Achad, Shtayim, Shalosh Strikes, You’re Out!

November 7, 2022
Jonathan Mintz

Memphis, Tennessee, United States of America

Class of 2024

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Jewish players have been getting paid to play baseball just as long as anybody. That’s not an exaggeration or joke or anything. The first known set of professional baseball players, or anybody being paid for their skills on the diamond, included Lipman Pike, a Jew! He and two others had been receiving 20$ a week under the table to play baseball! He lived his entire life before the turn of the century. What's that? I have to be more specific? OK. He lived his entire life before the year 1900. To celebrate over 150 years of professional Jewish baseball, I’ve compiled the MLB All-Jewish Team, a lineup composed of many of the greatest Jewish legends ever to pick up a bat.

Pitcher: Sandy Koufax

I mean, did you really think this could be anything else? Koufax has two incredibly famous moments over his career. First, the eighth perfect game thrown in MLB history. Second, only a few months later, he famously missed a start in the 1965 World Series due to observance of Yom Kippur. If that’s not Jewish, I don’t know what is. Over the course of Koufax’s eleven year career, Koufax won three Cy Young awards and an MVP award. With a career 131 ERA+, 48.9 WAR, and well over 2,000 innings pitched, Koufax stacks up well not just among Jewish pitchers, but pitchers in general. Koufax is the greatest Jewish baseball player ever and I’m not sure it’s even close.

Catcher: Steve Yeager

While Yeager wasn’t Jewish while playing, only converting to Judaism after his playing days, I’m still going to put him here. For one thing, he’s probably more involved in his Judaism than most Jews, having chosen to become a Jew rather than being born as one, and for another, there were no other good options at catcher. He grades out incredibly on defense, with an excellent Rtot/YR of 9 and 17.9 WAR. Harry Danning was also an incredible option, but Yeager’s stellar defense as a backstop vaults him above Danning.

First Baseman: Hank Greenberg

The original “Hebrew Hammer” (and “Hammerin’ Hank” for that matter) is one of the two ballplayers I put on this list without considering a second option. Similar to Koufax, Hank also refused to play a game on Yom Kippur. Greenberg became the first Jew to win an MVP award, winning a pair, and reach the golden hall of Cooperstown. Greenberg sports a career 159 OPS+, over 1,500 hits, and over 300 homers. Greenberg went to the plate over 5,000 times in his 12-year career (not counting his 1930 season where he only had one plate appearance), and ended with 55.5 career WAR. The five time All-Star was an easy choice for this list.

Second Baseman: Ian Kinsler

The man up the middle for this team is the former Texas Ranger Ian Kinsler. While not a practicing Jew, Kinsler has stated that his heritage is something he’s quite proud of. He even obtained Israeli citizenship in order to play for team Israel in the 2020 Olympics. The four-time All-Star ended his career with 54.1 WAR. Kinsler also garnered two Gold Gloves and won a World Series ring as a member of the 2018 Red Sox. With a career OPS+ of 107 and an Rtot/YR of 6, Kinsler handily beat out Jason Kipnis for the second base spot on this team.

Third Baseman: Al Rosen

Third Baseman was easily the hardest race on this list, but Al Rosen narrowly defeated Alex Bregman and Kevin Youkilis for this spot. Of course, like Greenberg and Koufax, the old-school third baseman refused to play on the high holidays. The second “Hebrew Hammers” on this list, Rosen ended his career with 32.4 WAR and a 137 OPS+. Rosen would be selected to four All-Star games, and would also win the 1953 MVP award during his decade-long career with Cleveland. Rosen amassed over 1,000 hits during his career, earning him a spot on the hot corner for this list.

Shortstop: Lou Boudreau

Lou Boudreau was the only shortstop on the forty-player list I created of Jewish baseball players to consider. Thank goodness he was such a great player. Boudreau was raised in a Jewish household and went to Passover seders with his grandparents. Boudreau had a career 120 OPS+ and 68 homers. “Handsome Lou” racked up 63.3 WAR over the course of his career. Boudreau made eight All-Star teams in 15 years. He also won the MVP award in 1948 and took home a batting title. Boudreau also played on the same Cleveland team as Al Rosen for four years.

Left Fielder: Ryan Braun

Braun is perhaps the biggest Jewish superstar of the 21st century. Another “Hebrew Hammer,” the Brewers legend was born to an Israeli father and was even invited to a Hanukkah party with former president George W. Bush in 2007. Braun was a six-time All-Star selection and with 352 home runs, hit the most long-balls of any Jewish major leaguer. Braun played all of his fourteen years with the Milwaukee Brewers. He won the 2011 MVP award after leading the NL in both slugging percentage and OPS. Braun was most known for what he could do with a bat in his hands, winning five straight Silver Slugger awards. Braun ended his career with a 134 OPS+ and over 47 WAR.

Center Fielder: Joc Pederson

Joc Pederson may not have the greatest career on this list, but that does not mean he should be overlooked. The 30 year old San Francisco Giant is the only current player to make the lineup (though there are two current honorable mentions). Pederson played for team Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Pederson has been selected to two All-Star teams and won two World Series rings. In this past season, he posted a stellar 144 OPS+ to make his first All-Star game since his sophomore 2015 season.

Right Fielder: Shawn Green

If you want to read more about what Judaism means to Green, check out this amazing article by Louis Keene, https://forward.com/news/sports/502989/shawn-green-jewish-baseball-player-on-yom-kippur-and-antisemitism/, but I’ll go ahead and summarize my favorite part here. Green always felt connected to Judaism via fans. He said that no matter what city he was in, he always had a small fan base of Jewish kids. Green had an amazing career as well! He made the All-Star team twice in his 15-year major league career. Green hit over 300 homers while amassing 34.7 WAR. However, his defence was also notable. In addition to a Silver Slugger, he also took home a Gold Glove.

Designated Hitter: Ron Blomberg

Ron Blomberg represents two notable firsts! For Judaism, he was the first ever Jew to play for the world-famous Yankees (a word that may be the first baseball word here recognizable to non-Americans). For baseball in general, Blomberg was the first ever designated hitter! Blomberg even joked that he was actually the first “Designated Hebrew.” Blomberg was amazing with the bat in his hand, too! He posted an incredible 140 OPS+ over his eight years in the majors. He also racked up 10.1 oWAR over the six seasons where he amassed over 100 plate appearances.

Manager: Gabe Kapler

Jewish prowess in America’s pastime isn’t limited to the players. Kapler doesn’t practice Judaism regularly, but is still quite proud of his heritage. He has a Star of David tattooed on his leg, and a Holocaust remembrance tattoo on his other leg. While a decent player in his own right, Kapler really shines as a manager. Kapler has managed baseball teams for the past five years and seen some great success. He has a career .534 win percentage and won Manager of the Year in 2021 after leading the San Francisco Giants to a first place finish in the NL West!

Honorable Mentions: Max Fried, Alex Bregman, Kevin Youkilis, Rod Carew

Fried is the ace starter for the Atlanta Braves and probably the greatest Jewish pitcher since Sandy Koufax himself. Alex Bregman is the current third baseman for the Houston Astros, and has already finished top-5 in MVP voting twice in his young career. Youkilis is probably the most versatile on this list, as he was a great candidate for both corner infield spots. Hall of Famer Rod Carew would’ve easily made the list at second, but Adam Sandler was mistaken. Carew married a Jewish woman, but didn’t convert himself. He does, however, get an HM spot for being amazing at baseball and even observing several Jewish customs!

Jonathon is an Aleph from Memphis who likes songwriting, speedcubing, and photography!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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