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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘World Series’

A Happy 90th To Ralph Kiner

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Ralph Kiner turns ninety on the 27th of October.

Where have the years gone?

Many Jewish Press readers grew up watching Kiner’s Korner, the post-game television show featuring yesterday’s heroes and the Mets’ one-day wonders.

Tom Seaver may have been on most often as he frequently was the star of the game. Seaver and Kiner, stars from different generations, formed a relationship that would eventually pair them in the Mets broadcast booth.

Kiner originally teamed with Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson; from 1962 through 1978 the trio called Mets games from the team’s debut under Casey Stengel in the fabled Polo Grounds through its first 14 years at Shea Stadium.

To those of us outside New York and born a bit earlier, Ralph Kiner holds memories not of the broadcast booth but of great slugging exploits on the baseball field.

In his first seven seasons (1946-1952), Kiner led the National League in home runs while playing for the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. He was the big Forbes Field drawing card and drew many a Jewish fan from the nearby Murray Hill district.

The Pirates lured Hank Greenberg for the 1947 season after the 36-year-old Jewish superstar was sold by the pennant-contending Tigers to the cellar-dwelling Pirates.

After Kiner’s slow start in 1947, Pirates management wanted to send the slumping outfielder back to the minor leagues. However, Greenberg lobbied the higher-ups to keep the young outfielder and promised to work with and even room with him on the road.

Kiner, a non-Jew from Alhambra, California, responded warmly to Greenberg, a Jew from the Bronx.

“Hank Greenberg was the biggest influence in my life,” Kiner told me years ago on the baseball beat.

“I idolized him when I was growing up in Los Angeles and he was a young star with the Tigers. The Tigers became my favorite team and he was my idol. So when he came to the Pirates I was thrilled and wanted to get to know him and learn some hitting tips from him.

“The first thing he said to me was, ‘Let’s stay late and take some extra batting practice and extra fielding practice.’

“Hank would spend hours at extra batting practice and extra fielding practice even when we were on the road after games. Most of the time we would be the last ones to take our uniforms off. Hank also taught me how to dress well.

“He took me to a haberdasher and I tried on different clothes. Hank picked out everything that he thought would look good on me. I can still hear him saying, ‘That looks good on you’ and ‘That doesn’t look good.’ ”

Kiner responded to Greenberg’s tutoring by batting .313 with 51 home runs, 28 more than he’d hit the year before. Two years later Kiner hit 54 round-trippers and batted .310.

While Kiner was baseball’s big slugger, Greenberg ascended to the general manager’s position with the Cleveland Indians. Kiner and Greenberg kept in close contact through the years. Greenberg eventually traded for his friend and Kiner spent the last season of his career with the Indians.

A bad back forced Kiner’s retirement in 1955 and Greenberg offered him the GM job with Cleveland’s top minor affiliate – the San Diego Padres, then of the Pacific Coast League. To save some dollars for management, Kiner thought it would make sense for him to double as the radio play-by-play man.

Greenberg joined Bill Veeck in an ownership role with the Chicago White Sox in 1959 and brought Kiner in two years later as a broadcaster. The following season Kiner opted to join the brand new Mets.

“I owe my good fortune to Hank Greenberg,” Kiner acknowledged.

Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before
moving to a big-league front office position where he earned a World Series ring. The author, columnist, lecturer and president emeritus of one of Detroit’s leading shuls may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net. His column appears the second week of each month.

Israel And The World Baseball Classic

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

For the first time, Israel will participate in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic.

That’s the good news.

The bad news concerns the dates they’ll be playing in Florida. Earlier in the year it was thought the early rounds would start in other countries before moving to Florida in November. Assuming Israel would still be in the WBC games, the Florida site would be Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

That would have been great for me, as my winter dugout in West Palm Beach’s Century Village, near the Aitz Chaim shul, is not too far of a drive from the Jupiter ballpark. But September replaced November and the dates don’t make it easy for us even though the site is the same.

Team Israel makes its debut on the day after Rosh Hashanah, Wednesday, September 19. If Israel beats South Africa it moves on to the winner of the France/Spain game on Friday (Yom Kippur is the following Tuesday evening). So the schedule wasn’t made for us.

To qualify for a spot on the team, a player just has to have one Jewish grandparent. Three former Jewish major league players, Brad Ausmus (Jewish mother), Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler will be wearing the Israel uniform. (None of the trio chose Jewish spouses.) Green and Kapler will serve as player/coaches while Ausmus will manage the team.

After the regular major league season and postseason games, Ausmus hopes to lure big league stars such as Ryan Braun and Ian Kinsler (Jewish fathers) to Team Israel. If T.I. survives the November rounds in Taiwan and Panama, it would get a shot at the big March series in the World Baseball Classic at Miami’s new retractable dome home of the Marlins.

* * * * *

I’ve been hearing from many citizens of Red Sox Nation. All liked the mega-trade with the Dodgers and the brooming of close to a hundred million a year in salaries.

Boston can rebuild quickly, Jewish Press readers say, if they sign the right free agents this winter with the freed-up money while prospects received from the Dodgers get more minor league seasoning. It should be a very interesting off-season for Boston fans.

But the question remains: Will Bobby Valentine be back to manage the new-look BoSox next season?

Another question: Why did the Dodgers add all that payroll due Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and the injured Carl Crawford? Answer: The name recognition of the additional stars will help fill seats and drive up the price the Dodgers can command as they negotiate a new multi-year cable contract for the left coast.

Speaking of new cable contracts, ESPN’s contract with Major League Baseball doubles the amount the sports cable network will be paying over the next five years. The good news for fans is that there will no longer be blackouts in cities when the home team plays. Those of us who live in areas with good teams that pop up often on ESPN games couldn’t see them play, and we were fed other programming.

But how is ESPN going to pay for it? The bad news is that we can expect cable rates to go up.

Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before moving to a big league front office position where he earned a World Series ring. The author, columnist, lecturer and shul president, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net. His column appears the second week of each month.

What I Did On My ‘Mancation’

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Last year I told you about my “mancation” (men only) to a city to check out its Jewish community and major league team and ballpark. Last year it was Pittsburgh and Cincinnati; this year’s first “mancation” destination was Cleveland.

Actually, it was a two-parter. We left Detroit and headed south on I-75 and one hour after we’d departed from my dugout we arrived at Toledo’s beautiful downtown Fifth Third Field, the home of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens of the International League. After watching the late afternoon game, we headed east on the Ohio Turnpike and arrived in Cleveland about two hours later.

The Cleveland Indians were part of my childhood in the early 1950s. Cleveland was the closest big league city to Detroit and I could pick up their ballgames on the radio and listen to their play-by-play man, Jimmy Dudley, one of the best ever to sit behind a microphone.

The Indians were the team of Al Rosen, the slugging Jewish third baseman, and general manager and part owner Hank Greenberg. My yeshiva classmates also followed the box scores daily to see how Rosen was doing, especially in 1953 when Rosen was trying for the triple crown (leading the league in three categories, batting average, home runs and runs batted in). Rosen finished the season with 43 homers and 145 RBI, good enough to top all others, but his last at-bat of the season was an infield out, leaving him with a .336 average for the year, a fraction of a point behind the American League batting champ Mickey Vernon of Washington. Vernon’s teammate was conveniently picked off base before he could bat. Who said life was fair?

The upper deck first-base side at Cleveland’s Progressive Field offers great views of the city’s downtown area.

The Rosen era ended when he retired after the 1956 season, but the soft spot for Cleveland remained. My first two trips to Cleveland were not to see ballgames, but to see Telshe yeshiva. Our yeshiva took us for visits on Thanksgiving weekends in the ’50s. Forty years later my daughter would marry someone in the Telshe Kollel and Cleveland became a regular destination and I got to see several games in Cleveland’s huge lakefront Municipal Stadium before the Indians moved to a new home on the other side of downtown.

Municipal Stadium saw the Indians’ last game in 1993. The big stadium also hosted the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. The stadium was eventually razed for a new football-only stadium after the Indians moved to a baseball-only park called Jacobs Field, after the owner of the baseball team. Under new ownership, “The Jake,” as it was fondly called, became Progressive Field.

Our first stop on this “mancation” was to a suburban kosher eatery before checking into a Beachwood area motel. The following morning we davened at the imposing Young Israel of Beachwood on Green Road. After a full breakfast in one of the area’s bakeries, it was one to Wickcliffe for a quick visit to the Telshe yeshiva campus.

Then we motored back to Cedar Road, which connects the suburbs that house Cleveland’s Orthodox communities (Beachwood, University Heights and Cleveland Heights), and headed to Progressive Field, only a few blocks from the heart of downtown. The three of us agreed that not only is Cleveland a nice place to visit but a good place to live as well. Good shuls full of nice people, good places to eat and affordable housing. Plus, the city boasts good museums and medical facilities.

About three hours after the last out was recorded we were back in our Oak Park, Michigan homes.

Cleveland is a much longer drive for most of you, but you’ll find it’s worth it.

Author, columnist, public speaker Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before working in a major league front office where he earned a World Series ring. The president of one of Detroit’s leading shuls, Cohen may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

The Delmon Young Saga

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Every time Delmon Young come to bat, gets on base or makes a play in the field, we are reminded of his anti-Semitic rant in New York back in April.

As you recall, an inebriated Young encountered four tourists from Chicago giving money to a panhandler wearing a yarmulke and sporting a star of David around his neck. According to police reports, it was about 2:30 in the morning outside of the New York Hilton where the Tigers team was quartered when Young yelled anti-Jewish epithets and tackled one of the tourists, who suffered a minor elbow injury.

Young ran into the hotel and made his way up to his room. A security guard called police who arrested the 6-foot-3, 240-pound ballplayer in his room.

Tigers president and general manager David Dombrowski was traveling with the team at the time and was informed of the situation. He rushed to Young’s room, talked to the police and summed up the situation later to the media.

“He [Young] was apologetic at that time, although not in a very good state.” Dombrowski said. “Later on, he reached out to me and the organization so I know that he’s very apologetic and knows there is no excuse for what he did.”

The police took Young to Roosevelt Hospital where he sobered up and was charged later with second-degree aggravated harassment, which includes assaulting or threatening to assault someone “on the basis of the victim’s race or religion.”

Major League Baseball suspended the Tigers left fielder/designated hitter who is earning a whopping $6.75 million this season despite being a mediocre player who did get hot right before this week’s all-star break. The seven-day suspension cost Young approximately $258,000 in lost wages. Young does have an anger management problem. While playing in the minor leagues six years ago, he was suspended 50 games for throwing a bat at an umpire who had called him out on strikes.

The Tigers are Young’s third major league team in six years and he’ll be on his way again after the season as his contract is up and he’s a free agent. The incident will cost him dearly as many teams will shy away from him. Besides, he’s a below average fielder and runner and is a liability when stationed in the outfield. And he’s proving to be just an average designated hitter.

After his arrest in New York, Young issued an apology. More likely the Tigers public relations department wrote an apology attributed to Young:

“I sincerely regret what happened last night. I apologize to everyone I affected, the Ilitch family [Tigers owners], the Detroit Tigers organization, my teammates, my family and the great Tigers fans that have supported me since day one. I take this matter very seriously and assure everyone that I will do everything I can to improve myself as a person and player.”

Young is undergoing treatment in an alcohol program. The Tigers allowed Young to talk to the media after the suspension and here’s some of the things he said regarding the incident:

“I made a lapse in judgment, but I can tell you that I am not anti-Semitic.” He added that “being perceived as an anti-Semite is hard to deal with. That’s the toughest part, being branded as a racist or bigot, especially when that’s just not true. I have a lot of diverse friends and live in a diverse area.”

Diverse friends? Diverse area? What does that mean? It could mean that some are single and some are married; some are Republicans and some are Democrats. Anyway, I’m not convinced. Something about Jews or something Jewish caused Young to go ballistic.

We should know a bit more on August 2 as the case was adjourned until then to give Young’s lawyers more time to prepare his defense. In the meantime, a Detroit area Reform rabbi not known for wearing a yarmulke but known to be a Tigers season ticket holder, is buddying up with Young and advising him about Jews and Judaism.

Young’s agent, who is Jewish, should be busy this off-season trying to find a new team for him to sign with. One thing’s for sure: he won’t be earning what he’s earning this season.

Abe Stark’s Famous Sign

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

The 40th yahrzeit of Abe Stark, who died at 77 in July 1972, is almost upon us.

Those of you who remember Ebbets Field, abandoned by the Dodgers in 1957, can recall the Abe Stark sign on the bottom of the scoreboard embedded in the right field wall.

The sign, only three feet high and 30 feet long, which read: “Hit Sign, Win Suit,” was the most famous stadium ad in baseball history. It made Abe’s establishment at 1514 Pitkin Avenue known around the country.

The ballpark, bordered by the right field wall on Bedford Avenue, the double decked-stands in front of Montgomery Street (behind left field), Sullivan Place (behind first base), and McKeever Place (on the third base side), was the most famous location in Brooklyn.

The area was a hub of mass transit. Fans arrived via bus lines on nearby streets: Flatbush Avenue, Reid Avenue and Empire Boulevard. Fans poured out of the IRT subway stop only two and a half blocks away, and the closer Prospect BMT subway station a block and a half from the park.

Bedford Avenue limited the capacity of Ebbets Field, as it was only 297 feet down the right field line to the high wall of almost 20 feet, topped by another 20 feet of screen to protect pedestrians and cars.

The cozy little ballpark had seating for about 32,000, but at times fans couldn’t even find a place to stand. Some 37,512 paid their way in on August 30, 1947, to see the hated rival Giants take on their favorites in Jackie Robinson’s first year as a Dodger, which set the all-time Brooklyn franchise record for a single game.

Whether you sat or stood, you saw the Abe Stark sign and may still remember the address of the store on Pitkin Avenue. Most of all, though, you remember the name Abe Stark.

Stark was born in 1895. He saw the transformation from horse and buggy to the automobile. He opened his first clothing store in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn years before he ever heard a radio program. He was in his 30s before movies could talk.

Abe Stark’s famous sign.

Stark himself was a good talker and entered politics in the mid-1940s. In 1953, when many Americans were buying their first television set, Stark was elected president of the New York City Council.

Abe stayed in the position until 1961, when the Yankees of Mantle and Maris were the only game in town as the Dodgers and Giants were in their fourth year on the West Coast. Stark then went on to win three terms as borough president of Brooklyn and got to see men land on the moon via television in 1969.

Stark was involved in many Brooklyn charities and was the founder of Abe Stark Philanthropies and the Abe Stark Hillel Foundation at Brooklyn College.

As much as he loved Brooklyn, Stark opted for retirement in the sunshine and warmth of West Palm Beach, Florida, where he died.

While Abe Stark’s sign is fondly remembered by the older generation of baseball fans, another Ebbets Field sign heralding a soap company generated the most laughs.

That sign, which covered a section of the right field wall from ground upward to screen, read: “The Dodgers Use Lifebuoy.” Sometime one summer night during a Dodgers losing streak, at least one disgruntled fan got into Ebbets Field and, armed with some paint and a brush, added a few words at the bottom of the sign.

The altered sign read: “The Dodgers Use Lifebuoy, and they still stink.”

Author, columnist and speaker Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before working in a major league front office earning a World Series ring. The president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Jackie Robinson: A Real Mensch

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

I was lucky enough to have met and interviewed many Hall of Famers including Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams and Stan Musial.

I also had the chance to meet and gab with many of the stars from the old Negro Leagues who went on to play in the major leagues after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier – Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin and Satchel Paige. But I never had the chance to meet Jackie Robinson.

I did, though, meet Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s elegant, graceful widow.

From everything I’ve heard on the baseball beat, Jackie Robinson was a credit to his race – the human race. More important than being a great athlete and ballplayer, he was intelligent, articulate, and above all a great husband and father. He was, in short, a genuine mensch.

Robinson was only 53 when he died in 1972, old before his time, racked with diabetes and nearly blind.

This year baseball is celebrating the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier. It was April 15, 1947, when Robinson became the first openly black man to play in the major leagues.

Ebbets Field was a ballpark of small dimensions and limited seating capacity of some 32,000. Only 25,623 paid their way in to see Robinson’s debut on Opening Day in 1947, 4,000 less than the ’46 opener. But the Dodgers went on to set their all-time Brooklyn attendance record of 1.8 million in 1947.

The only black man in the majors excited fans that year by batting .297 with 12 home runs and 29 stolen bases, more than double anyone else.

Calling the games on radio that year for Brooklyn was Red Barber, a man steeped in the prejudices of his era and place of birth. Barber was born in Mississippi and moved with his family when he was 10 to central Florida.

“I saw black men tarred and feathered by the Ku Klux Klan…. I had grown up in a completely segregated world,” Barber recalled in his book 1947 – When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball.

Barber thought about quitting. After all, a Southern gentleman in 1947 couldn’t be expected to work for an organization that would treat a black man as an equal. But Robinson wasn’t an equal – he was superior to most ballplayers at the time, superior as a player and as a man.

Robinson went to college and starred at UCLA in basketball and football before serving in the army. He earned the rank of second lieutenant and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, and Fort Hood, Texas, where white officers wouldn’t give him a chance to try out for the baseball team.

After being turned in by a bus driver to military police for refusing to sit in the rear seating area, Robinson faced a court martial for disobedience but eloquently won his case. After receiving an honorable discharge, and with the doors closed to blacks in many fields including professional baseball, Robinson joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945.

Fair-minded men at the time tried to promote the integration of blacks in baseball without success. Boston Jewish councilman Isidore Muchnick threatened to pass legislation to ban Sunday baseball in Boston unless the Red Sox granted a tryout to three Negro Leaguers.

A tryout was arranged for three players from different Negro League teams – Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams.

The tryout was originally scheduled for April 12, 1945, but that turned out to be the day President Roosevelt died. Vice President Truman was inaugurated as president and Roosevelt was buried in Hyde Park, New York, on Sunday, April 15. The day of FDR’s burial, British forces liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where 16-year-old Anne Frank died the previous month.

The following day, April 16, the three Negro Leaguers came to their Red Sox tryout at Fenway Park. Jackie Robinson was the most impressive of the tryout trio, prompting Red Sox manager Joe Cronin to tell Muchnick he hoped the team would sign Robinson. But the Red Sox never followed up and would become the last major league team to field a black player – some 14 years later.

Robinson went on to star for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945 and attracted the attention of Brooklyn Dodgers boss Branch Rickey, who followed Robinson’s activities off the field as well. Rickey was convinced he had found the right man to break baseball’s unwritten color barrier and signed Robinson to a contract in early 1946 and assigned the infielder to the Dodgers’ top minor league club in Montreal.

Red Barber was also following Robinson’s progress. It was just a matter of time before Robinson would be up with the Dodgers and Barber was mulling over quitting.

“I didn’t quit,” Barber related in his book. “I made myself realize that I had no choice in the parents I was born to, no choice in the place of my birth or the time of it. I was born white just as a Negro was born black. I had been given a fortunate set of circumstances, none of which I had done anything to merit, and therefore I had best be careful about being puffed up over my color.”

Play Ball!

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

The 2012 baseball season should be a most interesting one.

Every game is important. No longer can a team just play for the Wild Card spot and have an equal shot with the three division winners at participating in the World Series (as St. Louis did last year).

This year, as you may know, there will be two Wild Card teams in each league fighting it out in a one game winner-take-all for the right to advance with the three division winners to the playoffs.

Every game means something as the Wild Card club with the most wins will have home field advantage for the one-game playoff. But teams will play hard to win their division as that will assure them of a postseason playoff spot. Plus, with a couple of extra days’ rest as the Wild Card clubs battle it out using their best pitchers, the three division winners will be resting their top starting pitchers.

In my opinion, the six top clubs among the 30 major league teams are the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.

In the American League, Detroit has the biggest advantage as they have by far the best team in the Central division. In the East, the Yankees have to contend with Boston, the great young pitching staff of Tampa Bay, and an improved Toronto team.

In the West, the Texas Rangers added the much-publicized pitching star from Japan Yu Darvish. However, the Rangers lost free agent pitcher C. J. Wilson to the Angels and the California club also added superstar Albert Pujols via a mega-contract his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, couldn’t match.

In the National League East, the Phillies will have to fight off young and talented Washington and Miami teams that could easily top Philadelphia if injuries to veteran players linger too long. And, of course, there are the always-contending Atlanta Braves.

In the N.L. Central, the Milwaukee Brewers lost free agent Prince Fielder to the Tigers and replaced his bat, somewhat, with free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez from the Cubs. St. Louis is weaker without Pujols, and the Cubs and Houston Astros can only hope to win as many games as they lose. The Cincinnati Reds strengthened their pitching staff and have a potent lineup that should dominate the weakened division.

Out west, catcher Buster Posey is back from missing most of last season with a broken leg and should push the Giants higher. The Arizona Diamondbacks are capable of winning more than they lose; Colorado, while not as good, should be in the middle of the pack, while the southern California clubs battle it out to stay out of last place.

Here’s how I see the final standings:

American League East: New York Yankees; Boston Red Sox; Tampa Bay Rays; Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles.

American League Central: Detroit Tigers; Minnesota Twins; Cleveland Indians; Kansas City Royals; Chicago White Sox.

American League West: Texas Rangers; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; Oakland Athletics.

National League East: Philadelphia Phillies; Miami Marlins; Washington Nationals; Atlanta Braves; New York Mets.

National League Central: Cincinnati Reds; St. Louis Cardinals; Milwaukee Brewers; Pittsburgh Pirates; Houston Astros.

National League West: San Francisco Giants; Arizona Diamondbacks; Colorado Rockies; Los Angeles Dodgers; San Diego Padres.

As stated above, I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami and Washington finish ahead of the injury-riddled Phillies. And, of course, injuries at the end of the season will play a major role in determining which teams advance to the World Series.

Enjoy the season, and as always, it’s nice to hear from Jewish Press readers.

Author, columnist and lecturer Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring while working in a major league front office position. Cohen, the president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net. His column appears the second week of each month.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/baseball-insider/play-ball-2/2012/04/12/

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