Tagged: Jewish

The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH

The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH could be just like any other book written by a former player about their playing career. Shawn Green and Gordon McAlpine could have waxed poetic about the trials and tribulations of Green’s 15-year career. Instead, they did something much better. The Way of Baseball looks at the player, Shawn Green, as a human being instead of an athlete.  Everyone has highs and lows in life, including athletes, but not all of these peaks and valleys make the news. Slumping at the plate can be just as difficult as a rocky relationship. Green and McAlpine do not examine a player’s career or even the game of baseball we see on the field, rather they examine what goes into making baseball and the player.

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The Way of Baseball is more than your typical baseball book. (Christopher Sergio)

Shawn Green was a great player. The Dodgers, and every other MLB team, do not hand out six year, $84 million contracts to every player. He played in two All Star games (1999 and 2002), earned a Silver Slugger Award (1999), and won a Gold Glove (1999). Green retired at the age of 34 with a career .283 BA, 2,003 hits, 445 2B, 328 HR (3 behind Hank Greenberg for the most by a Jewish player), and 1,070 RBI. Green’s retirement was his own decision; injury or old age did not force him out of the game as it does so many other players. Shawn Green played baseball and left baseball under his own terms, and it is abundantly clear throughout the book that he is content with everything baseball did and did not give him during his playing career.

Green and McAlpine focus two main themes: live in the present and do not hold on too tightly. Early in his career, Shawn Green, like so many of us, focused on what went wrong. The ball he misplayed in the outfield, the pitch he should have driven into the gap in the outfield, the managerial decision that reduced his playing time. His frustrations ultimately led him to find his place of peace, hitting off a tee in the batting cage. Everyone should find a place they can put the world away and find peace and for Shawn Green his was hitting a baseball off a tee. Not wanting to ruin the why or the how for those who want to read the book, which I would highly recommend, I will skip over those details. Finding his peace allowed Shawn Green to live in the moment, not swept up with the highs and not crashing back down to earth during the lows.

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Shawn Green found his stillness in the solitude of a batting cage. (Stephen Dunn/ Getty Images)

After learning to live in the present, Green thrives as he adjusts to life changes with marriage and children with an understanding that he cannot hold too tightly to some things. The harder you try and the more you press in baseball the worse the results. Trying to muscle a pitch a little harder or swinging for the fences is to almost a guarantee two things: injuring yourself and failing to achieve your goal. Learning to enjoy the ride and giving your best effort without attempting to force the results allowed Shawn Green to both enjoy playing baseball, but also know when the right time to walk away was for himself. Holding on too tight early on with the Blue Jays and for much of his time with the Dodgers took away his joy for playing baseball. Once he could loosen his grip, Shawn Green was able to enjoy the game like he did as a kid dreaming about playing in the Majors.

The Way of Baseball is unusual in that it does not focus on baseball. While baseball is all around in the book, it is the background noise of the story. The primary focus is on the daily struggles facing people, including baseball players, and how over time Shawn Green learned to live with his limitations, overcome his challenges, and let go of what he could not control. Avoiding any attempt to say that The Way of Baseball is a guidebook on how to approach life, I believe it opens the door to a world that most baseball fans rarely think about, if ever. People and players can find success in baseball in an infinite number of ways the same is true regarding the telling of a player’s career and the impact he had on baseball both during and after his career. Every baseball player is unique; they help to mold baseball from what it is today into what it will be tomorrow. Focusing more on the person instead of the player was refreshing. Not every player can successfully write about themselves and their career in this way, but Shawn Green is such a person.

DJ

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Al Rosen- Rest in Peace

We lost a legend over the weekend.  Al Rosen passed away at the age of 91.

Al Rosen, rest in peace. (www.cleveland.com)

Al Rosen, rest in peace. (www.cleveland.com)

Rosen delayed his baseball career after enlisting in the United States Navy in 1942.  He saw combat in the Pacific aboard an assault boat during the landing on Okinawa.  Rosen was a great player for the Cleveland Indians during his 10 seasons (1947-1956) in the Major Leagues.  He won the 1953 American League MVP.  After retiring he worked as the Present and CEO for the Yankees and Astros, and as the General Manager for the Giants.

 In December 2013, The Winning Run named Al Rosen as the third greatest Jewish Baseball player of all time.

Placing higher than a Hall of Fame player and manager, a spy, and a player who helped to end the Curse of the Bambino, means Al Rosen was a special player. This assertion is correct. While he has not been honored with a plaque in Cooperstown, his legacy is not forgotten.

Al Rosen’s career was delayed by his service in the Navy (1942-1946) during World War II. His actions in the Pacific include navigating an assault boat during the initial landing during the Battle of Okinawa. His actions no doubt helped to end the war and return the world to peace.

The fans of the Cleveland Indians were given the opportunity to watch the third (Rosen) and fourth (Lou Boudreau) best Jewish players in baseball history to play together from 1947 through 1950. Rosen played his entire 10 year career with the Indians. While he was only a bit player in 1947 until 1949, Rosen exploded onto the American League scene in 1950 by leading the league with 37 Home Runs. He would remain a staple of the Indians lineup until injuries forced his early retirement after the 1956 season.

Al-Rosen

Along with being apart of the 1948 World Series Championship team, Rosen had a career .285 Batting Average, with 192 Home Runs, 717 RBI, and 587 Walks against 385 Strikeouts. He was selected to four straight All Star games, led American League in Home Runs twice (1950 and 1953), RBIs twice (1952 and 1953), and was named the 1953 American League Most Valuable Player.

It is the 1953 season which launched Rosen to the third spot on the list of greatest Jewish players of all time. During this season Rosen collected 201 hits, scored 115 Runs (League leader), hit 27 Doubles, 43 Home Runs (League leader), 145 RBI (League leader), Walked 85 times against 48 Strikeouts, had .336 Batting Average (2nd in Batting Title), with a .422 On Base Percentage, .613 Slugging, 1.034 OPS, 367 Total Bases, and had a 10.1 WAR (9.1 oWAR). Winning the Triple Crown is no easy task, it has only been accomplished 16 times in baseball history, and only five times since Rosen began his career in 1947. In 1953, Rosen led the American League in Home Runs with 43, RBIs with 145, and finished second with a Batting Average of .336. The heartbreak of this seasons was that the Batting Title went to Mickey Vernon who finished the season batting .337. Rosen hit safely in 31 of his final 32 games, including the final 20 games of the season in his quest to win the Triple Crown. Ultimately, Roses, despite going 9 for his last 15, could not catch Vernon who went 5 for his last 16.

Al Rosen served his country honorably during World War II, became an All Star Major Leaguer, and put together one of the finest seasons in history in 1953. His service to both his country and to the game of baseball have earned him the distinction of being the third greatest Jewish baseball player of all time.

Rest in peace Mr. Rosen. You will be missed.

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The Greatest Jewish Baseball Player of All Time- #1 Sandy Koufax

The Left Arm of God, a nickname like this is not given out to just any sort of pitcher. To earn this nickname you must be both extraordinary and dominating, both of which Sandy Koufax was during his career. Koufax played for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1955-1966. He did not emerge as a superstar until after the Dodgers moved to southern California following the 1957 season.

Koufax pitched 12 seasons for the Dodgers. He collected 165 wins against 87 loses, with a career 2.76 ERA. He pitched 137 Complete Games, 40 Shutouts, 2324 1/3 Innings, while Walking 817 batters against 2,396 Strikeouts. His has a career 1.106 WHIP with 9.3 Strikeouts Per 9 Innings. These are Hall of Fame numbers over a 12 year career. However, beginning in 1961, until his early retirement in 1966 Koufax dominated opposing batters in ways like never before. During this six year span Koufax averaged 22 Wins, 8 Loses, six Shutouts, 272 Innings Pitched, 69 Walks, 286 Strikeouts, with a 0.970 WHIP, 9.4 Strikeouts per 9 Innings. Remember, this is what he averaged.

1st Career No Hitter. June 30, 1962 vs New York Mets

1st Career No Hitter. June 30, 1962 vs New York Mets

The career achievements for Sandy Koufax include being a seven time All Star (twice in 1961), four World Series Championships, two World Series Most Valuable Player Awards (1963 and 1965), three pitching Triple Crowns (1963, 1965, and 1966), three Cy Young Awards (1963, 1965, and 1966), National League Most Valuable Player (1963), pitched four No Hitters, pitched a Perfect Game, and 1972 Baseball Hall of Fame (youngest ever).

Statistically, Koufax dominated opposing pitchers in the National League throughout his career. He led the National League in Wins (1963, 1965, and 1966), ERA (1962 through 1966), Complete Games (1965 and 1966, 27 in each season), Shutouts (1963, 1964, and 1966), Innings Pitched (1965 with 335 2/3 and 1966 with 323), Strikeouts (1961, 1963, 1965, 1966), WHIP (1962 through 1965), Strikeouts per 9 Innings (1960 through 1962 and 1964 through 1966), Strikeout to Walk ratio (1961, 1963, and 1965).

Perfect Game. September 9, 1965 vs the Chicago Cubs

Perfect Game. September 9, 1965 vs the Chicago Cubs

Koufax also made significant news off the pitchers mound, which continues to resonate. He decided he would not pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. While he did not receive as much negative attention as Hank Greenberg did for his decision to not play on Yom Kippur in 1934, there remained much contention over the decision after Don Drysdale lost Game 1. Following the 1965, Koufax, along with Drysdale, held out for a larger contract from General Manager Buzzie Bavasi. This was highly unusual for Major League players to stand up to management regarding their contracts. The hold out should be seen as an important step, along with Curt Floods’ refusal to accept a trade in 1969 to the Philadelphia Phillies, towards the establishment of Free Agency.

Following his retirement after the 1966 season Koufax worked as a baseball announcer for NBC from 1967 through 1972. He would return to the Dodgers in 1979 as a minor league pitching coach, and held this position until 1990. Koufax remains a much beloved figure in baseball, not just among the Dodger faithful.

The Left Arm of God

The Left Arm of God

Koufax dominated from the pitchers mound like all Major League pitchers wish they could, but only a select few have ever been able to. However, his greatness lies in the stretch over which he dominated, as most pitchers would be lucky to dominate in this fashion for a few starts or maybe a season. What also makes the greatness of Koufax most impressive is he did much of this while dealing with arm trouble that could have permanently handicapped him, and ultimately forced his early retirement at age 30. Sandy Koufax is one of the elite players in Major League history. His accomplishments on and off the diamond have earned him the spot as the Greatest Jewish Baseball Player of All Time

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Greatest Jewish Baseball Players- #2 Hank Greenberg

As the first major Jewish sports star in the United States, Hank Greenberg led the charge for social acceptance for future Jewish players. Like many on the list of the eight greatest Jewish baseball players of all time, Greenberg‘s accomplishments are not confined to the baseball diamond. His contributions to the game of baseball and to the United States will continue to be felt for generations to come.

Hank Greenberg played 13 seasons in Major League Baseball. The first 12 were spent with the Detroit Tigers before finishing his career with a single season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his 13 seasons, Greenberg batter .313, with 1,051 Runs Scored, 1,628 Hits, 379 Doubles, 331 Home Runs, 1276 RBI, 852 Walks against 844 Strikeouts, with a .412 On Base Percentage, while Slugging .605, and having an OPS of 1.017. Additionally had had a career .990 Field Percentage.

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In 1934, Greenberg refused to play games schedule for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Ultimately he would play on Rosh Hashanah, after much discussion with his Rabbi, but not on Yom Kippur. He was criticized for his decision, as many fans felt he should have played on both holidays. Regardless if you are Jewish or not, one cannot argue against the courage it took for Greenberg to take such a stand for his faith, including the fact that both holidays occurred during the Tigers pennant chase. Greenberg’s actions were taken long before the idea of activist athletes was even considered, much less a reality.

A five time All Star, Greenberg twice won the Most Valuable Player Award (1935 and 1940). He also led the American League in several offensive categories, including: Runs (1938), Doubles (1935, 1940), Home Runs (1935, 1938, 1940, 1946), RBI (1935, 1937, 1940, 1946), Walks (1938, 1947), Strikeouts (1939). His OPS stayed above 1.000 in every season from 1934 through 1940.

1937 American League All Star team. 7 future Hall of Fame players. L to R: Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg.

1937 American League All Star team. 7 future Hall of Fame players. L to R: Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg.

The career statistics for Greenberg are impressive, and are staggering when you consider he only player in 19 games total from 1941 through 1944 when he was in his early thirties and his prime. In 1940, Greenberg was the first American League player to be drafted during World War II. He would be discharged shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and then volunteer to return to duty. When he was discharged for good in June 1945. He service time in the military during World War II was the longest of any Major League player.

Following his retirement from playing, Greenberg worked with the Cleveland Indians beginning in 1948, eventually becoming the General Manager, as well as part owner, and leading the team through a successful period in the 1950’s. He resigned following the 1957 season. He would also work with the Chicago White Sox as their General Manager from 1959 through 1961.

Hank Greenberg’s career numbers and individual season achievement saw him elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956. He is among the greatest baseball players of all time. His achievements and service both on and off the field rightly give him the distinction as being the second greatest Jewish baseball player of all time.

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Greatest Jewish Baseball Players- #7 Ken Holtzman

During a 15 year career, Ken Holtzman posted a record of 174 wins (the most for any Jewish pitcher) against 150 loses, with a 3.49 era. He recorded 1601 career strikeouts, which are second among Jewish pitchers behind only Sandy Koufax. Along the way Holtzman pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Yankees, before returning to the Cubs to finish his career in 1979.

Holtzman was twice selected as an American League All Star, in 1972 and 1973. He only appeared in the 1973 Mid-Summer Classic, where he pitched 2/3 of an inning, giving up only one hit, a single to Ron Santo. Holtzman was an intricate part of the Athletics winning three straight World Series Championships from 1972 to 1974. He went 59-41 with a 2.85 ERA during those three seasons.

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Holtzman is also in elite company, as he is one of just 25 pitchers in Major League history to throw more than one no hitter in his career. His first was against the Atlanta Braves on August 19, 1969. On June 3, 1971, Holtzman joined this elite club when he no hit the Cincinnati Reds.

Ken Holtzman was an excellent pitcher during his career, and his contributions to team success, along with his individual accomplishments place him at #7 on the list of greatest Jewish baseball players of All Time.

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Greatest Jewish Baseball Players- #8 Steve Stone

As today is the first full day of Hanukkah, I am beginning my countdown of the greatest Jewish baseball players of all time. This list is based upon the players success on the field and their contributions off the field. Ultimately this list is my opinion, so if you disagree please feel free to debate with me.

#8- Steve Stone

Steve Stone played 11 seasons for the San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Baltimore Orioles. He compiled a record of 107 wins and 93 loses, with a 3.97 ERA. He struck out 1,065 batters, his career Strike out to Walk ratio was 1.49, with a 1.355 career WHIP. Stone had his best year in 1980 with the Orioles. He went 25-7, with a 3.23 ERA, 149 Strikeouts, 9 Complete Games, pitched 250 2/3 innings, had a 1.297 WHIP, and Strikeout to Walk ratio of 1.48. he was named an All Star, won the Cy Young Award, and finished ninth in the MVP voting. Unfortunately, he would retire after the 1981 season, due to tendinitis from throwing so many curveballs during his career.

After his playing career was over, Stone went to the booth to provide color commentary, first with the Cubs and later for the White Sox. During his time in the broadcast booth, Stone has teamed up with legendary announcers Harry Carey and Hawk Harrelson. Also during his tenure with the Cubs, he announced with Chip Carey following the death of Harry Carey.

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Personally I have fond memories of listening to Steve Stone call the Cubs games. I tuned in every afternoon once I got home from school and usually was able to listen to the last four or five innings of the game. His contribution to baseball has been both on the field as a good Major League pitcher and in the booth as an outstanding color commentator. Steve Stone rightly lands at #8 and leads off our list of the greatest Jewish baseball players of all time.

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