On the second night of Passover, a simple dinner discussion that evolved into an argument between the Matzo Ball Soup and the Brisket was the impetus for this list. Going through the Internet to find any definitive list, this wonderful piece by the ubiquitous Jonah Keri from 2007 was discovered listing the Top 18 Jewish players in Baseball history. A writer from The Bleacher Report composed this list last August, which, while solid work, needs a slight revision. Any right-thinking ballclub with Kevin Youkilis in RF is a squad that lacks any concept of defense. With this mind, here is our version of the All-Jewish 25-Man Roster, kicking things off with the starting lineup:
1) Lou Boudreau, SS
2) Kevin Youkilis, DH
3) Al Rosen, 3B
4) Hank Greenberg, 1B
5) Shawn Green, RF
6) Ryan Braun, LF
7) Buddy Myer, 2B
8 ) Mike Lieberthal, C
9) Goody Rosen, CF
Lou Boudreau, the Hall-of-Fame SS for the Cleveland Indians during the 1940’s (and one of the last player-managers until Frank Robinson handed in the 1975 Opening Day lineup card with his own name penciled in) leads off, with a career OBP of .380 and among Top Ten in Defensive Wins Above Replacement. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.
Kevin Youkilis bats 2nd, in a tough decision over New York Giants/Brooklyn Dodgers great from the 1940’s, Sid Gordon. Gordon finished a 13-year career (interrupted for two seasons for serving our country in World War 2) with a .283/.377/.466 line as well as 202 Homers. The popular Boston mainstay puts up a .289/.391/.492 clip and 129 dingers to his current age of 29. We may change this based upon the “Greek god of Walks” performance in the coming seasons, but for now, Youk’s in the #2 slot.
Al Rosen, the two-time AL MVP and a dominant player in Baseball in the early 1950s, hits third. Back problems finished off what would be a Hall of Fame career by the time he turned 32 in 1956. With 33 rWAR, there’s no one even close on this list at the hot corner.
For Hank Greenberg, everyone on the Internet and documentary circles is in agreement. The consensus cleanup hitter on the All-Jewish team. On nearly EVERY team. EVER.
Batting 5th, Shawn Green, had some monster seasons both in Toronto AND Los Angeles. It’s not easy to hit 42 HRs playing half your games at Chavez Ravine – even during the steroid era. It also helps that he is the first lefty swinger in the lineup.
Ryan Braun hits sixth, again, Sid Gordon makes this a somewhat difficult decision. From the looks of things, Braun should continue to be a superstar caliber player. Until or if “The Hebrew Hammer” experiences a noticeable decline, he’ll enjoy a spot in this lineup.
Buddy Myer BARELY beats out Ian Kinsler, whose continued success in the plate could change this decision, but Myer was ultimately too good an overall performer to be ignored on this list. A fine player for the close to 17 seasons, mostly with the Washington Senators, Myer finished with a .303/.389./406 line. Kinsler by comparison is .276/.356/.406. Their fielding stats are very similar. Myer spent a good number of years at shortstop – his brutal play in the field was the catalyst for the move to 2B – but also enjoyed an outstanding range factor @ 2B. Also, keep in mind, this is a right-handed-hitting-heavy lineup. Myer batted Left. Myer is the more balanced choice.
Mike Lieberthal over New York Giants late 1930’s/early 1940’s lead backstop Harry Danning and still not a 100% certain pick. Danning’s short career ended @ age 30 with a .285/.330.415 line where Lieberthal comes in @ .274/.337/.446. Danning also wins out on defensive measures, although Liberthal did win a Gold Glove in 1999. In the final analysis, Lieberthal’s longer career bests Danning two seasons where he was among the top ten in the MVP voting for the years 1939 & 1940. Also, while Brad Ausmus is among the greatest defensive catchers in baseball history, his bat doesn’t come close to either Danning nor Lieberthal.
Goody Rosen, a centerfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the late 1930’s/mid 1940’s, gets the vote here for many reasons; 1) he batted .325 with 5.5 WAR for the 1945 season, finishing 10th in the MVP voting; 2) he’s one of the only TRUE Jewish Centerfielders on the list (you can look it up); 3) he’s left-handed; 4) he has one hellvua life story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goody_Rosen) . Many all-time Jewish players list post Shawn Green as the all-time CF, which although he played there on occasion throughout his career, if you were fielding a competitive team, you would never have Shawn Green as captain of the outfield for 150 games.
Most everyone agrees on the composition of the Starting Rotation:
1) Sandy Koufax
2) Steve Stone
3) Ken Holtzman
4) Erskine Mayer
5) Dave Roberts
The bullpen is composed of mostly lefty specialists and swingmen, again, not very much debate here:
1) Barney Pelty – SWINGMAN
2) Larry Sherry – LONG MAN
3) Scott Radinsky – LEFTY SPECIALIST – ERA+ of 119, lifetime ERA of 3.44, 52 career saves, spent much of his career pitching less than an inning a game.
4) Craig Breslow – 8TH INNING – with an ERA of 3.06 and ERA+ of 138, is arguably the greatest Jewish relief pitcher in Baseball History
5) Moe Drabowsky – CLOSER
THE BENCH. On most lists, you’ll find the all-time near-greats like Sid Gordon, Buddy Myer (many strive for relevance by naming Ian Kinsler as starting 2B) and Harry Danning or Lieberthal as backup backstop. This is a 25-man roster – these players would never be riding the pine or even platooning anywhere. In an effort to acknowledge keen Jewish players and to keep this as legitimate a team as possible, here’s a look at this roster’s bench:
Brad Ausmus, CATCHER. Pudge Rodriguez. Jim Sundberg. Gary Carter. These are the only boldface catching names with a higher career defensive WAR than Brad Ausmus. With a lineup as stacked as this, you could almost make a case that the 18-year veteran should be starting. Honorable mention should also go out to Jeff Torborg, who caught no-hitters from both Koufax and Nolan Ryan, as well as Moe Berg, who has an absolutely amazing life story. There’s another Oscar waiting for Russell Crowe if he ever decided to portray Berg’s life story on the big screen.
LIP PIKE, 2B/3B/OF: According to Wikipedia, “He was the first player to be revealed as a professional (meaning he was paid money to play),and the 1st Jewish player. . One of the first all-stars. Another great story in the history of the game.
Sam Bohne, 2B-SS: great fielder (3.7 career dWAR covering seven seasons), mostly for the Cincinnati Reds.
Phil Weintraub, OF-1B: outstanding hitter for the New York Giants (and parts of seasons for the Reds and Phillies) during the 1930’s who lost five years to the war. Weintraub returned in 1944 at age 36 to bat .316 (and a .412 OBP) in 361 at-bats .
Morrie Arnovich, OF: A fine defensive OF with the Phillies (batted .324 in 1939 through an All-Star campaign) and respected backup for the Reds and New York Giants, Arnovich also served his country well in the war, returning to the Giants for one game in 1946 at the age of 35.
Ron Blomberg, PH-1B. well-known for being the first Designated Hitter in 1973, people forget Blomberg could really rake when he was healthy. Batted .322 in 216 plate appearance in his rookie year 1971; .329 in 338 times to the plate in ’73; .311 in 1974. The Yankees waited a long time for Blomberg to get to full strength, but injuries ruined his comeback in 1976 and kept him away from the ballclub in 1977. By this point, the emerging star of Ralph Houk’s final days and the “Shea Yankees” no longer fit into The Bronx Zoo, a place where free-agent shopping built rosters as much as waiting on beloved prospects to blossom. Apologies for players such as Mike Epstein, the self-proclaimed “Super Jew” of the 1972 Oakland A’s, as well as Art Shamsky, who showed so much potential for the 1969-1971 Mets, not simply for his great catch in the ’69 series, Shamsky batted .300 & .293 in 1970 & ’71, respectively (with an incredible 13 intentional walks in only 402 plate appearances in 1970.) Back problems retarded Shamsky’s progress and he would be out of organized baseball just two years later.
Photo Credit: TimSackton