Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It’s almost six months since my amazing wife of almost 54 years passed away.

I gave up our apartment in Oak Park, Michigan, the Jewish suburb along with the city of Southfield, that contains most of the Detroit orthodox community. I was fairly well-known there as I wrote several history books on different themes of the city and its baseball history.


While I never attended a religious service in a non-orthodox house of worship, I spoke in every synagogue and Temple in the Detroit area. Some more than once. I also did some radio and television there, besides writing for some local publications, too. I was born in Detroit; it was my home my whole life. I’m having a small bedroom being built in the garage of the house where my grandchildren live, but that’s only for some yomim tovim and simchas to come back to. Basically, though, I moved to a different city for reasons my wife thought would be best for me, that I will tell you about in a few months.

I’m in Florida now, Century Village in West Palm Beach, to be exact. It’s a great place for orthodox Jews. It houses all strains of orthodoxy including over 200 chassidim, and I hope to be here until after Purim and stay here next year from Chanukah to Purim. Let’s hope we follow Mashiach to Eretz Yisrael first.

When the doctors told me wife she only had a short time to live, she said, “I accept Hashem’s will and I’m ready to go.” She focused on my future instead of her end and I completely agreed with what she thought was the best road for me to follow.

While she is still in my heart and head, so are several former major leaguers who died in 2023. Well over a hundred former ballplayers died, but these impacted me the most.

The only Jewish major leaguer who died in 2023 was Larry Yellen. Yellen, who was born in Brooklyn in 1943, attended Lafayette High School, the same school Sandy Koufax graduated from. Yellen impressed scouts by pitching five one-hitters and not allowing a single earned run in his senior year.

After attending Hunter College for two years, Yellen finally got permission from his parents to sign a contract with a major league team. The Houston Astros gave him $55,000 in 1962 and the following year was in the big leagues at the young age of 20.

Yellen was slated to make his major league debut for Houston against the New York Mets on September 27, 1963, which was also Yom Kippur. At the urging of his mother, Yellen went to his manager (Harry Craft) and general manager (Paul Richards) and informed them of his dilemma. They moved his start one day ahead to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Yellen pitched five innings without getting a decision.

1964 also saw Yellen without a pitching decision even though he pitched in eleven games. But his high earned run average of 6.86 earned the righthander a ticket back to the minor leagues. Yellen’s major league career totals were 26 innings pitched and he surrendered 18 earned runs for a 6.23 ERA. He struck out 12 batters, gave up 34 hits, and walked eleven.

After a short stint back in the minors, Yellen went back to New York drove a taxi and eventually listened to his doctor brother to get his college degree. He earned a degree from Fredonia State University in New York, and decided to move to the Atlanta area to pursue a career in sales and marketing. He eventually worked for a tutoring company and remained as a tutor until he retired. Yellen was six months past his 80th birthday when he died in Duluth, Ga.

Some of the more famous name players who died in 2023 were: infielder Sal Bando (1966-1981), pitcher Vida Blue (1969-1986), pitcher Roger Craig (1955-1966), outfielder, first baseman Frank Howard (1958-1973), catcher Tim McCarver (1959-1980), first baseman Joe Pepitone (1962-1973), third baseman Brooks Robinson (1955-1977), and outfielder first-baseman Frank Thomas (1951-1966).

Bando and Blue starred for owner Charlie Finley’s Oakland Athletics championship teams wearing those green and gold uniforms. Craig is famous for pitching the last game in Brooklyn Dodgers history in 1957 and the first game in New York Mets history. Howard was the biggest man in the majors in many of his years and led the league in homers several times. While McCarver was a competent catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals, he became known to a new generation as a likable broadcaster for local and national stations. Pepitone was brash and had run-ins with managers and became famous for playing his harmonica on the team bus severely annoying Yogi Berra when he managed the Yanks.

Robinson was the only Hall of Famer in the group. Many considered him the best fielding third baseman of all-time. He had tremendous range and turned many hits into outs and was a pretty good hitter as well. Thomas was a power hitter and would have been well-suited for a designated -hitter role that didn’t come into the game until seven years after his retirement.


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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).