August 9, 2016
This is a list of the many examples I found last year when studying the careers of Jewish baseball players (and some I suspect had Jewish ancestry). Notice the “7”s that come up repeatedly… and the significant Shemitah connections.
Here is a partial list of many well-known (and not so well known) Jewish players. Some of these players were not Jewish, but it is very likely they had Jewish ancestory. Notice all the SEVENS (and multiples of seven) for many important numbers in their careers. Notice also many connections to shemitah years:
Hank Greenberg lost playing time to both injuries and military service. In all, he played just 7 seasons of 130 or more games. That’s SEVEN.
Sandy Koufax became the dominating pitcher he became famous for in the 1959 World Series, in Game Three which he lost, 1 – 0. From 1960 to 1966, when he retired at the age of 30, he was so phenomenally successful that he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972 with a very low number of career wins, compared to others enshrined there. And, yes, he dominated baseball for 7 years, from the shemitah in 1959 to the shemitah year of 1966. That’s SEVEN.
Shawn Green sat out Yom Kippur during the tight pennant race of 2001. His team, the Dodgers, lost, but he was honored by the Lord the following season. On May 23rd, 2002, he had the greatest offensive day in the history of Major League Baseball, covering thousands and thousands of games since the late 1800’s. He hit four home runs, a double, and a single – that’s 19 total bases in one game. Shawn Green played a lot more than seven seasons. He played more than 100 games in 14 seasons. Yeah, that’s right – 14 is exactly 2 times SEVEN!
Mike Lieberthal played 14 seasons… with SEVEN Seasons of 100 games or more, from shemitah year 1994 to shemitah year 2007…
Kevin Youklis played SEVEN full seasons, with 100 or more games… He first came to fame before he was even in the Majors, when he became a central character discussed in the book “Moneyball”. He had an outstanding career at the University of Cincinnati and was known for his ability to get on base. The Red Sox drafted him on June 11, 2001 (the 20th of Sivan, 5761, a shemitah year.
On October 3, 2007 (the 21st of Tishrei in the shemitah year 5768) in the first inning of Game 1 of the ALDS against the Angels, he hit his first post-season home run. It was his first homer since returning from being hit by a pitch in mid-September. Announcing the game on TBS was former Orioles pitcher and fellow Jewish player, Steve Stone. Youkilis said his wrist “felt a lot better as the days have progressed. I think the best thing about it is that it’s playoff time, and adrenaline helps the most.” In the 7-game ALCS against Cleveland, he hit three more home runs, had 14 hits (tying the LCS record jointly held by Hideki Matsui and Albert Pujols since 2004), and scored 10 runs (bettering Matsui’s 2004 ALCS record) while batting .500 (another new ALCS record, bettering Bob Boone’s .455 in 1986) with a .576 OBP and a .929 slugging percentage.
In the 2007 World Series against Colorado, he hit two doubles (both in Game 1) and had three walks in only 12 plate appearances in the 4-game win. Because of the lack of the DH rule in the NL park, he was not in the starting lineup for the away games.
He saved his best, however, for the shemitah season of 2008. According to Wikipedia, “on April 2, 2008, on an unassisted game-ending play against the Oakland A’s, Youkilis broke the Major League record for most consecutive error-less games by a first baseman, previously held by Steve Garvey, at 194 games. In his 205th game without an error on April 27, Youkilis also established a new major league record for first basemen, when he fielded his 1,701st consecutive chance without an error, passing the old mark of 1,700 set by Stuffy McInnis from 1921 to 1922. His streak, which started on July 4, 2006, was snapped at 238 games (2,002 fielding attempts) on June 7, 2008 against the Seattle Mariners.
He was named AL Player of the Week for May 5–11, after batting .375 while leading the AL with five home runs, and tying for the American League lead with 10 RBIs. He was the AL’s starter at first base on the 2008 AL All-Star team that played the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, voted in by the fans in his first year on the ballot. Youkilis became the sixth Red Sox first baseman to start an All-Star Game at first base. In late July, Manny Ramirez was traded away by the Red Sox. Youkilis took over the cleanup spot of the lineup.
n 2008, Youkilis became just the third modern major leaguer (since 1901) ever to bat over .300 with more than 100 RBIs during a season in which he spent at least 30 games at both first and third base; St. Louis’ Albert Pujols (2001) and Cleveland’s Al Rosen (1954) are the only other players to accomplish the feat.
Youkilis finished third in the balloting for the 2008 AL MVP Award, receiving two first-place votes (one from Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News), while his teammate Dustin Pedroia won and Justin Morneau came in second. Only Youkilis and Morneau were named on all ballots. In the ALCS Game 5 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox were down by seven runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Youkilis scored the winning run for the Red Sox to complete the second-largest comeback in MLB postseason history. Before Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, he was named the winner of the AL Hank Aaron Award for the best offensive performance of the 2008 season”
In his last game ever in the Major Leagues (June 13, 2013 – not a shemitah year), he was 0 for 7 in an 18 inning game for the Yankees against Oakland (an irony, since Billy Beane of the A’s had wanted to draft Youkalis in 2001).
Al Rosen,… played full time from 1950 to 1956… yes, that’s right… SEVEN YEARS.
Harry Danning… debuted as a rookie on the soon-to-be World Champion New York Giants in 1933. World War Two ended his career in 1942… he had 7 seasons with more than 100 at-bats/plate appearances.
Ike Danning, Harry’s brother, only lasted a brief time, in 3 games for the St. Louis Browns in 1928… enough for only 7 plate appearances… that’s SEVEN plate appearances.
Cal Abrams was born on 1 Adar 5684 (March 2, 1924), a shemitah year. He played in 7 seasons with more than 100 plate appearances/at-bats.
Phil Weintaub played in 7 seasons all together – that’s SEVEN – including for the Phillies in the shemitah year of 1938. After playing a number of games for the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds in left field – that’s position 7 – he played only at first base for the Phillies. In 1938, he had one of the best seasons of his career – batting .311 with 4 HR’s and 45 RBI’s in 100 games. Very oddly, his OBP and his SP were exactly the same – both at .422. He didn’t play in the Majors again until 1944 (the end of which was a shemitah) and he retired before the end of the 1945 season, before the shemitah ended. He was 37 in his last game.
Morrie Arnovich played Major League Baseball for… 7 seasons. He played 4 ½ years with the Phillies, ½ season with Cincinnati, and two years with the Giants. His primary position? Left field (7). In his career, he had 771 total bases.
Brad Ausmus played for quite a while – 14 seasons of over 100 games. (14 = 2 X SEVEN!). He had over 7000 plate appearances, and scored 718 runs for his career.
Moe Berg played one season for Brooklyn in 1923, then returned three years later in 1926 and played 14 seasons after that.
Lou Boudreau was born on July 17, 1917, during a shemitah year. That date is 7 – 17 – 17. He debuted in the shemitah year of 1938. He played in only one game that season… then he played for 14 seasons after that. As an announcer, he called the game which signaled a break in the Phillies’ curse, the 23 – 22 game in 1979. He played his last game in the shemitah year of 1952, and died in a shemitah year (a month before 9/11, in 2001).
Ken Holtzman played 14 seasons with at least one decision (he pitched just 3 innings his first year, with no decisions). His best season was 1973 – a shemitah year – when he won 21 games (21/3 = 7). On October 14, 1972, on the 6th of Cheshvan in the shemittah year of 5733, he won Game One of the World Series over Cincinnati. He had a career total of 7 (seven) World Series starts. By the way, Jewish broadcaster, Al Michaels, called his first World Series game in 1972, Ken Holtzman’s only win that Series.
And… the Miracle on Ice game that Al Michaels is most famous for… happened in a shemitah – on February 22nd, 1980 – that’s 5 Adar 5740.
On the 3rd of Cheshvan 5733, Al Michaels, in his first year as a Reds’ broadcaster, called the final play of the National League Championship Series. Johnny Bench hit a home run to right field to tie it in the 9th (over the head of Roberto Clemente, who, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, was playing in his final game). Bob Moose of the Pirates infamously uncorked a wild pitch later in the inning, allowing George Foster to score the pennant-winning run from third. All of this was called brilliantly by a young Al Michaels, calling his first post-season. Do you know who was a color commentator in Game One of the NLCS? One Sandy Koufax, who just happens to be… well…
Steve Stone was a pitcher for the Giants, White Sox, and Orioles. He had his best year in the shemitah year of 1980 and won the American League Cy Young Award. He won 25 games, 10 more than he had ever won before. In his last three seasons, he was 11 – 7, 25 – 7, and 4 – 7. He did pitch for the Orioles in the 1979 World Series, pitching just 2 innings, giving up 4 hits and two earned runs in Game 4 (which the Orioles eventually won). He broke down in 1981, winning only 4 games before retiring. He did have an impressive total of 7 shutouts over his career, though.
John Lowenstein, Stone’s non-Jewish teammate, kept going. Now, I know John Lowenstein was not Jewish, but with a name like that, he no doubt had Jewish ancestors. That counts – Ralph Branca, who served up Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in the shemitah year of 1951, was half Jewish (but didn’t know it until 2011). In the ALCS against the Angels, pinch-hitter Lowenstein hit a three-run walk-off homer to take Game 1 for the Orioles, 6–3. In the World Series, in Game 4, Lowenstein was called on to picch hit against Kent Tekulve in the 8th. He made the move pay off by slamming a two-run double. If you listen to a clip of the game, you’ll hear Howard Cosell and Al Michaels (both Jewish) calling the play. The other announcer is Don Drysdale (who is not Jewish, but had a famous teammate who was – Sandy Koufax).
Buddy Myer played with the Washington Senators (and a year and a half with the Red Sox) for 17 seasons from 1925 to 1941. He played 80 games or more in 14 seasons. He had several very good seasons, including 1935, when he won the American League batting title with a .349 average. He ended his career with an outstanding total of 2131 hits and a .303 career batting average. One of his last best seasons was in the shemitah year of 1938, when he, at the age of 34, he hit a career-best 6 home runs. His batting average of .336 didn’t lead the league, but it was certainly excellent. His on-base average was also a career-best .454, and his slugging percentage was a career-second-best .464. That gave him an OPS of .918, also a career-best.
Barney Pelty was one of the first Jewish players in the American League. He was nicknamed “the Yiddish Curver.” He leads all Jewish pitchers in lifetime ERA (2.63), ahead of Sandy Koufax. He is 7th among Jewish pitchers in strikeouts with 693. He debuted in the shemitah year of 1903, getting his first win over Bill Dinneen of the soon-to-be World Champion Boston Red Sox. During his career, Pelty ran a bookstore in his Farmington hometown in the off-seasons. He worked as an inspector for the Missouri State Food and Drug Department, and was an alderman for several terms in Farmington. Washington Post columnist Joe S. Jackson’s wrote in 1912 that Pelty “is one of the wisest pitchers in the game.” Pelty pitched one last game in 1937 in an exhibition against Grover Cleveland Alexander, dropping the decision. (The shemitah started on September 5, 1937… any time after that would put Pelty’s last game in that year).
Jason Marquis has played for 14 seasons – but he’s not done yet. He has 121 wins and 114 losses – but he has made the Reds 2015 roster. His best ERA so far was in his second season for Atlanta – 3.48 – in the shemitah year of 2001.
George Earnshaw was from a wealthy New York family, but was not known to be Jewish. There’s not enough about him on the internet to know if he had Jewish blood or not, but I suspect he did. For one thing, he started late – he signed with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics at the age of 28 (a multiple of 7) and ended early, in 1936 at the age of 36. Here’s what it says about him on the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) website: “Earnshaw contributed a 7-7 record and better-than-average 3.81 ERA in 22 starts, but walked 100 batters in 158 innings. As he remembered it, he was so wild he never got past the seventh inning in his early outings. He credited catcher Cochrane’s tough-love pep talk for turning his season around. He won his first game in his seventh appearance, a 5-0 three-hitter over Boston, and later pitched another three-hit shutout against the St. Louis Browns.” George Earnshaw was the star for the Mackmen in the shemitah year World Series of 1930. He pitched brilliantly in three starts, winning two over the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals. “The 1930 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals marked the pinnacle of Earnshaw’s career. He pitched 22 consecutive scoreless innings. He won the second game, 6-1, giving up only a second-inning homer to George Watkins, then pitched seven shutout innings in Game Five before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in a scoreless tie. Grove relieved him and got the victory when Jimmie Foxx delivered on his promise to “bust up the game right now” with a ninth-inning homer.
Earnshaw came back on one day’s rest to win the deciding sixth game, surrendering just a ninth-inning run. In 25 innings he gave up two runs on 13 hits, and struck out 19. An NBC radio microphone, in the Athletics clubhouse for the first broadcast of a victory celebration, picked up Earnshaw’s teammates shouting “Iron Man” when he was introduced. The losing manager, Gabby Street, said, “It was just a case of too much Earnshaw.” Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes, who pitched against Earnshaw in the Series, said years later, “We’d heard about Grove, how hard he could throw. But I’ll tell you, the guy we thought threw the hardest was Earnshaw.” “ His World Series ERA was a stifling 0.72. In the shemitah season of 1931, he won 21 and lost 7. He finished his career with a total of 127 wins.
I suspect Madison Bumgarner has Jewish blood. This is what is written about him on Wikipedia: Andrew Baggarly, a reporter who covers the Giants, wrote of Bumgarner, “While I wouldn’t describe him as outgoing, he struck me as being smart, well spoken and polite. He is deeply Christian and seems to be very grounded.” And look who he’s being compared to: “His 0.43 ERA in the 2014 World Series was the lowest in a single World Series (minimum 15 innings) since Sandy Koufax posted a 0.38 ERA in the 1965 World Series.” And he was the “First pitcher to throw at least four scoreless innings in a World Series Game 7 (2014) on two days’ rest since Sandy Koufax’s shutout for the Dodgers in 1965.” That’s the World Series where Sandy Koufax sat out the first game because it was on Yom Kippur, then had three starts; he was the most overpowering he ever was.
I also think there is very strong evidence that Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel had Jewish ancestry and had a career that reflected his heritage. Here’s some significant clues:
1) Stengel is a Jewish name. “No, it’s not! It’s a German name!” Yes. Just like “Greenberg” is a German name; so is Braun (as in Steve Braun, Ryan Braun, and Sandford Braun, who took his adoptive father’s name of Koufax). Many Jewish people have German names because the wanted German-sounding surnames to blend in more with the German-speaking cultures they lived in. Anyway, many of them spoke Yiddish, which is basically German with a number of Hebraic words thrown in. Another possibility is that his ancestors, Stengels or not, may have converted from Jews to Messianic Jews. Many Jews became Christians during the time of the Reformation, like the family of Felix Mendelssohn. There is a Rabbi Reuven Stengel.
2) He didn’t practice Judaism: true, but meaningless. Moe Drabowsky was born in Poland to a Jewish family that had the blessing of Yahweh to be able to come to America before the Holocaust. But, despite that, he was not a practicing Jew. But it’s ancestry, not practice, that’s the important thing; Yahweh knows who His people are, even if the people themselves don’t. Casey Stengel, apparently, didn’t practice any faith that was discernable, but he could still have Jewish ancestors. Yahweh blesses His Chosen people, whether they recognize Him or not.
3) He was born in a Shemitah year, 30 July 1890. Not every Jewish player was born in a Shemitah year, but a good number of them were. And not every ball player born in a Shemitah year is Jewish. But that 1 in 7 chance correlation seems to be significant.
4) He had the personal characteristics commonly associated with Jewish people. Those are: being extremely intelligent; being witty and funny (like the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and a huge list of others) and successful at what they do (thus the idea that all Jewish people are rich. Let’s look at Casey: do I need to go further? First of all, he really didn’t want to be a baseball player when he started his career – he wanted to be a dentist. He played professional baseball, at first, to help pay for dental school. He eventually gave it up because he had a hard time using the dental equipment of the day, since he was left-handed and all the tools were made for right-handed people. His nickname was “The Old Perfessor” but not in an ironic sense. He could talk baseball for hours and was recognized as a genius in understanding the game. Many have commented that, despite his reputation as a clown and his ability to ramble on with what sounded like nonsense, he was known to be shrewd snd very intelligent. Notice: he was considered a clown by many … Babe Ruth called him the funniest guy he knew.
Nathan (Joe) Ginsberg started his career behind the plate with Detroit in 1948. He ended with the 1962 New York Mets. He bounced around, playing for 7 (that’s right – SEVEN) different Major League teams. In his career, he didn’t steal many bases (not many catchers do). He finished with a lifetime total of 7 (that’s SEVEN).
Mike Schmidt is an interesting case.
1) He has a German name – and that can mean he has Jewish ancestry. For example, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem Schmidt is the president of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation and director of the Lubavitch House of Philadelphia. He has been involved in Jewish outreach since before 1980 (most of which was a Shemitah), when he founded the Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania.
2) The 1980 Shemitah season was also probably Mike Schmidt’s best season. He hit the most home runs in any season.
3) He made his Major League debut (against the Mets) on September 12, 1972. That was 4 Tishrei 5733, a Shemitah year. He hit his first home run on September 16, 1972, on the 8th of Tishrei, 5733. Those dates occur between the Highest Holy Days on the Jewish calendar: Rosh Hashanah (1 Tishrei) and Yom Kippur (10 Tishrei).
4) On Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) in the Shemitah year of 5740, on September 22, 1979, he homered off of Steve Rogers of the Expos. On Yom Teruah, 5741, September 11, 1980, he homered off of Ray Burris of the Mets.
5) I consider the “162-game averages” to be significant as one way to fairly compare players. Some like “WAR” the best – and it does balance the problem of different “eras” in baseball – like it really isn’t fair to compare sluggers in the mid-to-late 1960’s with sluggers who played in the late ‘90’s to early 2000’s. Anyway, Michael Jack averaged 37 home runs and 107 RBI’s for his 162 game average.
Honus Wagner is another fascinating case:
- Many Jewish people are named Wagner, including Rabbi Israel Wagner of the Jewish congregation at Beach Haven, New Jersey.
- Honus Wagner was nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman” for his phenomenal speed and his German heritage (“Dutch” for “Deutsch”), Casey Stengel’s other nickname was “Dutch” for the same reason.
- He played 21 seasons (21 = 3 x SEVEN)
- He had enormous success on the baseball field; he tied with Babe Ruth for second (behind only Ty Cobb) when the first Hall of Fame election was conducted in 1936
- Like Mike Schmidt is considered the best third baseman ever, Honus Wagner is, even nearly 100 years after his retirement, the greatest shortstop of all time. He was such a good fielder that he was the best at any position he played.
- He debuted in a Shemitah (19 Tamuz 5657, or July 19, 1897); he played his last game on the very day of Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) of the Jubilee year directly following a seventh Shemitah.
- He led the Pirates to a National League pennant in 1902 (there was no World Series that year). He led the NL in runs scored, doubles, RBI’s, stolen bases, slugging percentage, and getting hit by a pitch. In 1903, he led the Pirates to another pennant in 1903 and led the NL in triples, along with winning his second of eight batting titles, with an average of .355. The end of the 1902 season and most of the 1903 season took place in a Shemitah. After the end of the Shemitah, in the 1903 World Series, Wagner struggled as the Pirates lost to the Boston Pilgrims (now the Red Sox), 5 games to three.
- He led the Pirates to victory in the next World Series to be played in a Shemitah: 1909. He batted a crisp .333 (to Ty Cobb’s anemic .231) and drove in 7 (that’s SEVEN) runs.
- Take a look at his pictures – notice anything about his face? Italians are known for tending to have large Roman noses; now, which other ethnic group are know for having prominent noses? No, I don’t think it’s Germans…
Charlie Gehringer: and speaking of Germans…
Just look at this introduction to “The Mechanical Man’ from Wikipedia: (I did not write this!) Bold emphasis and bracketed statements are mine.
.Widely regarded as one of the greatest second basemen of all time, during his career Gehringer, who batted left-handed and threw with his right, compiled a .320 batting average and had seven seasons with more than 200 hits. He was the American League batting champion in 1937 with a .371 average and was also named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. [The Shemitah began on September 5, 1937, so he finished his greatest season and was voted MVP during a Shemitah]. He was among the Top 10 vote recipients in the Most Valuable Player voting for seven straight years from 1932 to 1938. He was the starting second baseman and played every inning of the first six All Star Games… Gehringer was also one of the best-fielding second basemen in history, having led all American League second basemen in fielding percentage and assists seven times. His 7,068 assists is the second highest total in major league history for a second baseman. He also collected 5,369 putouts as a second basemen (the 6th highest total for a second baseman) and 1,444 double plays (the 7th highest total for a second baseman).
He was born to German Catholic parents, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have Jewish ancestry (like so many other Germans). He was intelligent, attending the University of Michigan, leaving only because the Detroit manager Ty Cobb saw how good he was and signed him to a contract after a tryout in 1923.
He was a quiet man (not a typical Jewish characteristic), but he had a sense of humor about his reputation. At a civic banquet in his honor, Gehringer’s entire speech consisted of the following: “I’m known around baseball as saying very little, and I’m not going to spoil my reputation.” When asked why he signed his name “Chas. Gehringer,” he responded: “Why use seven letters when four will do?” On another occasion, when asked about his closed-lip reputation, he responded: “Not true; if somebody asked me a question, I would answer them. If they said, ‘Pass the salt,’ I would pass the salt.”
Gehringer’s 127 RBIs in 1934 is all the more remarkable given the fact that he played in the same lineup with one of the greatest RBI men of all time, Hank Greenberg. Gehringer later recalled that Greenberg would tell him: “Just get the runner over to third,” so Hank could drive them in. Gehringer noted that “Hank loved those RBIs,” to the point that Gehringer once kidded Greenberg: “You’d trip a runner coming around third base just so you could knock him in yourself.”
- Charlie Gehringer was born in a Shemitah year (May 11, 1903 = 14 Iyyar 5663).
- He debuted in a Shemitah year (September 22, 1924 = 23 Elul 5684).
- He performed very well in three World Series (1934, 1935, and 1940), with a total of 7 RBI’s and 7 walks.
Ryan Braun, as I look up his stats on August 8, 2015, has exactly 1400 hits for his career. His 162-game average for plate appearances is, at this moment, exactly 700. His average runs scored per 162-game-season is 107.