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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Stratford Place’

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/baseball-insider/another-season-in-the-books/2011/11/12/

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