Photo Credit: Jewish Press

A hundred years ago in 1924, world Jewry lost a great friend with the passing of former President Woodrow Wilson. While in office, Wilson vetoed three restrictive immigration measures, without hesitating to say they were aimed principally at the Jews. Wilson was also remembered for appointing Louis D. Brandeis to the Supreme Court.

Many windows of opportunity to European Jewry were slammed shut following the passage of the American anti-immigration legislation of 1924. Before the law was enacted, 140,000 Jews came to America in one year. After its passage, only 10,000 a year were permitted to enter. American Jews despaired over the situation as many realized they would never see their European relatives again.


The situation quickly worsened as 1924 wore on, as more pogroms injured Romanian Jews. Jewish homes were bombed near Hanover, Germany, and mobs estimated at 30,000 attacked Jews in Berlin. Fifty Jews in Lodz were badly beaten by Polish police and were forced to pay huge ransoms for their release. The noose was tightening around European Jewry.

David Greenberg and his wife Sarah were lucky and left Romania as teenagers, met and married in New York in 1906. Their third child was born on the first day of 1911 and she chose to name him Hyman, but the man who filled out the name on the birth certificate wasn’t familiar with that name and put down “Henry.”

In 1924 as he celebrated his bar mitzvah people called him Hyman. Hymie or Hy. He excelled at playing baseball and basketball and saw his first major league game in 1924 with his father at the Polo Grounds as the New York Giants won a Sunday double header. Ten years later in his first season as the regular first baseman for the Detroit Tigers newspapers would refer to him as Henry or Hank.

The Greenbergs and other Jewish fans followed the Jewish ballplayers during the 1924 season. Moe Berg, who would become famous decades later for his ability to speak several languages and infiltrate the enemy during World War II, was sent to the minor leagues by the Brooklyn Dodgers during spring training and spent the 1924 season with the Minneapolis Millers.

After two years of pitching and coaching in the minor leagues, former Washington Senators pitcher Al Schacht was back with the team as a coach, and to entertain the fans with his unique brand of clowning. Schacht and fellow Senators coach Nick Altrock teamed up and tuned up some routines to clown around prior to games and between innings. Schacht was tops when it came to imitating mannerisms of players and which fans enjoyed, and Schacht would eventually strike out on his own for a long, successful clown career.

Samuel Cohen was born and bred in San Francisco; he later dropped Cohen for Bohne for professional baseball purposes. After a short stint with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1916, Sammy came up from the minors to stay with the Cincinnati Reds in 1921.

Mostly a second baseman. Sam Bohne played in over a hundred games at second base, and about half that amount at third base, all while batting .285 with three home runs. An excellent fielder. Bohne also showed speed by stealing 20 bases and it looked like Jewish fans had a future star to root for.

By 1924 Bohne was still Cincinnati’s second baseman and hit .255, and never came close to the good numbers of his rookie season.

If you want to hear some personal stories that I experienced with Jewish players, I’ll be speaking at Ahavas Yisroel, 1587 Rte 27, Edison, NJ, on Sunday, June 16. The brunch runs from 10 to noon and costs $36 per person. Register at For more info, email Jeff Borell at [email protected].

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Author, columnist, Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and interviewed many legends of the game before accepting a front office position with the Detroit Tigers where he became the first orthodox Jew to earn a World Series ring (1984).