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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Red Sox’

Baseball’s Back! Predictions For The 2011 Season

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011


Every team has a bad week. Good teams, however, go through it less often. It all play out over the course of the season, so don’t pay too much attention to where good teams are listed in the standings early on.

 

The big question in the American League this season is how far behind the Red Sox the Yankees will finish. In the National League the big question is how the Mets’ financial state will affect the team’s on-field performance.

 

Boston is expected to get to the World Series. Anything less will be a disaster for Red Sox Nation. We’ve heard numerous times that new slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, even though he’s a left-handed batter, has a swing made for Fenway Park’s cozy, close left-field wall.

 

Computer geeks have gone through games played in Petco Park last year when A-Gone was with the San Diego Padres and came up with eight fly balls that would have been off or over the tall wall at Fenway. BoSox management decided to add more seats where part of the right-centerfield wall used to be, creating more revenue and a more inviting target for their new first baseman.

 

Carl Crawford, signed as a free agent over the winter, gives Boston another great bat, excellent defense and outstanding speed. You have to remember, though, that Boston lost two .300 plus hitters: Adrian Beltre played an outstanding third base, belted 28 homers and hit .321, but opted for free agency and Texas, while catcher-first baseman Victor Martinez (.302, 20 homers) was signed by the Tigers, leaving catching as Boston’s weakest link in the lineup.

 

The biggest reason the Red Sox will be much better this year is that they were devastated by injuries last year. Speedy center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury missed most of the season while main men of the infield Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis sat out a combined 147 games on the disabled list.

 

Besides weaker pitching, the Yankees also have more age. Their big stars – third baseman Alex Rodriguez and shortstop Derek Jeter – may show diminished range in the field. A-Rod will be 36 in July while Jeter turns 37 in June.

 

Jeter’s contract was big news in the off-season, as was his mansion in the Tampa area (the Yankees’ spring training home). The swanky Yankee has a 30,875-square foot mega-mansion overlooking Hillsborough Bay. The estate doesn’t have its own zip code but is known as St. Jetersburg.

 

As the season progresses, the Yankees will fall farther behind the Red Sox but Jeter will gain on the 3,000 career hit total. Jeter, who began the season 74 hits shy of the milestone, will be the first Yankee player in history to collect 3,000 career hits. The shortstop’s march to the mark will take some heat off the performance of the team.

 

While the Yankees are flush with cash, the Mets need an influx of big money. Management placed the blame for poor advance ticket sales on the ticket department and released some employees. But top baseball management deserves all the blame.

 

The Mets are loaded with unproductive players who are hard to trade because of rich contracts. The ticket department on any ballclub needs victories by its team in order to sell tickets. Promotions and giveaways will lure some customers, of course, but the late Bill Veeck, who owned a couple of American League teams, said it best: “The best promotion is to score one more run than the other team.”

 

My advice to Mets management is to sell stock to the public. As stockholders, fans would take a greater interest in the fortunes of the Mets and would attend more games to help the team’s bottom line.

 

New York teams will come up short this year as Boston and Philadelphia will top the Eastern divisions of their respective leagues. Chicago is my choice for both Central divisions – the Cubs in the National League and the White Sox in the American League.

 

Even without Cliff Lee (now with the Phillies), Texas should repeat in the American League West while San Francisco will do it again in the National League West.

 

The biggest race will be for the American League Wild Card (the second-place team with the best record). The Yankees, Tigers and Minnesota Twins will battle it out, with the Tigers finishing on top because of a pitching staff superior to those of New York and Minnesota.

 

Atlanta will be the Wild Card winner in the National League but will come up short, in the very last game of the second set of playoffs, against the Phillies. Boston will prevail over Detroit in the playoffs and vanquish Philadelphia in a six-game World Series.

 

Editor’s note: Don’t bet on any of the above, but for a good bet on a good read, order Irwin Cohen’s book on how an Orthodox Jew got into the baseball field by sending a check for $19.95, payable to Irwin Cohen, to 25921 Stratford Place, Oak Park, MI 48237.

 

Irwin Cohen serves as president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.


 


 


 


 


The Mets need a good showing on the field to generate healthy ticket sales at Citi Field.

Wonderful Rick Ferrell

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

It’s over 15 years since Rick Ferrell died, a few months shy of his 90th birthday.

 

Time hasn’t dimmed my memories of the dignified gentleman and Hall of Famer who worked in and for baseball until he was 87. The first time I met Ferrell was in 1983 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. It was the 50th anniversary of the very first All-Star Game, held in 1933 in the very same ballpark. All living members from the 1933 American League and National League squads who were healthy and able came to the festivities.

 

   Ferrell, who caught all nine innings of the inaugural event, was the Red Sox representative and batted in the same lineup that featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He wore a Red Sox uniform that sunny day in 1983 for the old-timers game held the day before the All-Star Game.

 

We had a short chat and Ferrell posed for a picture. I didn’t know it then but it would mark the first of hundreds of conversations we’d have and the picture would be used in a biography published in 2010 titled Rick Ferrell, Knuckleball Catcher.

 

Ferrell was a baseball lifer. He had a stellar career as a catcher for the St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators from 1929 through 1947. He called the pitches against and crouched behind the greats – Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg.

 

 

Irwin Cohen took this photo of Rick Ferrell a day before

the 1983 All-Star Game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park

 

 

After his playing career, during which he posted a .281 average and was a defensive great, Ferrell took several positions with the Detroit Tigers. He stayed in uniform as a coach and then moved into the front office. He scouted, became head of the minor leagues and, eventually, general manager.

 

When I met him, Rick had the title of executive consultant for the Tigers. On the last day of December1992, Rick, 87 at the time, resigned.

 

I had joined the Tigers front office at the end of 1983, after about 10 years of covering the game and its people, and it was then that I really got to know Rick.

 

On days he wasn’t out of town scouting for possible trades or getting information on opposing hitters to convey to Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, Ferrell would be one of the early arrivals at Tiger Stadium.

 

Department heads would gather in the second floor dining room of the three- floored front office building attached to the stadium’s right field corner. About ten of us from the baseball and business side would gather around the large round table for the morning shmooze fest. Topics would include politics, current events and baseball.

 

I usually parked near or next to Ferrell on the days he’d be there. Many times before others arrived, I had him one-on-one. He never boasted, bragged or brought up the old days. I had to steer the conversation in that direction.

 

One morning I asked him about what kind of person Moe Berg was. Berg, if you recall, was also a catcher in the 1930s and later spied for the United States while on a baseball tour of Japan. Berg, who became the subject of several articles and books, was always known as baseball’s mystery man.

 

 ”I roomed with Moe while we played for Boston,” Ferrell recalled. “He was the smartest man I ever met. We didn’t have air conditioning in the hotels in those days and we’d be outside most of the time. Not Moe; he’d stay in the bathtub as long as he could and had a bunch of newspapers on the rim to read. He didn’t want anyone to touch the papers before he read them. As far as friends on the team, he hung around the writers more, but we all liked him. He would have made a great coach as he was good at giving instruction to young players.”

 

Ferrell saw a lot of history while in uniform. He was a member of the visiting Washington Senators when Lou Gehrig made his famous goodbye speech at Yankee Stadium in 1939.

 

“When Lou finished and walked off the field,” Ferrell said, “he asked me, ‘How’d I do?’ I said, ‘You did great.’ I had tears in my eyes at the time. We all did, for Lou was such a wonderful man.”

 

Ferrell was the third base coach for the Tigers in 1951 when Eddie Gaedel, the little person who stood at 3-foot-seven, batted for the St. Louis Browns and walked on four pitches. While fans loved the publicity stunt cooked up by Browns owner Bill Veeck, Ferrell didn’t. “It was a travesty of the game,” he said.

 

Out of uniform, as the general manager of the Tigers in 1959, Ferrell swapped American League batting champ Harvey Kuenn to Cleveland for home run leader Rocky Colavito. The following year, Ferrell was behind the trading of Tigers manager Jimmie Dykes to Cleveland for Indians manager Joe Gordon.

 

   The baseball world was shocked – it was, and still remains, the only time teams have traded managers. Some 30 years later I asked Ferrell about and he explained the logic of it.

 

   “Bill DeWitt was my boss at the time,” he said. “He was tossing names around with Cleveland’s general manager Frank (Trader) Lane. I suggested they trade managers and they loved the idea. Our manager, Jimmie Dykes, was an old friend of mine and I knew DeWitt would let him go after the season. By going to Cleveland, Dykes would get another year or two.”

 

I always thought Ferrell’s life story would make a great book. Finally, a delightful lady from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Rick’s daughter, Kerrie Ferrell, wrote one. (Check out www.mcfarlandpub.com.)

 

*     *     *

 

Ronald Mayer has authored The 1923 New York Yankees (like the Ferrell bio, this book is published by McFarland), a great read about the team and the times.

 

The ’23 Yanks won the first of the franchise’s 27 World Championships and Mayer paints a beautiful picture of the players as the year progresses. Lou Gehrig made his debut in June, and, of course, that was the year Yankee Stadium opened.

 

During each of the three previous seasons (1920-1922), the Yankees had topped the million-attendance mark while their New York Giants landlords at the Polo Grounds did not. Babe Ruth was the main reason as he blasted 148 home runs during that span. Ruth out-homered the entire Giants team in two of those three years.

 

Sportswriter Fred Lieb tagged the colossal triple-decked new home of the Yankees “The House That Ruth Built.” Ruth responded by batting .393 in 1923 and blasting 41 home runs, a tremendous feat in the dead ball era.

 

As we follow the fortunes of the Yankees as they march to their first World Series victory, we learn that the average salary in the United States was $1,393 per year. Mayer also tells us that a first-class postage stamp in 1923 was two cents. A copy of the New York Daily News cost four cents, a loaf of bread was nine cents, a quart of milk 14 cents and a dozen eggs 24 cents.

 

*     *     *

 

Speaking of books, Maury Allen, best known in his role as sportswriter for the New York Post, died recently at age 78. Allen, who wrote 38 sports related books, was one of my columnists in the late 1970s when I operated a national baseball monthly.

 

Maury, a real mensch, gets a big mention in my upcoming book about my time in the press boxes, clubhouses and front office.

 

 

 

Irwin Cohen, the author of seven books, hopes to have his eighth book ready for you within two months. Cohen, who already is working on book number nine, is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul. He can be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net

The American Jewish Love Affair With Baseball: An Interview with Director Peter Miller

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

             In September I wrote in my Baseball Insider column (which appears the second week of each month in The Jewish Press) of my very positive reaction to an advanced screening of the new documentary “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.”

 

The film debuts Nov. 5 in movie theaters inNew York (at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan, Malverne Cinema in Long Island, and Kew Gardens Cinema in Queens) before opening in cinemas in Los Angeles and Kansas City on November 19 and after that in theaters and film festivals all over the country. (A listing of screenings is available at www.jewsandbaseball.com).

 

“Jews and Baseball” director Peter Miller – an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose works include “Sacco and Vanzetti,” “A Class Apart,” and “The Internationale” – spoke recently with The Jewish Press about baseball, Jews, and his new film.

 

             The Jewish Press: Why did you choose to make a film about Jews and baseball – what does the subject say to you?

 

              Miller: The relationship between Jews and baseball serves as a wonderful lens for looking at the broader experience of Jews in America. The story of a once marginalized people finding their way into the American mainstream offers lessons for a country that continues to grapple with its ideal as a place where talent should overcome prejudice, where we can retain our differences while still being American, where anyone who can hit or pitch or run can be a part of the magic and drama of our national game.

 

             How comprehensive is the film?

 

There have been over 160 Jews out of the 17,000 players who have made it to the majors. Our story goes from the first Jewish baseball star, Lipman Emanuel Pike in the 1870s, to the stories of Jewish stars like Hank Greenberg, Al Rosen, Sandy Koufax, as well as the present crop of great Jewish players. In recent years there have been many Jewish All-Stars, including Shawn Green and Kevin Youkilis – and there was more than a minyan of Jewish players in the majors this past year.

 

Jews have also played an important role as owners, executives, writers, and fans.

 

How difficult was it to make a documentary like this?

 

            We found that many Jewish ballplayers were eager to help bring this story to life. Our first interview was with the amazingly articulate slugger Al Rosen, who was a big star in the 1950s. We were able to film an interview with the legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, who rarely gives interviews but felt that is was important to participate in this film.

 

           We also interviewed Jewish ballplayers including Ron Blomberg, Elliott Maddox, Kevin Youkilis, Shawn Green, White Sox leftie Marv Rotblatt, as well as two gentile Hall-of-Famers, Bob Feller and Yogi Berra, and we filmed with family members of Hank Greenberg, Harry Danning, and others.

 

We had the honor of filming with players’ union legend Marvin Miller, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, and team owners Fred Wilpon of the Mets and Charles Bronfman of the Expos. And we interviewed writers Roger Kahn (The Boys of Summer), Peter Levine and the late Maury Allen, as well as Jewish baseball card-maker Martin Abramowitz and passionate fans including the film director Ron Howard – a huge Sandy Koufax fan – and the talk show host Larry King.

 

Where did you grow up and did you have a favorite team?

 

             I grew up near Boston, and have always been a Red Sox fan. The teams of my childhood in the late 1960s and early ’70s always had a way of breaking our hearts, but I think watching their struggles offered valuable life lessons. Of course they also had some terrific players and some great personalities. I especially loved Bill Lee and Luis Tiant, two of the great characters in baseball.

 

Have you always rooted for Jewish players?

 

As a kid I connected early on with the Jewish players I was aware of. I remember prizing Mike Epstein’s baseball card back when he was a member of the Washington Senators. And while I was too young to remember Sandy Koufax as a player, his name was definitely spoken in my home late every season in relationship to the high holy days. So while my team was the Red Sox, I began to define my affiliation more broadly: rooting not only for Jewish players but for underdogs of all kinds.

 

Then in the 1980s I married a New Yorker and moved to Manhattan where I have taken on the Mets as my other favorite team in addition to the Red Sox. It’s been a challenging last few seasons for the Mets, but I am always optimistic. And it’s great to watch their exciting rookie first baseman Ike Davis, who may well be one of the next great Jewish baseball stars.

 

             Dustin Hoffman narrates the film. Were any Jewish play-by-play broadcasters considered for that role?

 

When our filmmaking team – my producing partner Will Hechter, writer Ira Berkow, editor Amy Linton, and I – first sat down to discuss who would narrate the film, we immediately thought of Dustin Hoffman. We didn’t have a second choice or a fallback position, which was probably foolish since Dustin doesn’t often narrate documentaries and is obviously in great demand. Fortunately, after he screened a cut of the film Dustin committed to record the narration, and his gorgeous voice lends a gravitas and clarity to the film that I think no other actor or announcer could have provided.

 

Working with him was a treat; he is a brilliant actor and a delight to work with. There have been a great many wonderful Jewish baseball announcers, and I’m certain many would have also been excellent choices to narrate, but Dustin’s voice and humanity are an irreplaceable part of the film.

2010 Season Preview

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

As we clean for Pesach, several players will be cleaning out their lockers after being released by teams paring down their rosters for Opening Day.

 

While released players have their dreams shattered, we dream of our favorite team playing in the postseason and winning the World Series.

 

Last year’s World Series teams – the Yankees and the Phillies – are better now than they were last October and are sure bets for postseason spots again.

 

Here are my predictions for this season.

 

National League East

 

The Phillies are the best team in the NL and the third best team in all of baseball, behind, in my opinion, the Yankees and Red Sox. It will be a fight for second place between the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez anchors the young Marlins while veteran Chipper Jones does the same for the more experienced Braves. Both teams have good pitching but can’t match the Phils.

 

The Mets are loaded with more questions than kids at a Seder. If they don’t stay injury free they may have to activate Mr. Met. Washington has some pretty good offense from the middle of the lineup and we’ll be watching pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg. The Mets will be looking over their shoulder all season to stay out of last place. It’s not that the Mets are a bad team, it’s just that Washington may be the most improved team over last season.

 

National League Central

 

St. Louis has big boppers Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols and good enough pitching to top the division but the Cubs could shuffle to the top of the deck if the Cards suffer any injuries to a key hitter. Milwaukee has an awesome lineup with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder but not enough pitching over the 162-game schedule to finish higher than third. Cincinnati has an under-the-radar club that could surprise us as young players start to jell. Houston plays tough but the Astros have some age and not enough talent to launch a pennant drive.

 

Pittsburgh plays in baseball’s best stadium, the 38,496-seat PNC Park, which offers great views of bridges, water and skyscrapers. Via big trades and a bunch of new players wearing the Pirates uniform, fans will be treated to a different looking last place team. This will be the 18th consecutive losing season for Pirates.

 

National League West

 

The Dodgers have a good nucleus of pitchers and good young hitters. They also have an overpaid, supposedly steroid free but aging Manny Ramirez. But the team may be good enough to find themselves in the postseason again. The Colorado Rockies have a talented young lineup and some pretty good pitchers to challenge L.A. all the way.

 

San Francisco has the best pitching staff in the division but a lack of hitters will keep them from the postseason. Arizona made changes and may have enough pitching and hitting to rise above fourth. San Diego is loaded with young players who have yet to prove themselves as belonging in the major leagues. The Padres must trade popular hometown first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who hit 40 homers last year, to bring in more prospects while the team rebuilds.

 

American League East

 

The Yankees are built to win but must stave off baseball’s second best team, the Red Sox. The BoSox can match the great pitching staff of the Yanks and might pass the Bronx Bombers if Big Poppy doesn’t start 2010 as he did 2009 by being Big Popup. Tampa Bay has a tough-to-beat club but will have a tough time beating New York and Boston.

 

Toronto has some good young arms and a lineup sprinkled with a couple of good bats but will have its hands full staying ahead of the improving Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore has better hitting than the Blue Jays but comes up short in the pitching department.

 

American League Central

 

The Tigers and White Sox are a bit better in the pitching department than Minnesota but the Twins have a better lineup. The Twins also have a beautiful 39,800-seat outdoor ballpark 12 blocks from their old downtown domed home. But the risk of being thought of as a “homer,” I’m going with the pitching of Detroit its Johnny Damon-led lineup to finish first.

 

Kansas City has lots of promise and Zack Greinke but will have its mitts full staying ahead of the rebuilding Cleveland Indians.

 

One of the most knowledgeable readers of this column, Yank Poleyeff, is out in Arizona watching his favorite team, the Indians. Yank, a New Jersey resident who works in Manhattan, reminds us that Cleveland has four Jewish players in camp hoping to wear a big league uniform: Pitchers Jason Knapp and Eric Berger and outfielders Brian Horwitz and Jason Kipnis. Knapp was the best boy in Lakewood with the Phillies’ A-ball team the Lakewood Blue Claws and was the key to the Cliff Lee trade from Cleveland to Philadelphia last summer.

 

American League West

 

This is the only division in the major leagues with four teams. None of the four would have a chance to top the other two divisions in the AL or even place second. Texas is my choice to advance as the Rangers posses some pretty good hitters. One young pitcher on the Rangers to watch is 21-year-old Neftali (not Naftali) Feliz. The righthander starred last season after being brought up from the minors by allowing only 13 hits in 31 innings while striking out a whopping 39.

 

Seattle lured Chone Figgins from the Angels (.298 batting average and 42 stolen bases) and has Ichiro Suzuki at the top of its lineup to scare pitchers but the rest of the lineup is fair at best. But even the great Felix Hernandez (19-5, 2.49 ERA) and reliable Cliff Lee, acquired from the Phillies, are just not enough to pass Texas.

 

The Los Angeles Angels will finish the season in third place. The Angels filled holes but didn’t patch with good enough talent compared to what they lost to free agency. The Athletics should be located somewhere other than Oakland as they play in baseball’s ugliest ballyard.

 

The 50,069 Oakland-Alameda County Stadium has more seats in the top deck for football, but the A’s drew only 1.4 million last year and are hampered by a limited amount of revenue coming in. However, general manager Billy Beane always manages to assemble a competitive club. This year, though, the team is built for last but does have a brighter future.

 

I’ll give you my postseason picks next month. In the meantime, send me your predictions.

 

 

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.

Another Season Goes Into The Books

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Forget the results. The 2009 World Series featured the two best teams in baseball. In the old days, the Series always had the best team in the American League against the best team in the National League. But with the advent of two rounds of league playoffs, a good but not great team that has a hot week or two can find itself in the World Series.

 

This year not only were the Phillies the best team in the National League, they were the second best team in all of baseball – better than the Red Sox and almost as good as the Yankees over the 162-game season. The Yanks, Phils, BoSox, Angels and Twins would be my top five teams for the year.

 

Besides the best teams, the best players showed just how good they are. Alex Rodriguez hit .286 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI despite missing the first month of the season. A-Rod’s home runs and runs batted in give him a record 13 seasons in which he’s amassed at least 30 homers and 100 RBI.

 

With his 2,722nd career hit, Derek Jeter broke Lou Gehrig’s all-time hit record for a Yankees player. Jeter hit .334 for the season, third best in the American League. The popular shortstop’s mark was 18 points behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki and 30 points behind Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer’s league-leading .364.

 

Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena was leading the league with 39 home runs with 25 games to go when an injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. While Pena was on the mend, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira hit six round-trippers to tie for the lead at 39.

 

The Yankees had plenty of other run-makers, such as second baseman Robinson Cano (.320, 25 home runs), to help them post the majors’ best record at 103-59. All told, the Yankees had seven players with at least 20 home runs, an all-time record. Another big-league record was posted by Jeter and Cano when they became the first double-play combination to each have 200 hits.

 

While Jeter had a great year, Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez bested him. Ramirez led the National League with a .342 average (six points better than Jeter) while clubbing 24 home runs (six more than Jeter) and driving in 106 runs (40 more than Jeter).

 

 Other National League leaders were Albert Pujols with 47 home runs and Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard who tied for the RBI leadership at 141. Besides Pujols, St. Louis had two pitching leaders – Adam Wainwright topped the league with 19 wins and Chris Carpenter’s 2.24 ERA was the finest in that department.

 

   The best one-two punch in the National League in my book are Milwaukee’s Fielder (.299, 46 homers, 141 RBI) and Ryan Braun (.320, 32, 114). But until the Brewers get two more good starting pitchers they won’t – as they proved in ’09 – be able to jump over the Cubs and Cardinals.

 

   What a matchup the Yankees and Red Sox were during the regular season. Boston won the first eight and the Yanks took nine of the next 10. The run total was almost even, too, as the Yanks had 101 and the Red Sox 99.

 

*     *     *

 

If you like baseball and Israel, you’ll like “Holy Land Hardball.” The one hour, 23-minute DVD traces the trials and tribulations of trying to bring professional baseball to Israel in the form of the Israel Baseball League (IBL). Even if you’re not a baseball fan (according to the legendary writer Red Smith, “Baseball is dull only to those with dull minds”), you’ll enjoy the insights into launching a new business venture in Israel.

 

Israelis who were interviewed about the prospects of bringing professional baseball to their country seemed to be divided into two camps – pessimists and skeptics. League founder Larry Baras and his crew were blindsided by Israeli bureaucracy more often than not as they tried to make the league a reality.

 

Former Jewish big leaguers Ron Blomberg, Ken Holtzman and Art Shamsky managed three of the six teams. Shamsky is the trimmest of the trio and the years have robbed much of the hair under the caps of Blomberg and Holtzman.

 

Rabbi Paysach Krohn appears in the documentary in the role of mohel and offers a great baseball analogy at a bris. The DVD uses impressive graphics and interesting music.

 

For information on group showings and availability, go to www.holylandhardball.com. I’d like to see a sequel and find out if another attempt will be made to bring pro baseball to Israel.

 

It would take a baseball fan/philanthropist willing to lose a lot of money in order to have the satisfaction of bringing Hashem’s favorite sport to Israel. After all, the first word in the Torah, “bereishis,” means “in the beginning” – or, as most of us pronounce it, “in the big inning.”


 


 


   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. His Baseball Insider column appears the second week of each month in the Jewish Press. Cohen, who is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

A Look Back At ’08

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The year is passing quickly. The balls and bats, the lulavim and esrogim, the Phillies World Series memorabilia – all have been put away, and it’s time to look back on the 2008 baseball season.

The biggest surprise to many baseball people, even more than the worst-to-first Tampa Bay Rays, was the collapse of the Detroit Tigers. Picked to win the World Series by many publications and pundits, the Tigers, with baseball’s second highest payroll (behind the Yankees), finished last in the American League Central with a dismal 74-88 record.

While I didn’t predict the Tigers to win the World Series, I did pick them to be in it and lose to the Mets. And, as you know, the Mets skidded at the end of the season to finish at 89-73, three games behind the pennant-winning Phillies.

The Yankees also finished at 89-73, six games behind Boston and eight behind Tampa Bay. One thing’s for sure: both New York teams and Detroit will be bidding for top free agent pitchers this off-season.

The New York teams have a big advantage by playing in new stadiums next year; curiosity seekers will show up in big numbers willing to pay big ticket prices. The Tigers drew over 3.2 million in ’08, but an ailing economy will contribute to much smaller numbers paying to watch an overpaid and underperforming Tiger team.

I can’t recall a team with so many players having off years at the same time as the ’08 Tigers. What’s worse, the front office blundered with poor trades and rewarded undeserving players with megabuck contracts.

Dontrelle Willis was a perfect example. Willis had a 10-15 record with a high 5.17 ERA for the Marlins in 2007. After being traded to the Tigers, Willis had a terrible spring training beset by wildness and was sent to the minors. He ended up ended up not winning a single game in the majors or minors. The Tigers are also stuck with the final year of Gary Sheffield’s $14 million contract next season. Until the Tigers add two good starting and relief pitchers, they won’t be able to compete in the AL Central.

Help, however, may be on the way from within the organization. There are a couple of top pitchers in the low minors who starred in college ball, so look for the Tigers to growl again in 2010, if not next year.

The Angels won 100 games in ’08 season while the Cubs won 97 and both wrapped up playoff spots early. But both were eliminated early in postseason play as they made too many errors. Even top pitchers can’t be expected to get four and five outs in some innings without giving up runs.

It’s not that the Angels and Cubs are bad defensively, they just happened to get sloppy at crucial times in the playoffs. That was the beauty of last season — it wasn’t predictable.

The preseason predictions had the Tampa Bay Rays either at the bottom or close to it. The 2007 version of the Rays actually had 57 more hits, 27 more doubles and seven more home runs than the 2008 club. So how did the ’08 Rays win 97 games while only winning 66 the year before? The answer: pitching. The Rays staff allowed 300 fewer hits and 273 fewer runs and lowered the team ERA from 5.53 in 2007 to 3.62 in ’08.

The Yankees have $86 million dollars freeing up with the expiration of big contract to several veteran players. Of course, the Yanks may elect to re-sign a couple, but will probably opt to get younger replacements.

Jason Giambi (38 in January), who earned $21 million last season (.247, 32 homers, 96 RBI) won’t be getting that much from any team next year. Neither will Bobby Abreu, who’ll be 35 in March. Abreu had a pretty good year by batting .296 with 20 homers and 100 RBI, but won’t command the $16 million the Yanks paid him.

Manny Ramirez will be known as Money Ramirez after he signs his big contract. Coming off terrific numbers with the Dodgers after being traded by the Red Sox in July, Ramirez will be 37 next May and at that age it makes sense only for an American League team to pay him all those dollars on a long term contract as he’ll be best suited for a designated hitter role within two years. The Dodgers are willing to pay him over $20 million per year to retain his services but have to be careful with how many years they give him, especially as he has a habit of wearing out his welcome.

Baseball people couldn’t believe how reckless the Dodgers were with the contract they gave to Andruw Jones. Jones batted .222 for the Atlanta Braves in 2007 and entered free agency and jumped at the Dodgers offer of $36.2 million for two years. Jones proved to be baseball’s worst and most overpaid player in 2008 by batting .158 with only three home runs in an injury shortened season.

Speaking of statistics, only two players hit over 40 home runs in 2008. Ryan Howard of the Phillies led the majors with 48 while Adam Dunn of Arizona hit 40. Carlos Delgado (Mets) hit 38 and four players the 37 mark. Looks like we’re finally out of the steroid era. We’re back to normal statistics as most of the aging stars look washed up instead of beefed up.

I must admit I was rooting for the Red Sox over the Rays to represent the American League in the World Series. I was actually rooting for Fenway Park over Tropicana Field, the ugly domed stadium located in St. Petersburg that the Rays call home. Rays’ ownership spiffed up the dome, but you can put on all the lipstick you want, it’s still not an attractive venue for baseball.

The Rays have plans for an architecturally pleasing open-air ballpark on St. Pete’s waterfront. The project may pick up steam now that Tampa fans jumped on the baseball bandwagon.

How about the year Kevin Youkilis had for the Red Sox?  He batted .312 with 29 homers and 115 RBI while moving back and forth at the infield corner spots. A great defensive first baseman, Yuke played well at third base while filling in for Mike Lowell. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (.326, 17 homers, 83 RBI) was the choice for American League Most Valuable Player according to most scribes, but I’d have given it to Youkilis.

One thing’s for sure: Youkilis is the American League’s MVJP (Most Valuable Jewish Player).

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. His “Baseball Insider” column appears the second week of each month in The Jewish Press. Cohen, who is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

A Look Back At ’08

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The year is passing quickly. The balls and bats, the lulavim and esrogim, the Phillies World Series memorabilia – all have been put away, and it’s time to look back on the 2008 baseball season.


The biggest surprise to many baseball people, even more than the worst-to-first Tampa Bay Rays, was the collapse of the Detroit Tigers. Picked to win the World Series by many publications and pundits, the Tigers, with baseball’s second highest payroll (behind the Yankees), finished last in the American League Central with a dismal 74-88 record.


While I didn’t predict the Tigers to win the World Series, I did pick them to be in it and lose to the Mets. And, as you know, the Mets skidded at the end of the season to finish at 89-73, three games behind the pennant-winning Phillies.


The Yankees also finished at 89-73, six games behind Boston and eight behind Tampa Bay. One thing’s for sure: both New York teams and Detroit will be bidding for top free agent pitchers this off-season.


The New York teams have a big advantage by playing in new stadiums next year; curiosity seekers will show up in big numbers willing to pay big ticket prices. The Tigers drew over 3.2 million in ’08, but an ailing economy will contribute to much smaller numbers paying to watch an overpaid and underperforming Tiger team.


I can’t recall a team with so many players having off years at the same time as the ’08 Tigers. What’s worse, the front office blundered with poor trades and rewarded undeserving players with megabuck contracts.


Dontrelle Willis was a perfect example. Willis had a 10-15 record with a high 5.17 ERA for the Marlins in 2007. After being traded to the Tigers, Willis had a terrible spring training beset by wildness and was sent to the minors. He ended up ended up not winning a single game in the majors or minors. The Tigers are also stuck with the final year of Gary Sheffield’s $14 million contract next season. Until the Tigers add two good starting and relief pitchers, they won’t be able to compete in the AL Central.


Help, however, may be on the way from within the organization. There are a couple of top pitchers in the low minors who starred in college ball, so look for the Tigers to growl again in 2010, if not next year.


The Angels won 100 games in ’08 season while the Cubs won 97 and both wrapped up playoff spots early. But both were eliminated early in postseason play as they made too many errors. Even top pitchers can’t be expected to get four and five outs in some innings without giving up runs.


It’s not that the Angels and Cubs are bad defensively, they just happened to get sloppy at crucial times in the playoffs. That was the beauty of last season — it wasn’t predictable.


The preseason predictions had the Tampa Bay Rays either at the bottom or close to it. The 2007 version of the Rays actually had 57 more hits, 27 more doubles and seven more home runs than the 2008 club. So how did the ’08 Rays win 97 games while only winning 66 the year before? The answer: pitching. The Rays staff allowed 300 fewer hits and 273 fewer runs and lowered the team ERA from 5.53 in 2007 to 3.62 in ’08.


The Yankees have $86 million dollars freeing up with the expiration of big contract to several veteran players. Of course, the Yanks may elect to re-sign a couple, but will probably opt to get younger replacements.


Jason Giambi (38 in January), who earned $21 million last season (.247, 32 homers, 96 RBI) won’t be getting that much from any team next year. Neither will Bobby Abreu, who’ll be 35 in March. Abreu had a pretty good year by batting .296 with 20 homers and 100 RBI, but won’t command the $16 million the Yanks paid him.


Manny Ramirez will be known as Money Ramirez after he signs his big contract. Coming off terrific numbers with the Dodgers after being traded by the Red Sox in July, Ramirez will be 37 next May and at that age it makes sense only for an American League team to pay him all those dollars on a long term contract as he’ll be best suited for a designated hitter role within two years. The Dodgers are willing to pay him over $20 million per year to retain his services but have to be careful with how many years they give him, especially as he has a habit of wearing out his welcome.


Baseball people couldn’t believe how reckless the Dodgers were with the contract they gave to Andruw Jones. Jones batted .222 for the Atlanta Braves in 2007 and entered free agency and jumped at the Dodgers offer of $36.2 million for two years. Jones proved to be baseball’s worst and most overpaid player in 2008 by batting .158 with only three home runs in an injury shortened season.


Speaking of statistics, only two players hit over 40 home runs in 2008. Ryan Howard of the Phillies led the majors with 48 while Adam Dunn of Arizona hit 40. Carlos Delgado (Mets) hit 38 and four players the 37 mark. Looks like we’re finally out of the steroid era. We’re back to normal statistics as most of the aging stars look washed up instead of beefed up.


I must admit I was rooting for the Red Sox over the Rays to represent the American League in the World Series. I was actually rooting for Fenway Park over Tropicana Field, the ugly domed stadium located in St. Petersburg that the Rays call home. Rays’ ownership spiffed up the dome, but you can put on all the lipstick you want, it’s still not an attractive venue for baseball.


The Rays have plans for an architecturally pleasing open-air ballpark on St. Pete’s waterfront. The project may pick up steam now that Tampa fans jumped on the baseball bandwagon.


How about the year Kevin Youkilis had for the Red Sox?  He batted .312 with 29 homers and 115 RBI while moving back and forth at the infield corner spots. A great defensive first baseman, Yuke played well at third base while filling in for Mike Lowell. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (.326, 17 homers, 83 RBI) was the choice for American League Most Valuable Player according to most scribes, but I’d have given it to Youkilis.


One thing’s for sure: Youkilis is the American League’s MVJP (Most Valuable Jewish Player).


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. His “Baseball Insider” column appears the second week of each month in The Jewish Press. Cohen, who is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Ball Fields And Battlefields, 1948

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

      The year was1948 and a great baseball season was unfolding. In the American League, Joe DiMaggio was on his way to a league-leading 39 home runs and 155 RBIs, while Ted Williams would win the batting title with a .369 average.

 

      In the National League, Stan Musial would come close to winning the Triple Crown. He led in average (.376) and RBIs (131) but would finish one shy of the 40 home runs posted by Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize.

 

      But at this time 60 years ago, Jewish baseball fans were watching the front page more than the sports page. Newspapers in major league cities told of the end of British rule in Palestine, and of Jews around the world celebrating as the State of Israel was proclaimed.

 

      In my hometown of Motown, an estimated 22,000 people gathered on May 16, 1948, at an athletic field of a Detroit public school about three blocks from where my family lived at the time. Older yeshiva students walked to the site while I obediently piled into the yeshiva bus along with the younger kids.

 

      Skywriters outlined the Star of David in white against the blue sky. Hundreds upon hundreds of blue and white flags with the Star of David in the center fluttered gently. I remember shofars blowing and animated dancing, but was really too young to realize the scope of the occasion and wanted the people off the field quickly so our class could play baseball.

 

      For those old enough to follow events through the newspapers, Detroit Free Press staff writer Sam Petok opened his article with the following:


 



       A mournful bray of resolution from Detroit’s Jewry was sounded Sunday and hurled across the seas to the bloodstained soil of a newborn state.

 

       The Shofar, the ram’s horn blown only at sacred holidays, sent its sonorous notes floating into the cloud-flecked skies.

 

       In a hushed moment, 2,000 years of wanderings through the world, of being pilloried, of turning the cheek and of national ignominy flashed through the minds of the throng.

 

       Israel, the Jewish state, had been proclaimed.


 


      A front-page story byWallace R. Duell in the Detroit News provided a sobering reminder of what was ahead:


 



       After almost 2,000 years of aspiration and striving, the new state was being prematurely born. It was not ready for life. Its contours were not yet complete as they had been hoped for and designed. Its organs were not yet fully functioning. Yet it must spring to arms, in the very moment of its birth, for the millions of surrounding Arabs were implacable and would destroy it if they could.

 

       The new Israel was a cartographer’s – and a defending general staff’s – nightmare. It was three almost entirely separate territories, rather than one each touching only one of the others and only at one small point: a narrow coastal strip; a wedge inland in the north at the Sea of Galilee; and a rough triangular shard of a piece of desert in the south pointing to Akaba.

 

       Immediately at hand were the more than 30 million Arabs of seven adjacent states.


 


      While the defenders of the Jewish state fought on, the 1948 baseball season in the United States saw the midseason debut of Negro League superstar Satchel Paige at the age of 42 with the Cleveland Indians. In August, Babe Ruth died at age 53.

 

      As the baseball season wound down, fans of New York teams gave up hope that one of their teams would be in the World Series. The Boston Braves wrapped up the National League pennant by six and a half games over the St. Louis Cardinals, while Brooklyn finished third and the New York Giants came in a distant fifth.

 

      In the American League, the Yankees won 94 games but the Red Sox and Indians finished tied for first with 96 victories, forcing a one-game playoff at Boston’s Fenway Park.

 

      Beantown fans were rooting for a Red Sox victory, which would mean the World Series sites would only be blocks apart. Many Braves players were secretly hoping the Indians would win, as the capacity of Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium was more than twice that of Fenway Park – and more seats meant more ticket sales translating into higher World Series shares for players.

 

      Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau, who also was the Indians’ regular shortstop, would be named the American League’s Most Valuable Player based on his .355 batting average, 18 home runs and 106 RBIs. Boudreau’s two home runs in the playoff game helped defeat the Red Sox.

 

      Johnny Sain, who led the majors with 24 wins, beat Bob Feller 1-0 in the Series opener. Game 5 at Cleveland’s huge stadium drew a then-record attendance of 86,288. The Indians took the Series four games to two. Jewish rookie Al Rosen shared in the excitement but was hitless in his one Series appearance as a pinch-hitter. Jewish superstar Hank Greenberg, who had retired in 1947 with a .313 career average, was in his first year as an executive with the Cleveland Indians.

 

      Each winning player’s share was $6,772 while the losers pocketed $4,571. Now, of course, most players earn more than that for each regular season at-bat. Our national pastime has exploded since Israel fought for its independence. Unfortunately, so has the national pastime in Arab countries – hating Jews and developing ways to destroy Israel.

 

*     *     *

 

      Last month I gave my pennant predictions. My choices to top their divisions in the National League were the Mets, Cubs and Diamondbacks. My wild card pick (the team with the best record other than those topping their divisions) was the Braves.

 

      In the American League, I picked the Yankees, Tigers and Mariners to top their divisions and the Red Sox for the wild card. Of course, I can’t predict the future any better than you can, but I base my predictions on the many hours I spend watching baseball along with the knowledge that a season is full of ups and downs.

 

      I see the Mets and Tigers getting hot in the latter stages of the playoffs and advancing to the World Series. The Tigers have a better lineup and would outpace the Mets over the long daily grind of a season with few days off. In a World Series, however, with an off day after the first two games and another after the fifth game, a team only needs three starting pitchers and the Mets will defeat the Tigers in a thrilling seven-game Series.

 

      Chaim Shapiro, a red-hot Cubs fan who grew up in Chicago and is now living in New York, would disagree. Chaim, a knowledgeable guy who reads The Jewish Press, estimates he’s seen more than a thousand games at Wrigley Field and avidly watches the Cubs from New York through MLB.com.

 

      Chaim says this is the year the Cubs will be in the World Series because they have a good team – not because it’s exactly a hundred years since they won a Series. By the way, the team the Cubs beat in 1908 was Ty Cobb’s Tigers.


 


 


      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. His Baseball Insider column appears the second week of each month in The Jewish Press. Cohen, president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/ball-fields-and-battlefields-1948/2008/05/07/

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