Kaplan's Korner

Jews are known as "the people of the book," but they're also the people of the ball and bat and net. Kaplan's Korner, a new blog from New Jersey Jewish News, is dedicated to bringing the latest sports news and commentary on Jews in sport at a local, national, and international level.

Kaplan's Korner on Jews and Sports © 2015 New Jersey Jewish News

Book pitches WW2 as lasting part of Jewish slugger Hank Greenberg’s legacy

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Mon, 06 Jul 2015 19:14:16 | by Ron Kaplan

Editor’s note: Submitted for your interest, this feature by Jacob Kamaras at JNS.org on John Klima’slatest baseball book, The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray, and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII.

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http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61RKL5sVN1L.jpgBaseball fans might most vividly remember Hank Greenberg for his chase of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1938 and his other impressive exploits on the field. The smaller universe of Jewish baseball fans may remember him for sitting out a crucial game on Yom Kippur decades before Sandy Koufax would do the same. But author John Klima wants readers of any background to know the unsung story of Greenberg’s World War II service. As indicated by its title, Klima’s recently published book is about much more than Greenberg. Yet the Hall-of-Fame first baseman and outfielder, who won two Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards and two World Series championships with the Detroit Tigers, is the centerpiece.

“I had wanted to write a baseball and World War II book, and I didn’t like how any of them had been done before,” Klima says in an interview. “I thought they were all textbooks, or I thought they were rehashes of newspaper articles, and I didn’t think there was anything narrative. So if I was going to do something long-form and narrative, then I needed a character people could connect with, and that character was Hank Greenberg.”

After an initial army stint of half a year, Greenberg was honorably discharged on Dec. 5, 1941, two days before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. In a statement of epic proportions, Greenberg voluntarily re-enlisted in the Army Air Corps immediately after the attack and did not return to Major League Baseball until the summer of 1945. Baseball’s highest-paid player before the war, Greenberg was the first Major Leaguer to enlist, becoming the face of an era that—with conscription depleting baseball of much of its top-tier talent — forever changed the MLB and the entire American professional sports landscape, Kima’s book argues.

“What you found out about Hank Greenberg was that he really represented everything to everyone, and he represented everything to the Jewish people before the war, during the war, and after the war,” Klima tells JNS.org. “And then the rest of the country, even though they knew about him as an American League MVP and a big slugger, kind of embraced him, I think, the same way that the Jewish population had in the 1930s, in the sense that Hank suddenly represented the ballplayer who left the privileges of his life to go sacrifice and serve. That was Hank’s decision. Not only does he end up representing the guy who served, but then he ends up representing the soldier who’s coming back and putting his life together.”

Upon Greenberg’s return to baseball in 1945, he hit a grand-slam home run that clinched the American League pennant on the last day of the season. The Tigers later defeated the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. But before his triumphant comeback, the absence of Greenberg and other stars like him opened the door for players such as one-armed outfielder Pete Gray — who shares the cover of Klima’s book with Greenberg—to realize their dream of reaching the Major Leagues.

In an anecdote from The Game Must Go On that brings the book’s major protagonists together, Greenberg and Gray “stood arm in arm in the steady St. Louis rain, talking softly for a few moments” during the same game Greenberg won with his historic home run.
Click photo to download. Caption: Hank Greenberg in his baseball (left) and military uniforms. Credit: Provided photo.

“This was the image of baseball in World War II,” Klima writes. “The serviceman was thanking the temporary worker for keeping the factory humming while he was on. The hero got his life back. The replacement was swept out the door. Hank seemed to realize what few others could, that both of them had helped win the war in their own different ways.”

Indeed, while players such as Greenberg made their contributions on the battlefield, the likes of Gray kept the game alive on the baseball field and boosted both Americans’ morale at home and soldiers’ morale overseas.

Greenberg’s gesture in the season-ending game against the St. Louis Browns — which was also Gray’s final MLB game — “was as grand as any home run he ever hit,” writes Klima.

“That was a very symbolic moment,” Klima tells JNS.org. “I don’t like doing my baseball histories the way other people do. I like moments that tie things together.”

Gray and Greenberg both endured hate, the former for his physical disability and the latter over his Jewish faith. On the field with Gray that day, Greenberg’s character shone through.

“Hank had a very deep integrity about him that transcended everything he did on the field,” Klima says. “When Hank found these moments of integrity, he just sailed above everything.… Hank is going to do what Hank knows is right. That’s really the essence of Greenberg, and I think that’s why people are still drawn to him. That’s why I’m drawn to him. He’s got tunnel-vision for the right thing.”

Klima writes that Greenberg, after hitting the pennant-winning home run, “swore he heard one of the infielders mutter, ‘Goddamn that dirty Jew bastard, he beat us again.’ He savored the thought of the Washington Senators (who lost the pennant because of the Tigers’ win that day) sitting around a hotel room listening to his grand slam on the radio, calling him every dirty Jew name in the book, and he loved the thought of how angry his home run must have made them.”

“Hank was hearing ‘dirty Jew bastard’ all the way through the end of his career. He didn’t talk about it after the 1930s, but he still heard it. The big leagues were a rough, nasty place,” Klima says, adding that the Washington Senators were a particularly “anti-Semitic bunch.”

Kilma believes Greenberg “took a lot of joy in triumphing over bigots,” but “would never say it to you” and “would always let his actions speak louder than his words.”

Greenberg was also understated about his military service, which was highlighted by his time in the China Burma India Theater (CBI) region with the first group of Boeing B-29 Superfortress aircraft during the bombing campaign against Japan. But one incident Greenberg did elucidate with a firsthand account was a dramatic story from June 1944, when he was part of a ground crew trying to rescue a plane that developed engine trouble and could not get airborne. The bombs on the plane exploded during the rescue effort, nearly killing Greenberg.

“I was stunned and couldn’t talk or hear for a couple days, but was otherwise undamaged,” Greenberg says, according to the book. “The miraculous part of it all was that the entire crew escaped. Some of them were pretty well banged up, but no one was killed. That was an occasion, I can assure you, when I didn’t wonder whether or not I’d be able to return to baseball. I was quite satisfied to be alive.”

While Greenberg would not “make a big deal” out of his military service publicly, Klima says, it “was something he cared about immensely.”

“He took great pride in it,” says the author. “He didn’t need any adulation for it, and I actually didn’t write the book to hero-worship him. I wrote the book because it was a good story, and he’s the rock that you could build it around. So that’s sort of my compromise with Hank.”

Reiterating how Greenberg’s actions spoke louder than words, Klima says, “If you walked up to Hank and said, ‘Tell me about how you’re standing up for the Jewish people,’ Hank would probably demur. But if you watched him in his everyday life, you would see him do that everyday.”

Klima says he cares about “the people who still look up to Hank,” and that he hopes the book both preserves and accurately depicts the legacy of the Jewish ballplayer, who died in 1986.

“Hank’s integrity allows that book to stand up, and he allows the story of the war to stand up,” says Klima.

“I would want every Jewish person in the world to read it,” he adds. “I would want them to know. I would want kids to know. I would want Catholic kids to know. I would want everybody to know about Hank. I just think that they don’t make ballplayers like Hank Greenberg anymore, and I don’t think they make ballplayers who are people like Hank Greenberg anymore.”

Alex gets his souvenir

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Mon, 06 Jul 2015 17:25:00 | by Ron Kaplan

“Ballhawk” Zack Hample has agreed to give the 3,000-hit ball to the Yankees’ DH.


In the case of two wrongs not making a right, I was always in Rodriguez’s corner when it came to being paid for achieving milestones. No one held a gun to the Yankees when they agreed to pay $6 million when he hit his 660th home run. To say after they fact they didn’t approve of how he did it as a stand for morality struck me as BS. If that’s the case, how many wins are they willing to give back, how many titles because players like him and Roger Clemens “may not” have been on the up and up?

Okay, climbing down off the soap box now…

Hample has already written a handful of books on baseball. Wonder if a fourth is in the offing?

In a semi-related note, an appeals court judge agreed that a lower court judge properly dismissed suit against Ryan Braun.

Jewps/Jice update

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Mon, 06 Jul 2015 15:05:49 | by Ron Kaplan

Yeah, there’s still stuff going on in other sports.

When doing research for the Maccabiah book, I learned that the two main sporting clubs in Israel — Maccabi and Hapoel — shared an intense rivalry for domination. That “tradition” continues as Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem are batting for the services of Gal Mekel, who enjoyed an all-too-brief career in the NBA.

In the meantime, free agent Omri Casspi has re-signed with the Sacramento Kings. The two-year deal is good for a reported $6 million.

Also in the meantime, Dylan Reese signed a contract with the Arizona Coyotes. Reese, 30, has parts of five seasons in the bank in the NHL. He appeared in one game for the Coyotes in the 20-14-15 season.


JML update, weekend edition (July 3-5, 2015)

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Mon, 06 Jul 2015 14:38:08 | by Ron Kaplan

Kevin Pillar was 3-15 with his seventh home run of the year as the Toronto Blue Jays dropped two of their three games to the host Detroit Tigers. Pillar’s solo shot came in Saturday’s 8-3 loss and accounted for the Jays first run. Nice piece on him inthe Canadian newspaper, the National Post, and TSN, which I’m guessing is Canada’s version of ESPN.

Danny Valencia started in the Saturday and Sunday games, going 2-8 with his 12th double, scoring three runs and drawing a walk.

Ian Kinsler was 5-13 with his third triple of the season. He scored one, drove in three (raising his total to 36), and was hit by a pitch.

Ryan Braun was also 5-13 with two doubles (15 total), three run scored, a walk, two RBI (55) and three stolen bases (12) as the Milwaukee Brewers swept the host Cincinnati Reds.

In his only start of the weekend, Oakland As outfielder Sam Fuld cracked his first home run of 2015 for the only run in a 2-1 loss to the visiting Seattle Mariners yesterday. The third inning shot to right gave the As a 1-0 lead. He did not appear in Friday’s game and entered the Saturday contest as a defensive replacement.

Teammate Ike Davis struck out as a pinch hitter on Friday, went 1-3 with a walk as the staring first baseman on Saturday (where he made a fine defensive play), and walked as a pinch hitter yesterday. The As and Mariners split the four-game series, which began on Thursday.

Nate Freiman cleared waivers and was sent to AAA by the As, who had designated him for assignment last week.

Joc Pederson had a bit of a lost weekend, going 0-13 as the LA Dodgers lost two of three to the visiting NY Mets.

Craig Breslow appeared in just one game for the Boston Red Sox. He gave up a home run in 1.1 innings on Friday in a 12-8 loss to the visiting Houston Astros. Breslow has been victimized by the long ball six times this year, with three coming in his last two outings, including one to fellow MOT Danny Valencia in a 12-6 win on Thursday.

Ryan Lavarnway‘s only appearance for the Atlanta Braves this weekend came on July 3 when he went 1-3 in a 2-1 win over the visiting Philadelphia Phillies.

Scott Feldman allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits in three innings for the Houston Astros’ AA Corpus Christi affiliate in a 7-5 loss to the host Springfield Cardinals. He also walked three batters and strike out three. In other words, he was pretty much as he was before he got injured.

Jon Moscot remains on the disabled list for the Reds.

Although he’s been slumping lately — 4-33 over his last nine games — Pederson has a shot to be a starting outfielder in the July 14 All-Star game. Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Holliday– both voted in as starters by the fans — are both injured. Pederson ranked sixth in voting so you never know.

Talk about inflation. Toronto third-baseman John Donaldson led all vote-getters with 14,090,188, beating the old record of 11,073,744 for Josh Hamilton in 2011. Of course, this year fans were allowed to vote up to 35 times. So the numbers seem meaningless.

In the meantime, Cody Decker, one of the San Diego Padres’ prospects, was named to the PCL All-Star team.


JML update, July 3

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Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:34:40 | by Ron Kaplan

Danny Valencia, getting the start in left field for the Toronto Blue Jays, hit a rare MOT-on-MOT home run, notching his fifth against the visiting Boston Red Sox’s Craig Breslow in the ninth of a 12-6 loss. Breslow had given up a home run to the previous batter as well, as well as another hit in his one inning of work. Not at the office today so I can’t consult my MOT Home Run Log to see how often this has happened, but logic dictates, with the paucity of Jewish Major Leaguers, it can’t have been too many times. Valencia has had a single in four at bats. He was also thrown out on a play to the plate that was upheld after a challenge by the Jays. Managder John Gibbons was ejected for arguing the outcome. Teammate Kevin Pillar had three singles and a double (#17) in five at bats and scored one run. It was the first four-hit game of his career. The Sox scored eight runs in the first to seal the deal early.

Ian Kinsler was 3-5, including his 17th double, but his Detroit Tigers lost to the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-4. Still hasn’t had a great hot streak. He also made a nice defensive play. The Tigers lost all three games in the series. Manager Brad Ausmus was tossed from the game.

Ryan Braun was 1-6 as the Milwaukee Brewers outlasted the host Philadelphia Phillies, 8-7 in 11 innings. Braun scored once and drove in the Brewers’ first run in the opening frame, his 53rd of the year.

Sam Fuld was a defensive replacement for the Oakland As in their 4-0 shutout over the visiting Seattle Mariners and did not come to bat. Ike Davis did not appear in the game. The As designated first baseman Nate Freiman for assignment. Freiman was hitting .171 in the minors, suffering the aftereffects of a back injury.

Ryan Lavarnway did not appear for the Atlanta Braves in their 2-1 win over the visiting Washington Nationals.

No game for Joc Pederson and the LA Dodgers.

Scott Feldman is expected to join the Houston Astros’ Double-A Corpus Christi affiliate to start his rehab assignment with a start on Sunday. Jon Moscot remains on the disabled list for the Cincinnati Reds.

ESPN 30 for 30 doc on Moe Berg airs July 3

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Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:53:32 | by Ron Kaplan

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/MoeBergGoudeycard.jpgSpyball, part of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 Shorts series, will make its debut during ESPN’s SportsCenter tomorrow at  6 p.m. But there’s a caveat.

As per the publicity arm of ESPN in a message that appears on the Jewish Sports Collectible Yahoo group message board:

Great news…SPYBALL will debut on ESPN’s SportsCenter, Friday, July 3, in the 6-7PM EST hour. It will play several times over the coming weeks. Because our film is longer than the 12 minute time slot, ESPN will only show the first 12 minutes and then premiere the full 18 minute film on ESPN’s Grantland the following Wednesday, July 8, around 11AM EST. (My emphasis)

We’re excited about the ESPN’s Grantland roll out. It the last few months Grantland has released short films for the prestigious filmmaker Errol Morris, and their viewership has reached over two million people and counting. It will also allow the film to live digitally and be easily shared around the world….

Showing only the first 12 minutes means that the audience will be left with a cliff hanger. Did Moe shoot Heisenberg? They will then have to go to the Grantland website to watch the the full film. We’re pretty certain Mysterious Moe would’ve loved the intrigue of it all.

And from the ESPN publicity team in an email:

FDR once said to the head of his spy agency, “Give my regards to the catcher.” Why would the President of the United States say that? Because the catcher was Moe Berg, who spent 15 seasons in the majors before taking up espionage for the government. In “Spyball,” a 30 for 30 short for ESPN Films, directors Christina Burchard and Daniel Newman tell the extraordinary story of Berg, a linguist/lawyer/.243 lifetime hitter whom Casey Stengel called “the strangest man to ever play the game of baseball.” Educated at Princeton and Columbia, he was friends with Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein and the Marx Brothers, but it was his loyalty to his country that truly distinguished him. His surreptitious filming of Tokyo during a 1934 baseball tour helped in the bombing of that city during World War II, and the intelligence he provided at the end of that war assured FDR that the Americans were ahead of the Nazis in the race to create an atomic bomb. Adding to the appeal of this documentary is the dramatic narration by one of the strangest men to ever play the game of baseball, namely “The Spaceman,” Bill Lee.


Shameless self-promotion, part X

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Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:46:55 | by Ron Kaplan

FinalCopyReceivedBeen doing so many of these, can’t even keep track anymore.

The Jewish Book Council posted this review of my new book, The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games, on its website yesterday.

JML update, July 2, 2015

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Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:24:21 | by Ron Kaplan

Here’s the update for the past two days, actually.

Ryan Braun accounted for 40 percent of the Milwaukee Brewers’ hits on Tuesday when he went 4-5, including his 12th double, and two runs scored in a 4-3 win over this host Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday. Last night, he drove in two runs (52 on the year) with a double — his only hit in five trips to the plate — to helped the Brewers win their season-high fourth consecutive game, 9.-5.

On Tuesday, Kevin Pillar was 1-4 with a run scored as the Toronto Blue Jays lost to the visiting Boston Red Sox, 4-3. Danny Valencia went hitless in four at bats in that one. Craig Breslow did not appear for the Sox. Yesterday, Pillar was 3-4 including his 16th double and Valencia flied out as a pinch hitter as the Jays bopped the Sox, 11-2. Breslow did not appear in that one either.

Ian Kinsler had a single and double (#16) in seven at bats on Tuesday with his Detroit Tigers losing to the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates in 14 innings. The double drove in his 31st run of the year in the seventh. He was 0-4 yesterday in a 9-3 loss.

In another Tuesday extra-inning affair, Joc Pederson singled twice in five at bats as the LA Dodgers scored three runs in the top of the 10th and held off the host Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-4. He was a defensive replacement yesterday and was hitless in his only at bat in a 4-3 loss yesterday. He is one home run shy of the NL mark for rookie before the All-Star break.

Sam Fuld was 0-2 with a walk in the Oakland As’ 2-1 loss to the visiting Colorado Rockies on Tuesday; Ike Davis did not appear in the game. On Wednesday, Fuld was employed as a defensive replacement while Davis was 0-3 as the starting first baseman, coming out for a pinch hitter in the seventh. The As won, 4-1.

Ryan Lavarnway did not appear in the Atlanta Braves’ 6-1 loss to the visiting Washington Nationals on Tuesday or the 4-1 win yesterday.

Scott Feldman might get a rehab start on Saturday.

Jon Moscot remains on the disabled list for the Cincinnati Reds.

And finally, this: Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon was given credit for a three-run inside-the-park home run on Tuesday that gave his team the 5-3 win over the visiting San Francisco Giants. My question: why was there no error on the play? This isn’t Little League where everything is a homer just because you manage to get around all the bases.


Fun new source: Home Run Tracker

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Tue, 30 Jun 2015 20:04:48 | by Ron Kaplan

Although I’m not a big stats guy — I think you can have too much information — I do appreciate ESPN’s Home Run Tracker.

The website allows you to watch each and every home run; see the bat speed, angle, and distance on a chart; determine whether it’s a “no-doubter” or a “barely made it.”

Here are the relevant links for the purposes of this blog:

  • Joc Pederson (currently 20 home runs). Pederson has eight “no doubt” shots and the third-longest blast of the year at 480 feet. He also leads in “The Golden Hammer” category, which calculates the hitter with the longest average true distance for the 2015 season with a minimum of nine homers. Pederson clocks in at 430.5 feet in ATD, ahead of Carlos Gonzalez  of the Colorado Rockies, Lucas Duda of the NY Mets, and Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, who will be on the disabled list for some time because of a broken bone in his hand he sustained last Friday against Pederson’s Dodgers.
  • Ryan Braun (15). Braun has the 12th longest “true distance” home run at 465 feet.
  • Kevin Pillar (6)
  • Danny Valencia (4)
  • Ike Davis (3)
  • Ian Kinsler (2)

None of the other MOTs who have appeared in 2015 — Ryan Lavarnway, Craig Breslow, Jon Moscot, Jason Marquis, and Scott Feldman — have homered this year.

You’re welcome.


What should I do? (Redux)

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Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:18:53 | by Ron Kaplan

When LeBron James was becoming a free agent the first time, he made a commercial asking that question.

Which spawned parodies

So now James is becoming a free agent again. Will he leave Cleveland? Informed sources say no, it’s just a money ploy.

I’m not holding my breath.

James did not exactly get along with Cavaliers head coach David Blatt. Could that also be a condition of him returning to Cleveland?


Enough is enough

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Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:19:48 | by Ron Kaplan

I’ve heard of underwater basket-weaving, often used a euphemism for college courses of dubious scholarship, but this is ridiculous.


I don’t care, not everything is a “sport” because you say it is.


JML update, June 30

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Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:50:12 | by Ron Kaplan

Typical light Monday schedule but lots of action for the MOT.

Ike Davis was 2-4 with a double (#12) and two-run homer (#2) to help the Oakland As’ crush the visiting Colorado Rockies, 7-1.

Davis rounds the bases on his two-run homer off of David Hale in the bottom of the first. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Davis rounds the bases on his two-run homer off of David Hale in the bottom of the first. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Sam Fuld entered the game for the As as a defensive replacement without coming to bat.

Joc Pederson hit his 20th home run of the year, a monster solo shot in the fourth inning but the LA Dodgers lost to the host Arizona Diamondbacks, 10-6. It was the third Dodger home run in the frame. Pederson also scored on a double play. It was his only hit in four at bats (plus a walk) and earned him his 38th RBI. He ranks among National League leaders in several categories including fifth in homers (20), eighth in runs scored (45), second in BB (55), and seventh in slugging (.529) and On-base plus slugging (.913). Pederson is currently sixth in All-Star voting for NL outfielders. The only other MOT in contention is the Detroit Tigers’ Ian Kinsler in fourth place for second base in the American League.

Pederson watches his home run in the fourth. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Pederson watches his home run in the fourth. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Ryan Braun had a double (#11) and two singles in five at bats and drove in his 50th run of the year to help the Milwaukee Brewers beat the host Philadelphia Phillies, 7-4. He also threw out a runner at home via a relay that was upheld after a video challenge.

Kevin Pillar also had an outfield assist to nail a runner at second, but it didn’t prevent the Toronto Blue Jays from losing to the visiting Boston Red Sox, 3-1. Pillar had one of the Jays’ five hits, his 15th double. Teammate Danny Valencia did not appear in the game, nor did Craig Breslow for Boston.

No game for Kinsler or Ryan Lavarnway (Atlanta Braves).

Houston Astros pitcher Scott Feldman gets a rehab start today or tomorrow. Jon Moscot remains on the disable list for the Cincinnati Reds.

More Jewish baseball news: Zack Hample, the fan who caught Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit/home run, was a guest on Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen, which you can hear here. (I knew him when…) Quite an interesting interview. Here are some of the links on the topic provided by HUAL:



Giant steps

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Mon, 29 Jun 2015 17:05:13 | by Ron Kaplan

Funny how the Amazon ratings work.

HiResJewish OlympicsMy new book — The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games — has been listed on Amazon for several months, even though it won’t officially be available until next Tuesday. So having a ranking of 4,400,000+ wasn’t a shock.

But yesterday, when I went to attach a link to send in an email, I couldn’t help but sneak a peak.

Have to say, I was pleased with moving up over four million spots, to somewhere in the neighborhood of 433,000.

Hey, you gotta start somewhere.


JML update, weekend edition (June 26-28, 2015)

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Mon, 29 Jun 2015 15:25:59 | by Ron Kaplan

Ryan Braun was 4-7 in three games, including his 15th home run of the year (seventh in the National League) to break a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning on Sunday as the Milwaukee Brewers took two of three from the visiting Minnesota Twins. On Saturday, Braun had a pinch-hit RBI single in the 3-2 loss.

The other MOT homer came as a pinch-hit job off the bat of Danny Valencia, who hit his fourth round-tripper on the first pitch he saw in the eighth inning on Friday for the final run in a 12-2 win over the visiting Texas Rangers. It was the Blue jays’ fourth home run of the game and Valencia’s only appearance on the weekend.

Teammate Kevin Pillar was 3-10, including his 14th double. He was 2-4 on Friday with a double, run scored, and 14th RBI for the year. The next day he had one of his team’s three hits in a 4-0 loss.  His hitting streak ended Sunday at 10 games. So far he’s had a great month, ranking in the top five among qualified players in Major League Baseball in batting average and hits during June.

Ian Kinsler was 3-7 in two of the Detroit Tigers’ games against the Chicago White Sox (he sat out Saturday’s contest). Yesterday he drove in the Tigers’ first run in their 5-4 win when he was hit by a pitch. He has 30 ribbies for the season.

Joc Pederson was 1-12 over the weekend with six strikeouts as the LA Dodgers took two of three from the host Miami Marlins. Pederson was 3-22 over the past seven days. He may be having a good rookie campaign so far, but he is still a rookie, and subject to the same rituals as any other player in his situation.

Ryan Lavarnway appeared in just one game for the Atlanta Braves over the weekend, going 1-3 with and RBI in a 3-2 loss to the host Pittsburgh Pirates.

Craig Breslow also appeared in just one game (also on Friday), tossing 2/3 of an inning of relief for the Boston Red Sox in their 4-3 win against the host Tampa Bay Rays. Breslow gave up a hit, walked one, and struck out one.

Sam Fuld was 3-9 against the visiting KC Royals with two doubles, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored. On Friday, he and teammate Ike Davis accounted for half of the Oakland As’ hits  in a 5-2 loss. Davis was 2-9 for the weekend with a walk, a sacrifice fly, and the consequent RBI as KC swept all three games.

Houston Astros pitcher Scott Feldman continues on his road back. Jon Moscot (Cincinnati Reds) remains on the disabled list.

More baseball news: “How a bunch of Hollywood Jews saved little league baseball in South Los Angeles,” from the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

And even though he’s not Jewish, how about that Matz kid? After giving up a home run his first Major League batter, the Mets rookie from Long Island — wearing Sandy Koufax’s #32 — settled down in front of more than 100 family and friends in the stands to win his debut. He was also pretty hand with the bat, going 3-3 with a double and driving in four of the Mets’ runs in their 7-2 win over their visiting Cincinnati Reds.


People of the book: Sorry, but they can’t all be gems

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Fri, 26 Jun 2015 15:50:11 | by Ron Kaplan

Editor’s note: This twist on the popular theme of favorite baseball books comes from the Facebook Baseball Book group. A lot of interesting and surprising choices here. Different strokes for different folks. Because I don’t want the risk of lawsuits (or bodily harm), I have removed the identities of the commenters and have edited it as lightly as possible and take no responsibilities for any typos that appear here; I have enough trouble with my own work.

Relieved to see no one listed 501 Baseball among the titles.


♦ Nine Sides of the Diamond. I think I finished before I got to the pitcher and catcher. Just bored by it. I’ve probably given up on fewer than 10 books in my lifetime out of thousands started, and that includes massive tomes like Shelby Foote’s Civil War.

I Never Had it Made, by Jackie Robinson. I felt he really didn’t go into much detail about his career and it was filled with politics and whatnot he second half. I stopped about a chapter after his career was over. The whole book, as far as I read had a very bitter tone to it. I understand if he was bitter about racism but I don’t wanna read something that’s bitter like that.

The Black Prince of Baseball. Dewey and Acocella took a real literary approach to the bio, and for me it was an extremely thick, plodding read that took me forever to finish.

Nails, by Lenny Dykstra. The worst baseball book ever published.

The Complete Game, by Keith Hernandez was very dry and I know some folks love it but I got bored after a while.

♦ Men at Work by George Will. It reads like a pair of bloomers from the 1800s filled with hot air. He’s neither as poetic nor as prosaic as he imagines himself to be.

♦  George Castle’s book on baseball and the media. I don’t remember much of it other than it was bad and he wrote for “The Times of Northwest Indiana.”

♦  I forget the name but it is about baseball in the Dominican Republic. It was not much about baseball history on island as it is was about the poor economic conditions that led to baseball being the only way out for those trapped on the island.

♦  The one about the Texas Rangers of the mid 70s. I think it was called Seasons in Hell. It was too much about bar hopping and not enough about the team.

♦  I found Arnold Rampersad’s bio of Jackie Robinson to be unreadable.

♦  Michael D’Antonio’s error-riddled apology for Walter O’Malley, Forever Blue.

♦  I might have tried the Will book too. He can suck the life out of any subject.

♦  Biography about Sam Rice; it was boring.

Chicken Soup for the Baseball Lovers Soul. Just too many tugs at the heart strings.

♦ My 66 Years in the Big Leagues by Connie Mack. Less of an autobiography and more of a history of baseball according to Mack.

There was a book written about Billy Hamilton a few years back. I read the whole thing but it was very repetitive. It was a 100 page book drawn out to 200 pages. I thought about stopping but I wanted to see what he did after his career was over so I decided to finish. Was very hard though. (Editor’s note: Pretty sure this refers to Josh Hamilton’s book.)

♦  One I did finish but thought was really padded was A Clever Base-Ballist, about the very interesting John Montgomery Ward.

♦ The Physics of Baseball. I am into the sciences, but did not enjoy a book with page after page explaining the physics equations explaining the impact of humidity on the flight of a baseball.

♦ Moneyball. The stuff that the A’s were/are doing that makes baseball sense was done starting right after World War I by Branch Rickey. And Rickey was a much more interesting character than Billy Beane ever could be.

Mel Ott, The Gentle Giant by Alfred M. Martin. The book is only 146 pages and the cost was $41. The first half of the book is about Mel Ott. The second half covers things such as Bobby Thomson’s home run and the Giants moving to San Francisco. Overpriced and disappointing.

♦  One of my brothers gave me Tim McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans. Since it was a gift from a good brother, I tried my best to get through it, but I just couldn’t take any more after a few chapters. And I’ve read my fair share of boring tomes,

♦  Pull Up A Chair by Curt Smith. I barely got through 50 pages. Poorly organized. It made little sense and did not flow at all. I was very disappointed because I wanted to read a good bio of Vin Scully.

♦ Haft and Alan’s This Is Our Time!, about the 2010 Giants. Written by two columnists desperately trying to stretch an 800-word column to book length. I still have it on my shelf, but only because it was a gift from my daughter.

Tom Lasorda’s book. I think its title was The Artful Dodger. It was just boring.

I give a second vote to Tim McCarver’s book, Baseball for Brain Surgeons. Book was too technical and difficult to read, even for a die-hard baseball fan like myself and everybody else on this site. I took Sandy Alderson’s new book out of the library, but returned it after only reading about 50 pages as it seems to be full of propaganda making Alderson sound like the best GM ever.

♦ I may have previously linked Bill James’s review of McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Will’s Bunts. It’s one of the best reviews I’ve ever read. He skewers both authors with his wonderful dry wit.

Bill James knows how to write about baseball. How many people could make something called The Historical Baseball Abstract an easy read from cover to cover over 1000 pages?

I may not have given it a fair shot but I found Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game a bit too dry for my taste. It just didn’t pull me in.

Voices of the Game by Curt Smith. A history of baseball broadcasting, which I would normally find interesting but it was way too long and detailed. Only for the diehard broadcasting history buffs. He has a book out called The Storytellers that is on the same subject and less than half the length that is on my shelf and may one day get onto my reading list.

The book about Fidrych’s bio. Written for a 5 year old. Never finished it. Expected more. His legend was exactly what baseball needed at the time and his death tragic. Maybe I should try again?

Voices of the Game was a 623-page slog but I did finish it, due to the abundance of good info and in spite of Curt Smith’s pedestrian writing. I liked the Fidrych book; he was a simple New England guy and did not need an academic tome written about him.

Calico Joe AND The Art of Fielding – both drivel

Sandy Koufax. I forget what title, but it was just filled with extraneous profanity. (Editor’s note: I have read just about every Koufax bio and can’t for the life of me figure out what this refers to. I guess “extraneous” is a relative term.)

 Sadaharu Oh: A Zen Way of Baseball is the book I am having trouble finishing. It is interesting in parts but over all I just cannot finish it.

Shawn Green’s The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH is a book that I did not finish. It did not draw me in and there were probably other “offenses”. It is a rare book,maybe only a half dozen,baseball or other that I do not finish.

 Boys of Summer. Just plain boring


JML update, June 26, 2015

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Fri, 26 Jun 2015 14:03:33 | by Ron Kaplan

Ryan Braun struck out to seal the deal for the Milwaukee Brewers in their 2-0 loss to the visiting NY Mets. Braun was 0-4 for the afternoon. The Mets broke their seven-game losing streak.

Sam Fuld hit a two-run single with two out in the fifth inning for the Oakland As to tie their game with the host Texas Rangers, 202. The As went on for a 6-3 victory. Ike Davis, dropped to the seventh spot in the batting order, was 0-3.

Ian Kinsler hit his second home run of the year, good for two RBI. Unfortunately it was his only hit in six at bats and the Detroit Tigers loft to the visiting Chicago White Sox, 8-7 in 10 innings. Wow, you’d think some people never heard of an off year.

Joc Pederson entered the game between the LA Dodgers and host Chicago Cubs as a defensive replacement in sixth inning. He walked in his only trip to the plate. He’s moving up in the All-Star voting and I would guess he’ll make the team in some capacity.

Craig Breslow did not appear for the Boston Red Sox in their 8-6 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. Ryan Lavarnway did not appear in the Atlanta Braves 7-0 loss to the host Washington Nationals. The Toronto Blue Jays (Kevin Pillar, Danny Valencia) had the day off.

Scott Feldman (Houston Astros) and Jon Moscot (Cincinnati Reds) remain on the disabled list. Feldman was throwing off a mound for the first time since his meniscus surgery and maybe be back following the All Star Game.appeared

Jason Marquis is keeping busy in a good way, even if it’s not in a baseball way.

Looks like the ill-conceived “box score experiment” on the MLB.com site is over; they’ve gone back to the historical standard of putting the home team on the right side. For a while they posted the winning score on the left, regardless of whether the victorious team was at home or away.

JML update, June 24, 2015

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Wed, 24 Jun 2015 13:48:21 | by Ron Kaplan

Ryan Braun was 1-3 with a walk and scored the Milwaukee Brewers’ first run en route to a 3-2 win over the visiting NY Mets. It was the Mets’ sixth loss in a row, dropping them to an even .500 and putting them two and a half behind the first place Washington Nationals and just a half game in front of the Atlanta Braves. As a Mets fan, I’ve been particularly frustrated by what I consider a simple lack of baseball smarts on the part of the defense (of course, there’s been scant offense lately as well). These don’t go down in the books as errors, but they are mental mistakes nonetheless, as players are out of position, don’t know what to do with the ball when they get it, etc. The Met announcers were talking about how you can’t even talk to modern players today like you would 20 years ago because they don’t “respond well” to tough criticism. Well, boo-friggin’-hoo.

Ike Davis hit an RBI double (#10) and scored a run in the Oakland As’ 8-6 win over the host Texas Rangers. Sam Fuld came on as a defensive replacement in left field in the ninth.

Ian Kinsler was 0-4 with a walk as the Detroit Tigers beat the host Cleveland Indians, 7-3. Kinsler is just 4-24 over the past seven days,m with two of those hits coming on Monday.

Kevin Pillar had one of the Toronto Blue Jays’ four hits in their 4-3 loss to the host Tampa Bay Rays. Danny Valencia did not appear in the game for the Jays.

Joc Pederson was 0-4 but he had lots of company: the L:A Dodgers could muster just three hits in a 10-inning, 1-0 loss to the host Chicago Cubs. Wouldn’t it be cool if he had another homer or two and was selected for the All-Star Game? Regardless, he seems to be having a good time.

Craig Breslow pitched another two innings of scoreless relief in the Boston Red Sox’s 6-4 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He allowed one hit and struck out one.

Ryan Lavarnway did not appear for the Atlanta Braves in their 3-1 loss to the host Washington Nationals.

Scott Feldman (Houston Astros) and Jon Moscot (Cincinnati Reds) remain on the disabled list.


Catch a falling All-Star

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Tue, 23 Jun 2015 20:33:20 | by Ron Kaplan

A lot of pundits and fans have been alternately making fun of and expressing outrage over the MLB All-Star voting mechanism that had members of the Kansas City Royals ranking first for eight of nine position players (including the DH, which has no “position” other than in the batting order). It’s currently down to only seven since the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera has passed the Royals’ Eric Hosmer at first base. The only other player outside KC is LA Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

Tyler Kepner wrote about the sorry state of affairs in today’s New York Times. All lot of commentators focus on the inclusion of second baseman Omar Infante, who is having the worst season in his 14-year career.

It is one thing for fans of a team to be excited about their players and want to see them in the starting lineup. But even the most ardent Royals fans must know that Infante has been dreadful this season.

Kepner writes

Infante had a .229 average with no home runs or stolen bases through Sunday. His on-base plus slugging percentage was .549. Only two players — Philadelphia’s Chase Utley and the Chicago White Sox’ Alexei Ramirez — had a lower O.P.S.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BuXJ_mTIUAAPRSB.jpgThe folks at MLB  are dealing with a mixed blessing: on the one hand, they have received 420 million total votes, the highest in the history of the current electoral system. It helps that each voter can cast his or her ballot up to 35 times. It hurts that those under 13 are ineligible to participate in the process.

The ASG — which will be played on July 14 in Cincinnati — has frequently been considered a popularity contest rather than something a player earns through hard work and productivity.

From Kepner

[MLB Commissioner Rob] Bowman would not address specific players, but he did say that baseball had been vigorous about detecting fraudulent email addresses. Bowman said about 20 percent of all ballots cast had been rejected. That figure, he said, is consistent with previous seasons.

If my math is correct — no guarantees — 20 percent is more than 80 million votes thrown out. That’s a chunk of change.

Great for Royals fans. Stinks for everyone else.


Can I haz baseball grammarburger?

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Tue, 23 Jun 2015 19:54:48 | by Ron Kaplan

It goes without saying that baseball is one of the more literate and literary sports. But to gauge the “education” of teams’ fans by the comments they leave on websites or via social media is a bit silly.

I don’t mean to indict an entire generation, but texting, IMs, and emails have reached a point where very few seem to care about spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Shorthand and emoticons are turning us all into Eloi.

So I take this “report” with a grain of salt.


Kind of surprised that fans from the same city would have different ratings. New York is New York, after all; it’s the same public education system. Kansas City and St. Louis are relatively far apart on the scale, as are As and Giants, who are just a bridge apart. Cubs and White Sox, on the other hand, are back-to-back.

Will Ryan Braun put in an appearance?

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Tue, 23 Jun 2015 16:13:46 | by Ron Kaplan

The wonderful exhibit “Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American,” originally hosted by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, is on a road trip these days. Currently it is a featured program at Jewish Museum Milwaukee where it will remain on display through Sept. 7.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Milwaukee Brewers, which is still owned in part by the Selig family.

Here’s a story I did about “Chasing Dreams” when it opened at NMAJH last year.