ high schools here and three different boys’ high schools. There is even a post-high school seminary (with a dorm) for girls.

 

We have all kinds of shuls – Young Israel, Chabad and several black hat types. In the Agudah shul we have all types – many don’t own a single hat and wear yarmulkes at all times. In fact, during the week I wear hats other than black. I like to put a little color in a black and white world; I’ve got several suits of different colors and wear a hat of matching color with each of them. On Shabbos and Yom Tov I wear black.

 

Several families from the east have moved to Detroit this year. One came from Brookline, Massachusetts. The husband sold the house there for $800,000 and moved to Oak Park where he bought a nice three-bedroom ranch with family room and full basement for a bit over $100,000. He retired several years earlier than he would have if he’d stayed in Boston. Same with a man from Flatbush. Housing here is about a quarter the price or even less than a comparable home in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

 

The best way to describe my community is that it’s like a mini-Lakewood – but with professional sports. The community is loaded with rabid sports fans. For example, on the last Tigers home game of the season – a Sunday that fell on chol hamoed Sukkos, I took my grandsons to the game and sat in the bleachers. From my spot in right field I counted more than a minyan and saw something I never saw at a ballgame before – a Chabadnik going up and down the aisles holding a lulav and esrog looking for prospects. So we have everything needed to make a community great.

 

   How did you get into the baseball field?

 

It’s really a fascinating story that was directed by Hashem. After reading about it, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s too long to go into here. So I wrote a book titled Tiger Stadium/Comerica Park, History & Memories. It’s both a chronological history of a great franchise and my history. It’s really the story of an Orthodox Jew in the baseball field but if I had that title the distributor and Detroit-area bookstores wouldn’t have carried it. The book also has 160 photos, including many from New York teams that I interacted with. In the book I tell what my salary was when I worked in a front office and what my World Series share was. A well-known New York rabbi bought the book and called me twice to tell me how much he enjoyed it. He was even pleasantly surprised to see a picture of his favorite Dodgers player.

 

   Do you do speaking engagements?

 

Yes – all types of groups and ages, Jewish and non-Jewish. I just did one for accountants while they ate breakfast. It was a two-hour gig that included baseball business and I always end with a Q and A session. I’ve done schools and retiree homes and men’s and ladies’ groups. My favorite groups, though, are Jewish because I can use some baseball-related Torah topics.

 

   Would you speak at a Pesach program at a hotel of the type that advertise in The Jewish Press?

 

I would certainly listen to any inquiries.

 

   How do I get the book?

 

   Here’s the best way. Send a check for $19.95 payable to Irwin Cohen. Mail it to 25921 Stratford Place, Oak Park, MI 48237. The price includes shipping and handling (I handle both). Just give me a clear mailing address for you and tell me if you want me to sign it for someone. It makes a terrific gift, especially for me.


 


 


Now the author of eight books, Irwin Cohen may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Postseason Picks

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

    A huge Mets fan from Brooklyn moved to my town (Oak Park, Michigan.) and settled in a few houses from me. Walking home from shul the other day, he took issue with my picking, in last month’s column, the Mets to finish fourth in the National League East.

 

   As I told him and other Mets fans, yes, I know the Mets have some good bats and a top starter in Johan Santana (13-9, 3.13 ERA last year before he was shut down to remove multiple bone fragments in his left elbow), and a top reliever in Francisco Rodriguez, but it’s just not enough to challenge the Phillies over the 162-game season. While the Mets have Jason Bay and David Wright and a couple of other big-name batters, they’ll have their hands full trying to overtake the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves.

 

   The Marlins, Braves and Mets will also have to contend with the much improved Washington Nationals. Washington may also have mazal on its side this year. Jewish pitcher Jason Marquis signed with the Nats as a free agent and in his 10-year career in the big leagues, the teams he’s played for have always found themselves in the postseason. And that, chevra, is a major league record.

 

   My predicted National League division winners, as I noted last month, are the Phillies (East), St. Louis Cardinals (Central) and Los Angeles Dodgers (West). My American League winners are the Yankees (East), Detroit Tigers (Central) and Texas Rangers (West).

 

   Now for the second-place team with the best record that takes the Wild Card spot in the post-season: It will be the Chicago Cubs in the NL and the Boston Red Sox in the AL.

 

   My World Series choices are the Phillies and Tigers. Yes, the Yankees and Red Sox will win more regular season games than the Tigers, but in a playoff setting with some off-days, a team with three good starters and a good bullpen could take it all. The Phillies, though, will take the Tigers in a six game World Series.

 

*     *     *

 

   The first day of 2011 will mark the 100th anniversary of Hank Greenberg’s birth. Most of us (myself included) started to follow baseball after Greenberg’s final season as a player in 1947. I did, however, spend some time with Greenberg 36 years later in 1983 (three years before his passing).

 

   There are many books about Jewish baseball players that only serve to repeat errors contained in previous books on the subject. Finally we have something worth buying – a collection of biographies in two volumes.

 

   Volume One of Jews and Baseball (1871-1948) was published in 2006 by McFarland. Its authors, the husband and wife team of Burton and Benita Boxerman, scored again with the recently published volume two.

 

   The St. Louis residents are an impressive team. The Mr. taught history for 30 years and has written numerous historical journals. The Mrs. is also a writer and researcher and worked in the public relations field. Passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans, they are members of the Society of Baseball Research (SABR) – as am I and as are some of the readers of this column.

 

   Complete with thorough notes, bibliography and numerous photos, the hardcover 7×10 volumes total over 500 pages. (For more information go to www.mcfarlandpub.com or call 800-253-2187.)

 

   Another of McFarland’s offerings, Baseball Visons of the Roaring Twenties, caught my fancy. Also 7×10 and a whopping 492 pages with 412 photos, it’s mainly a collection of photos of players who experienced more fame in the minors than the majors over 80 years ago. The author, George E. Outland, who would go on to become a professor and U.S. congressman, also took numerous photographs of major and minor league ballparks of the era.

 

   I found the limited amount of ballpark photos far more interesting than those of the players of the 1920s. But it’s the kind of book I keep nearby and leaf through from time to time.

 

*     *     *

 

   Buoyed by Alex Rodriguez’s $33.9-million salary, the average big league salary this year is $3.2 million. Last year A-Rod hit 30 home runs, which works out to $1.1 million per homer.

 

   Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander compiled a 19-9 record with a 3.45 ERA in 2008. He was rewarded with a new five-year $80-million dollar contract. If he wins 16 games a year for the next five years, it works out to a million per victory.

 

   *     *     *

 

   Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins, is open-air with no retractable roof, which means many games will be played in the frigid Minnesota air. However, 41 miles of cable underneath the field will keep the temperature of the playing surface no less than 40 degrees. Fans in the 39,800-seat baseball-only facility will be cooler but they’ll have a beautiful view of the Minneapolis skyline behind right field.

  

  

  

   Irwin Cohen, the author of seven books, headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring working as a department head in a major league front office. Cohen, whose column appears the second week of each month, is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul and may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/postseason-picks/2010/04/08/

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