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 © 2016 New Jersey Jewish News

Here’s something you don’t see every day

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Tue, 26 Jul 2016 17:33:42 | by Ron Kaplan

Or ever.

Thsi actually took place in 2014, but for some reason it was making the rounds on Facebook today.

Remind you of anything?

 

By the way, Ticket for a Seamstich was part of “The Southpaw Trilogy” by landsman Mark Harris.  You may be familiar  with the other titles: Bang the Drum Slowly and The Southpaw.



Under pressure

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Tue, 26 Jul 2016 16:57:09 | by Ron Kaplan

Sports psychologist Dr. Joel Fish, a recent inductee into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, shared his thoughts with MainLineMedia, a Pennsylvania outfit, on the pressures facing Olympic athletes.

This is at once one of the saddest and greatest memories I have for the Olympics. To prepare that hard only to have your body betray you… I can’t think of anything wore, especially when it could be your one shot.

I’ve seen this set to music in an attempt to make it even more emotional. Not necessary. It still brings a lump to my throat.  That and the end of Rudy.

Not exactly what really happened, but you know, Hollywood.

 

 

 



JML update, games of July 25, 2016

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Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:17:21 | by Ron Kaplan

Welcome your newest JML: Alex Bregman made his debut last night (becoming the 18,809th player in Major League history) as the Houston Astros lost a tough one to the visiting NY Yankees, 2-1. In his four at bats, Bregman flied out to left in the second inning; struck out swinging in the fourth; flied out on a long fly to right in the sixth that didn’t miss being a grand slam by much; and struck out  swinging for the second out in the ninth.

He got a nice standing ovation in his first trip to the plate.

 

He also made this sweet defensive play in the second

Bregman’s reaction to his first big league game:

 

Scott Feldman did not appear in the game for the Astros. Richard Bleier did not appear for the Yankees. With the departure of closer Aroldis Chapman, who went to the Chicago Cubs in a trade, I wonder how that might change the way the Yankees use him.

As for the rest of the MOT, most had a great night:

Danny Valencia hit his 13th home run to open the scoring and added an RBI double (12) for  the Oakland Athletics but they came up just short, losing 7-6 on a walk-off two-run homer by Adrian Beltre and the host Texas Rangers. He scored twice and drove in three.

Kevin Pillar had a big game for the Toronto Blue Jays with a single and two doubles (23) in four at bats with one run scored and an RBI (38) in a 4-2 win over the visiting San Diego Padres.

Ryan Braun was 2-2 with two walks and an RBI (46) as the Milwaukee Brewers beat the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks, 7-2.

Ian Kinsler was 0-4 in the Detroit Tigers’ 4-0 win over the host Boston Red Sox.

 



Why Ryan Braun was (or wasn’t) MVP-worthy

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Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:42:59 | by Ron Kaplan

A few weeks ago I interviewed MLB Network broadcaster/analyst Brian Kenny regarding his fascinating new book Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution for my other blog. You can listen to that conversation here.

One section of the book had to do with Ryan Braun and the good folks at Simon and Schuster were kind eough to let me run the following excerpt. Enjoy.
 

*****

Ineligible

One thing a WAR MVP doesn’t care about is how the candidate’s team is playing. This is a good thing, because sportswriters sure do.

In August of 2013, our MLB Network producers thought it would be a good time to have a little MVP debate. In the National League, we were going to focus on Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, and Yadier Molina.

I asked, “What about Ryan Braun?” (This is before the failed drug test.) Jon Heyman, longtime BBWAA member and voter, said, “The Brewers are out of it.”

In the ensuing hallway debate (we have plenty of them), I asked why it mattered what Braun’s teammates were doing when he had almost exactly the same numbers as the previous year, when he did win the MVP. Heyman and a few others told me, “His team is out of it, these aren’t meaningful games.”

I asked, “So, he’s basically ineligible?”

Heyman answered, “Your word, but yes, ineligible.” I love Jon, at least he doesn’t try to confuse the issue.

Shoot ahead to the end of September, and another MVP debate. The Brewers have made a run, and are just three and a half games out of the NL Wild Card.

I asked Heyman, “Is Braun eligible now?” Heyman: “Yes, he is now eligible.”

It’s a wonder I get any work done.

I went to check things out, just to see if there was any variation of performance. Maybe Braun was now leading Milwaukee to playoff contention. That would give some credence to his change of “eligibility” in an MVP race.

First Half

Brewers                              Braun OB/Slugging

40–43                                                    .391/.599

Second Half

Brewers                               Braun OB/Slugging

43–34                                                    .392/.591

 

Whether his team was struggling or playing well, Ryan Braun was the same guy. Yet he went from being totally outside the MVP discussion to actually finishing second to Posey at the end of the season. With Milwaukee’s late run, his team had evidently gotten close enough to gain “eligibility” for the league’s best player award.

It illustrates the silliness of judging a player’s individual performance by what his team is doing. It might seem like teams in the pennant race, playing in full ballparks, are playing the games that matter. But in the major leagues, all games are meaningful.

Mickey Mantle said during the Yankees’ run of dominance, he and his teammates would wonder what they would be able to do individually if they didn’t have the searing pressure of the pennant race each year. When they got to the mid-’60s and felt what it was like outside of the race, Mantle said it was more difficult to stay focused.

This is just one anecdotal case, but it is not necessarily easier to put up numbers in “meaningless” games. Anytime you watch a major league game—at least these days—I defy you to show me players just giving away hits or outs. It’s very rare, if it happens at all. There is just too much at stake.

Excerpted from AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Inside the Baseball Revolution by Brian Kenny. Copyright © 2016 by Brian Kenny. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 



Dropping like flies

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Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:30:51 | by Ron Kaplan

The news coming out of The New York Times lately is not good. And I’m not talking about the GOP  clown show.

You may not be aware of what’s going on in the newspaper industry. Seems people don’t much like to read anymore, at least not off a printed page. The editions of the Times which arrive in our driveway each morning seem to get thinner and thinner. Everything is smart phone and social media. Veteran writers are called upon to do more and more, supplementing the regular articles and columns  with blogging and/or video treatments in a never-ending struggle for attention (and dwindling attention spans).

Over the last week or so three prominent Times writers have decided to leave the fold, semi-voluntarily, two of whom I have enjoyed a distant relationship with.

Harvey Araton  and I are by no means close but as a fellow Montclairian  (our kids went to school together), I follow his work more closely than I might otherwise. He has written about numerous sports for the Times, primarily basketball and tennis, and published several  well-received books, including When the Garden was Eden and Driving Mr. Yogi, about the relationship between the late Berra (and another Montclair neighbor) and Ron Guidry.

Bruce Weber has done a marvelous and sensitive job handling obituaries for the paper for the past several years, primarily for baseball figures. It’s always been a fascinating beat for me and we exchanged emails over the years on the process. He is also the author of As They See ‘Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires, a great “embedded” book.

I learned about their situations as as I find out about a lot of things these days: through social media. Both posted on Facebook so if you’re a “friend” of theirs, you can look it up, as Casey Stengel would have said.

Finally, there’s William C. Rhoden, a sports columnist wrote often about race relations and other sensitive issues in sports. I do no know him personally but have always admired his work. Here’s his “farewell” piece.

Here’s wishing them all well in their future endeavors.

 



Israel’s culture minister to skip Rio opening ceremony due to Shabbat

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Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:21:01 | by Ron Kaplan

From the JTA:

RIO DE JANEIRO — Israel’s most senior official expected to attend the Rio Olympics next month said she would not participate in the opening ceremony because it takes place on Shabbat.

The opening ceremonies are scheduled to take place on the evening of Aug. 5, a Friday night.

“Shabbat, our national day of rest, is one of the most important gifts that Jewish people have given to the culture of humanity,” Miri Regev, the minister of culture and sport, said in a statement released Sunday, The Jerusalem Post reported. “As the representative to the state of Israel, the sole Jewish state on the planet, I unfortunately cannot take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympics because it would require me to break the holy Sabbath.”

Regev is not known to be religiously observant. Her predecessors as culture minister who also were not religiously observant attended such ceremonies.

There were attempts to house Regev and her staff within walking distance of the Olympic Village, so she would not have to drive on the Sabbath, but security officials told her it would not be possible to guarantee her safety, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Regev is expected to attend the unprecedented ceremony to honor the 11 Israelis killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics to be held at Rio’s City Hall. The Aug. 14 memorial will be co-led by the International Olympic Committee along with the Olympic committees of Israel and Brazil.

Israel will make its 16th appearance at the Olympics by bringing to Rio its largest delegation ever, with nearly 50 athletes. Some 10,000 Israelis are expected to travel to Brazil to root for their national heroes.



JML update, weekend edition (Games of July 22-24, 2016)

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Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:17:03 | by Ron Kaplan

Ryan Braun hit his 14th home run of the season, a solo shot that put the Milwaukee Brewers on the board in a game they would lose to the visiting Chicago Cubs, 4-2. It was the first homer for Braun  in 15 games, dating back to June 29. He had two singles in four at bats, stole his ninth base, and scored twice on Saturday in a 6-1 win. Braun had two more hits on Sunday, including his 17th double, and also stole a pair of bases, but he also struck out in his other three at bats and the Brewers lost this one, 6-5.

Ian Kinsler was just 1-5 on Friday, striking out three times. But he still managed to score three runs. He was hit by a pitch to lead off the third inning, stole his 10th base of the year and advanced to third on an error, then came in on a double. He singled and scored in the fourth and scored again after reaching on a fielder’s choice. The Tigers beat the host Chicago White Sox, 7-5. On Saturday, he collected his 17th double of the year in a 4-3 walk-off loss. This one was actually suspended because of rain and completed on Sunday. In the scheduled game, Kinsler was 1-5 in another walk-off loss. The Tigers had scored three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 4-4, but the White Sox proved victorious thanks to Melky Crabrera’s RBI single in the bottom of the frame.

Danny Valencia popped out as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning for the Oakland As in their 1-0, 13-inning loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. He was 1-3 the next day as the starting first baseman in a come-from-behind, walk-off 4-3 win. He was in right field (!) on Sunday, going 1-4 and scoring the second run for the As in their 3-2 win. It was his first appearance at that position this year.

Kevin Pillar was 0-3 on Friday in a 2-1 loss by the Toronto Blue Jays to the visiting Seattle Mariners.  On Saturday, he was 0-3 with a walk and a run scored in a 14-5 loss. Sunday was Pillar Day as he dad and brother were on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. I wonder if they were able to walk away with an official Kevin Pillar bobblehead? Anyway KP was 1-3 in a 2-0 win. Prior to the game he received his 2015 Defensive Player of the Year award.

Joc Pederson had a rough Friday, going 0-6 in 16 innings in a 4-3 loss to the host St. Louis Cardinals. He did a bit better on Saturday, singling twice in four at bats, scoring once, and driving in a run in a 7-2 win. Last night, Pederson was on base four times — two hits and two walks (although he did get a bit greedy on this one) — and scored a run in the Dodgers’ 9-6 win.

Richard Bleier recorded the last out in the 12th inning for the NY Yankees in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the visiting San Francisco Giants.

Scott Feldman gave up two hits in two more scoreless innings to complete the Houston Astros’ 13-5 win over the visiting LA Angels on Sunday.

Yesterday, the Astros  called up their hottest prospect, Alex Bregman, who is scheduled to make his Major League debut tonight against the visiting NY Yankees.

Finally, is this the end of the line for Ryan Kalish?



Islamist terrorists call to attack Israeli delegation and others at Rio Olympics, report says

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Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:05:45 | by Ron Kaplan

From the JTA:

Islamist terrorists have issued directives to “lone wolves” to carry out attacks against the Israeli delegation and others at the Rio Olympics this summer, according to a news website.

The Foreign Desk reported that a list of directives published on social media advises jihadis to target American, British, French and Israeli athletes, saying “One small knife attack against Americans/Israelis in these places will have bigger media effect than any other attacks anywhere else insha Allah,” meaning “If Allah wills.”

“Your chance to take part in the global Jihad is here! Your chance to be a martyr is here!” the jihadis said, citing the easy process of obtaining visas for travel to Brazil as well as the wide availability of guns in “crime-ridden slums,” according to the report by Lisa Daftari, an investigative journalist specializing in foreign affairs as well as a Fox News analyst.

Israeli athletes are further singled out.

“From among the worst enemies, the most famous enemies for general Muslims is to attack Israelis. As general Muslims all agree to it and it causes more popularity for the Mujahideen among the Muslims,” the jihadis said on social media.

In parallel, Brazilian police on Thursday ordered the detention of 12 people who allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group via social media and discussed possible attacks during the games.

Operation “Hashtag” was announced by the justice minister, Alexandre Moraes, on Thursday morning at a news conference in Brasilia. The arrests took place based on Brazil’s new anti-terror law for which Jewish officials had advocated.

“There is only one way to face terrorism with efficiency: prevention,” Fernando Lottenberg, president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, told JTA in March.

“The concern with the recruitment network of the Islamic State scattered across Brazilian cities and on the internet has been growing and flagged by specialists. We have met congressmen and federal authorities many times to express the need for such legislation,” he said.

Allegedly members of a group called Defenders of Sharia, those arrested are believed to have been in online contact via social media with members of Islamic State. They are also reported to have discussed the acquisition of AK-47 assault rifles and celebrated the recent terror attacks on Orlando and Nice.

The Rio Olympics begin on Aug. 5. Between 500,000 and 1 million tourists are expected in Brazil’s second largest city, including some 10,000 Israelis coming to see their country’s largest-ever Olympics delegation compete for medals.



In the “bad idea” department…

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Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:04:57 | by Ron Kaplan

I could get  behind Commissioner Rob Manfred’s consideration of shortening the season to 154 games. But this? Sorry, no: MLB looking at possible limits on the use of relief pitchers.

Are you kidding me? I always thought of baseball as a respite from the cares of the world. So what if a game runs a bit long? You want to shorten it, how about having fewer commercials? I could get behind that.

You want to save time?  The relievers have just finished warming up in the bullpen, so why do they need eight more pitches?

You want to save time? Are the pitchers delivering the ball within the 20 seconds mentioned in the rule book?

You want to save time? Make better batting gloves, so the hitters doesn’t have to readjust them after every freakin’ pitch.



JML update, games of July 21, 2016

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Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:55:46 | by Ron Kaplan

Ian Kinsler was 3-4 including a game-tying home run in the fifth for the Detroit Tigers, who beat the host Chicago White Sox, 2-1, in a rain-shortened seven-inning game. That’s 20 on the season for Kinsler who was also involved in a couple of other interesting plays.

Danny Valencia was 2-4 with a run scored as the Oakland Athletics still lost to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, 7-3.

Joc Pederson struck out in three of his four at bats, but the LA Dodgers still handed Stephen Strasburg his first loss in 14 decisions with their 6-3 win over the host Washington Nationals. Pederson has been such an all-out defensive player, I hope his recent injury doesn’t cause him to pull back.

And where’s PETA when you need them?

Ryan Braun was 1-4 with a run scored as the Milwaukee Brewers dropped the rubber game of their series against the host Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-3.

Richard Bleier did not appear for the NY Yankees in their 4-1 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. CC Sabathia took the loss on his 36th birthday. In fact, I believe he’s 1-5 when pitching on that special occasion. Thinking too much about the party pinata? Although judging by this pic my daughter Rachel took at the Roc Nation Summer Classic charity basketball game last night at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn it would seem he got over the disappointment.

And let this be a lesson to you young players against getting cocky: Earlier in the week, Houston Astros prospect Alex Bregman told the media he expected to be promoted to the big club on Friday. But no. I wonder if this was done as some kind of lesson?

Coming up this weekend:

  • Kinsler and the Tigers continue against the White Sox
  • Valencia and the As do the same against the Rays
  • Bleier and the Yankees welcome the San Francisco Giants
  • Braun and the Brewers host the Chicago Cubs
  • Pederson and the Dodgers visit the St. Louis Cardinals
  • Kevin Pillar and the Toronto Blue Jays host the Seattle Mariners
  • Scott Feldman and the Houston Astros host the LA Angels


On this date in Hank Greenberg’s 1938 season

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Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:33:26 | by Ron Kaplan

As you may know, I am working on a book about Hammerin’ Hank for the year in which he challenged what was then the biggest number in sports: Babe Ruth’s single season record of 60 home runs.

So as I do the research for the project, I thought I’d be a nice guy and share some of it with you. Helps me, helps you. Win-win.

So on Thursday, July 21, 1938…

Greenberg goes 1-4 with a strikeout in a  4-3 loss to the host Washington Senators. The Tigers were leading 3-0 going into the bottom of the eight before allowing the Senators to score three times in that frame and win on a walk-off single by George Case that brought home Dutch Leonard, who had come in as a reliever and led off the frame with a double.

This is Detroit’s seventh consecutive loss, dropping them into seventh place with a record of 38-46.



Less is more

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Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:17:18 | by Ron Kaplan

One idea that’s being increasingly  kicked around is reducing the Major League schedule from 162 to 154 games. This was one of the segments on yesterday’s Pardon the Interruption.

Co-host Tony Kornheiser, being old, remembers the pre-1961 expansion era when the regular season consisted of the lower figure. There was also no post-season other than the World Series.

There are a few advantages to this. For one thing, the players stay fresher. Kornheiser pointed out the grind of being on the job from February to — for some — the end of October (if not November if each round of playoffs goes the distance). You can listen to the show here (skip to just before the four-minute mark).

Sorry, but I’m not buying that one. Yes, they do a lot of travelling through several time zones, but they are not actually putting in an eight-hour day on the assembly line. And yes, they’re at the ballpark several hours before the game, but there’s a lot of down time, even while they’re on the field.

I’m more in agreement with either starting the season later or ending it earlier. Of course, starting later is no guarantee the weather will cooperate and the suggestion to hold all earl-season contests in domed stadiums or in warm-weather cities seems a bit unfair.

And as much as we love baseball, not having the World Series drag into November is also to be desired (as is earlier starting times for the games so they don’t span two days).



Sports in the digital age

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Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:41:21 | by Ron Kaplan

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (MOT) and MLB head Rob Manfred (not) were the featured speakers yesterday at  Paley Media Council’s luncheon at the Paley Center in Manhattanto discuss “the fast-changing media landscape, vision and execution, the MLB-NHL digital partnership and more.”

Manfred, Bettman talk sports in digital age



JML update, games of July 20, 2016

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Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:19:53 | by Ron Kaplan

Ian Kinsler (not to be confused with Minnesota Twins reliever Brandon Kintzler) hit his second lead-off home run in a week to give the Detroit Tigers their only run in a 4-1 loss to the visiting  Twins. That’s 19 on the year, 36 lead-off homers for his career, and  his only hit of the game in four at bats.

Ryan Braun was 2-4 including his second triple of the season. He also walked once and scored three times in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 9-5 win over the host Pittsburgh Pirates. Braun hit into a double play after getting second life when the umpires ruled he was not out when his batted ball hit him as he was running to first. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle vociferously objected and wound up getting an early exit.

Kevin Pillar was 2-5 with an RBI as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the host Arizona Diamondbacks, 10-4. He was also caught stealing for the fifth time this year.

Neither Scott Feldman nor Danny Valencia appeared for the Houston Astros nor Oakland Athletics respectively in the ‘Stros’ 7-0 road win. So will Valencia be with his team much longer?

Richard Bleier did not appear in the NY Yankees’ 5-0 win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles.

Joc Pederson did not appear in the LA Dodgers’ 8-1 loss to the host Washington Nationals.

In other Jewish baseball news:

 

 



Mish-Mash

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Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:26:45 | by Ron Kaplan

Catching up with a few miscellaneous items here:

Dylan Reese  agreed to terms on a contract with Husqvarna Vatterstad of the Swedish Hockey League on July 18. He has not played in the NHL  since the 2014-15 campaign, spending the bulk of his time in the AHL, where he tallied 48 points. Given his limited game action, it seems unlikely the 31-year-old blueliner will be returning to an NHL roster any time soon. (Source: CBSSports.com)

* * *

Could Shawn Dawson be the third Israeli to be signed to an NBA team? Omri Casspi was the first, followed by Guy Mekel (who hasn’t played in a year.) (Source: NY Jewish Week)

* * *

Continuing with the basketball theme, this fall, the Maccabi Haifa professional basketball team will embark on their annual NBA tour in the United States. Their first meeting will be against Casspi and the Sacramento Kings at the team’s new stadium, the Golden 1 Center, on Monday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m. local time. Maccabi Haifa will be the Kings’ first opponent in their new abode so a shehehiyanu will be in order.

Prior to that contest, Maccabi Haifa will hold a charity game at Scheck Hillel Community School in Miami against their minor league team affiliate, the Miami Midnites. That one takes place Thursday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. local. Proceeds will go towards Maccabi Haifa’s charity program, “Haifa Hoops for Kids”, a joint initiative between Maccabi Haifa and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey, which has hosted over 27,000 underprivileged and special needs children in Israel at Maccabi Haifa home games.

This is the sixth time in seven years the team will travel to North America to play against NBA competition. Maccabi Haifa played against the Sacramento Kings in 2014, falling 91-59. Overall they have faced 11 NBA opponents, including the Kings, New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors, and Los Angeles Lakers.

As one of the original eight teams to form the Israeli Premier League for the 1954 season, Maccabi Haifa has a long and storied legacy in Israeli basketball. Under the ownership of New Jersey businessman Jeffrey Rosen, Maccabi Haifa won their first Israeli League championship in franchise history during the 2012-13 season and were an Israeli League Finalist in the 2013-14 season.

 * * *

Coming soon to a bookseller near you: Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith, by brother Geoff and Mitchell, who play for the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively. According to an item by Michael Freeman on BleacherReport.com, “The book is humorous, smart and takes you inside NFL locker rooms. It also offers the story of life in football from the viewpoint of two Jewish men…. This was, easily, one of the most unique and well-done books about NFL life I’ve ever read.”

The book, which was written with Seth Kaufman, will be released by St. Martins Press in September. As I type, this I just received my review copy so look for a story/interview in the not-too-distant future.

Geoff was a guest contributor to Sports Illustrated‘s “Monday Morning Quarterback” column, a job usually handle by Peter King, who used to be my daughter’s softball coach. Geoff spoke about that experience on WFNZ radio.

* * *

The Jewish Week ran this story about Jews in the Olympics.

 



JML update, games of July 19, 2016

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Wed, 20 Jul 2016 14:28:05 | by Ron Kaplan

Not a scintillating night for the boys…

The best performance came out of Joc Pederson, fresh off the disabled list, who went just 1-5 but drove in two runs in the first inning to give the  LA Dodgers a 3-0 lead over the host Washington Nationals in a game they would win, 8-4.

Danny Valencia was 1-5, striking out three times but the Oakland Athletics won on a walk-off hit against a defensive infield shift which allowed the runner to score all the way from second to beat the visiting Houston Astros, 4-3, in 10 innings. Valencia did make a nice play at first to end the top of the first, however. Scott Feldman did not appear for the Astros.

Ryan Braun was 1-3 with a walk. He scored the tying-tun in the top of the ninth against the host Pittsburgh Pirates, but then Josh Harrison did this in the bottom of the frame for the win.

Check out this line drive off the Pirates’ pitcher and the expression on the batter’s face.

Ian Kinsler was 0-4 for the Detroit Tigers in their 6-2 loss to the visiting Minnesota Twins.

Kevin Pillar was 0-4 in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 5-1 win over the host Arizona Diamondbacks.

Richard Bleier did not appear for the NY Yankees in their 8-6 win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles.

No MOT in this one, but as a Mets fan I have to give kudos to my other boys for getting out of a ninth-inning, bases-loaded, no-out situation to beat the NL Central leading Cubs in Chicago, 2-1.



NFL player Nate Ebner makes US Olympic rugby team

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Tue, 19 Jul 2016 16:31:24 | by Ron Kaplan

From the JTA:

Nate Ebner at the Olympic Training Center on in Chula Vista, California, July 14, 2016. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Nate Ebner of the New England Patriots has qualified for the U.S. Olympic men’s rugby sevens team competing next month at the Rio Olympics, becoming the only NFL player to make a U.S. Olympic team.

Ebner, 27, who is Jewish, was included on the 12-man roster released Monday by USA Rugby. Joining Ebner on the squad is another Jewish player –  Zack Test, 26, of Northern California.

According to ESPN, Ebner took a leave of absence from the Patriots in May to train and attempt to make the Olympic team. He will rejoin the Patriots — Ebner is a safety and special teams standout — following the Olympic rugby tournament from Aug. 6 to 11.

The Ohio native was the youngest player ever to make the U.S. men’s sevens team when he joined the squad at 17. He went on to become an All-America rugby player at Ohio State University before joining the school’s football team and being drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft.

Ebner’s father, Jeff, was the Sunday school principal of Temple Sholom in Springfield, Ohio. In 2008, he was killed at 53 by a man who beat him while attempting to rob his auto reclamation shop.

“He taught me the importance of being Jewish,” Ebner told the Jewish Journal of Massachusetts last year. “My dad stressed finishing strong in every task I did and conduct myself always in a proper manner.

Speaking of his grandparents, he added: “They make sure I keep up with Jewish events and that I remember my origins.”

On the Patriots, Ebner is teammates with Julian Edelman, whose father is Jewish and who reportedly has been getting in touch with his Jewish side over the past several years.

Test, who attended the Ronald C. Wornick Day School in Foster City, California, has been a member of the U.S. sevens team since 2009. He played in the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

Rugby sevens is a fast-paced version of the sport featuring teams of seven players playing seven-minute halves — as opposed to the normal 15 players and 40-minute halves. This year marks its Olympic debut.

Rugby has not been played in the Olympics since 1924. The U.S. team that won the gold medal that year included Samuel Goodman, a Jewish player who also managed the club. Goodman also played for and managed the U.S. team that won the gold four years earlier.



JML update: Games of July 18, 2016

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Tue, 19 Jul 2016 16:26:57 | by Ron Kaplan

Only three games involving MOT yesterday:

Danny Valencia was 0-4 but drove in a ruin with a bases-loaded walk as the Oakland Athletics beat the visiting Houston Astros, 7-4. Scott Feldman did not appear for the Astros.

Ian Kinsler was 0-4 as the Detroit Tigers beat the visiting Minnesota Twins, 1-0.

Richard Bleier did not appear for the NY Yankees in their 2-1 win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles.

 



Just tossing this out there…

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Mon, 18 Jul 2016 19:46:41 | by Ron Kaplan

Having had the honor of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch (albeit in the low minors and as just one of about 20 co-pitchers), I found this NY Times piece about Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’s feat of appearing at all 30 Major League ballparks quite interesting. I’ve got a ways to go to catch up, but age in on my side.



People of the book: The Dykstra debacle

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Mon, 18 Jul 2016 18:54:07 | by Ron Kaplan

As you might have noticed from my weekly posting about baseball best-sellers, I’m not overly happy that Lenny Dykstra’s new memoir, House of Nails, is doing well. It came in at No. 11 on the most recent New York Times best-seller list for non-fiction.

This isn’t a case of schadenfreude. It’s that people are more interested in dirt from someone who many wouldn’t even consider a celebrity than more important issues from writers who toil so hard for such little return. As landsman Richard Sandomir, the Times‘ sports media columnist observes in his recent review, several interviewers — mostly, it seems, of the low-brow sports-talk radio shows, dote on Dykstra as if he was some sort of hero, kissing his butt with bro-praise, ignoring the terrible things he claims to have done to get ahead, including hiring private detectives to get dirt on umpires as possible blackmail material.

This is what holds our interest at a time when citizens and polic offers are being killed with sad regularity and the November elections portend such dire results?

In Sandomir’s considered opinion, House of Nails

… is not an eloquent autobiography, like Andre Agassi’s Open, and is more in keeping with the spirit of Jose Canseco’s Juiced. It is not explosive, unless his accusation that the former Mets manager Davey Johnson drank a lot is big news. It is rather a narcissist’s delight, so relentlessly focused on Dykstra’s ego and antics that you need to rest occasionally from the Lenniness of it all.

At least Canesco’s book served a purpose in bringing to light the reach of PED, even though many in the baseball hierarchy sought to turn a blind eye to the situation. What life lesson is Dykstra offering?

Add to that his firing of veteran author Peter Golenbock (another landsman) as his co-writer because, as Sandomir writes, “Dykstra said he had needed to take control of the book to preserve his singular voice, which is notably profane and blustery and as obsessed with sex as a pubescent boy.”

Arrested development (pick whichever meaning you will)?

(I’ve also lost some respect for Stephen King, whose blurb is featured on the cover. Unless it’s one of those situations where the publisher cobbled together words that King included in his assessment, although not necessarily in the order in which it appears.)

I often link the books in these entries to the Amazon page, hoping to earn a few coins if some of you readers decided to order the various merchandise. Not this time.