Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I’ll never forget Sunday, May 16, 1954.

It was a beautiful day for a ballgame in Detroit. Even better it was a doubleheader. The Boston Red Sox were in town and a large crowd was expected at Briggs Stadium (named for Tigers owner Walter O. Briggs and later renamed Tiger Stadium under new ownership a couple of years later).


Ted Williams was back in the lineup after being sidelined with a broken collarbone suffered in spring training. The Red Sox lineup also featured good hitters such as outfielders Jimmy Piersall and Jackie Jensen, third baseman George Kell, the long-time popular Tiger traded to Boston two years earlier. Young, powerfully built, Harry Agganis, a former Boston area college football player who opted for baseball and looked like the second coming of Lou Gehrig was at first base.

I was going with my best friend Mosey Carlebach who lived in the upstairs flat. Mosey came down the stairs and I was more than ready. After all, we could see Ted Williams take batting practice. I was ready to run to the bus stop. I wasn’t ready for what Mosey had to say. “My mother wants me to drop off this bag by her aunt and uncle.”

My friend’s great uncle, Rabbi Dr. Neuhaus and his wife were from Germany and spoke English fluently. All I knew about him at the time was that he was the Rabbi of the German shul as it was called by most as the congregation was made up of people with German backgrounds. About a half-century later I researched him and found out the following.

Rabbi Dr. Leopold Neuhaus was the only surviving rabbi of the Frankfort Jewish community and the Neuhaus’ were among 400 survivors of the 34,000 Jews of Frankfort. After his liberation from three years in a concentration camp and a reunion with his wife, they helped reorganize Jewish life in the American controlled zones of Germany.

The Nazis destroyed the interior and damaged other parts of Frankfort’s Great Synagogue in 1938, and what was left of the building was used as a warehouse by the Nazis. When the war ended, the American’s ordered Frankfort’s mayor to assemble German crews to work arounds the clock to repair the synagogue for Rosh Hashana services in 1945.

Hundreds of American Jewish officers and enlisted men and women helped swell the numbers to 1,500 for services under Rabbi Dr. Neuhaus. Two American military men served as cantors as the previous cantors of the community did not survive. Yom Kippur services attracted even bigger numbers of Americans, but most of the surviving Jews did not wish to remain in Germany and attendance dwindled as the months wore on and the American military personnel were discharged.

Mosey’s father was a Rebbe in Detroit’s Yeshiva Beth Yehudah at the time and helped engineer the Neuhaus’ move to Detroit. I was anxious to get moving to the stadium to catch the doubleheader and figured by the time we’d get there the first game would be in progress. It was and by the time we got tickets and became part of the almost 43,000 in attendance and to our seats in the very last row of the upper deck along the first base side in short right field, it was the second inning.

It was a great game and the Tigers held on to win 7-6. We had a good view of 19-year-old skinny rookie Al Kaline in right field. Kaline singled in four attempts and Harry Agganis and Ted Williams each had three hits. The second game was even more interesting.

Ralph Branca, who gave up the famous home run to Bobby Thomson in the 1951 playoffs, was now pitching for the Tigers and started the game. He lasted two innings and gave up a home run to Williams. The game headed to extra innings and Mosey found a pay phone in the corridor and called his mother to say we wanted to stay until the end and she should go downstairs and tell my mother. His mother advised to call her back in 20 minutes for further instructions. He did and was instructed that my father would leave to pick us up about a half hour after the tenth inning and meet us a block west of the scoreboard as he didn’t want us to take the bus so late. But we had permission to stay until the end as he would park and listen to the game.

The second game headed into the 14th inning with the score tied at eight. Ted Williams added a second home run and went five-for-five, giving him eight hits in nine at-bats for the day. Agganis added two hits giving him five for the day. Ray Boone batted as night was falling and crushed a pitch into the upper left field stands giving Detroit a 9-8 victory.

We watched about seven hours of baseball and we were rewarded with two high-scoring close games and seeing one of the greatest days Ted Williams ever had. Thirty years later on the baseball beat Williams and Boone told me that day was one of the most memorable in their careers. Boone saved the sports page the next day showing the home run.

Williams ended up batting .345 for the season and led the league in bases on balls with 136. He fell 14 at-bats shy of qualifying for the batting championship due to so many walks. Rookie Harry Agganis died in June the following season at the young age of 26. He was hospitalized for two weeks earlier in the ’55 season and died from pulmonary embolism.


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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).