Josh Rosen and the N.F.L. Draft’s Jewish-Quarterback Question

By Zach Helfand – The New Yorker

Last fall, after the New York Jets won their second game of the 2017 N.F.L. season, the comedian Larry David called a sports talk-radio show. One of the guests congratulated him, “Your Jets are doing great!”

David’s voice turned frantic. “Oh, God!” he said. “Please! What’s wrong with them?”

“Wait, you won two games!”

“No!” he said. “I don’t want to win any games!”

David wanted the Jets to tank, so that the team could secure a better draft pick. The host asked David which of the top quarterback prospects he was hoping for: U.S.C.’s Sam Darnold or U.C.L.A.’s Josh Rosen. “I gotta go with the Jew,” David replied.

Jewish sports fans are, in my experience, a patient bunch, but the wait for an athlete like Rosen has been particularly long. Rosen is the son of a Jewish father and a Quaker mother. He had a bar mitzvah but attended a Catholic high school, where he went to weekly mass and gave confession twice a semester.

Since Sid Luckman, who threw his last pass in 1950, there hasn’t been a star Jewish quarterback in the N.F.L. There have been hardly any Jewish quarterbacks in the N.F.L. at all. Historically, the position has mostly been reserved for a very specific sort of person: white, Christian, preferably blue-collar. If he can passably appear in a commercial for Wrangler jeans, all the better. (No quarterback has fit the mold as well as the longtime Green Bay Packer Brett Favre.) Black quarterbacks especially have been excluded—something worth keeping in mind as the N.F.L. continues to effectively blackball Colin Kaepernick in response to his protests of police shootings of black Americans—though their numbers have increased in recent years. The former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy told me, “When I was coming into the league, the question was: Could a team rally around someone who didn’t necessarily look like them, or what they thought he should look like?” Last year, two Ph.D. students at Penn State “found substantial racial differences in the language used to describe quarterback prospects.” Scouting reports are more likely to find that white quarterbacks “fit the prototype” and are “leaders,” while black quarterbacks are “athletic” but have “deficits.”

What about Jewish passers? Jay Fiedler, the last Jewish quarterback to start regularly, told me he wasn’t treated any differently for his religion. And there are a number of Jewish owners in the league. But the scouting evaluations of Rosen seem to reflect familiar stereotypes. He has been described as too smart. He is not tough enough. He is not blue-collar enough. His teammates hate him. Recently, the sports commentator Tony Kornheiser said that the “whisper campaign” against Rosen was “absolutely classic anti-Semitism.” Kornheiser took particular offense at a suggestion that Rosen is too rich to love the game. “Too rich? What? . . . He’s out there getting his brains kicked in in college, and he wants to play pro ball!”

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How Hank Greenberg Desegregated Baseball

BY JARED SICHEL – Jewniverse

In 1954, one year before the debut of Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg was the General Manager of the Cleveland Indians. Under Bronx-born Greenberg, the Indians had more black ballplayers than any other team. Greenberg didn’t care whether his players were white or black—just that they were good at baseball. And good they were: The Indians won the American League pennant that year.

By that time, Greenberg already had a reputation as one of baseball’s greatest players—and as a proud American and Jew. He refused to play in a key pennant race game on Yom Kippur in 1934, and six years later, he became the first ballplayer to register for the draft. He ended up serving for 47 months—longer than any other MLB player during World War II. “My country comes first,” Greenberg famously said.

(…Read the full article)

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Dodgers’ Joc Pederson breaks record for most homers by a Jewish player in one World Series

Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers has set a new home run record for Jewish players in one World Series.

Pederson, a lefty-swinging outfielder, blasted a homer in the seventh inning of his club’s 3-1 win over the visiting Houston Astros in Game 6. The shot, to left field, was his third of the Series and moved Pederson past Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, the Detroit Tigers’ slugger who had two homers in the 1934 Fall Classic.

Greenberg still holds the mark for most runs batted in by a Jewish player in one World Series — at least for now, since there’s another game left — with seven. Pederson has five, as does Alex Bregman, the Astros’ Jewish third baseman, along with two home runs.

Written by Ron Kaplan.

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Fielding Dreams: Washington’s Jewish Ballplayers – Thursday, July 20, 7:30 – 9:30 PM at Eldavitch DCJCC

Award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner will be taking part in a revealing discussion about Washington’s history of Jewish ballplayers. She will be sitting down with sports attorney and former Washington Senator’s broadcaster Philip Hochberg and author Frederic J. Frommer (You Gotta Have Heart: A History of Washington Baseball from 1859 to the 2012 National League East Champions) at Eldavitch DCJCC as they will cover names such as Moe Berg (catcher, scholar, spy); the subject of Kempner’s new film, Elliott Maddox (the only Black Jew to play in the Major Leagues); and Jason Marquis (the first observant Jew to play for the Nats). Tickets are available here.

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A Conversation with Detroit Star Ian Kinsler by Dan Epstein & Jewishbaseballmuseum. com

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Detroit Tiger’s second baseman Ian Kinsler talks to writer Dan Epstein about growing up in Tucson, AZ and the legacy of Hank Greenberg.

“You’re the best Jewish player that the Tigers have had since Hank Greenberg — and at this point, you’re probably the best Jewish second baseman in major league history. What does that mean to you?

Man, that’s a tough question. Because you look at guys like Hank Greenberg, guys who dealt with a ton of adversity in their career because of the religion they were, and it’s tough to compare myself to people like that.”

Read more here.

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Highlights of the 1945 Baseball Season

Photograph by Washingtonian, Getty Images and Press Association Inc.


Here is a delightful Washingtonian article about how the Senators were upstaged by Hank Greenberg’s hitting in 1945.

“Legendary slugger Hank Greenberg, just out of the Army Air Corps, had rejoined the Detroit Tigers. And on this last day of the season, it was Greenberg who stepped to the plate in the ninth inning of a game between his Tigers and the St. Louis Browns.
The game was more than 800 miles away, but Washington fans were paying attention. If St. Louis held its lead and won the second game of the doubleheader, the Senators would be one win from the World Series. If not, Washington was done. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Greenberg hit a grand slam, giving the Tigers the game—and ending Washington’s season. By the next spring, as regulars replaced wartime understudies, the team would return to its usual mediocrity.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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As Baseball Season Starts, Still Cheering for Team Israel

By Aviva Kempner

When the Major League Baseball season started this week, some of us Jewish baseball fans are still reminiscing how well Team Israel did last month in the World Baseball Classic, actually winning four games.

Team Israel was the closest thing we ever had to having our own dream Jewish American lineup. We American Jews can’t help but be jealous of the holy land for recruiting our professional American Jewish baseball players to compete for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic games. Labeled the Cinderella of the series, the Israeli baseball team gave American Jewry lots to cheer for, since most of the team members were Americans. It’s a hoot that we have been creating fantasy Jewish baseball teams in our heads for decades, and now Israel got to claim the accomplished Jewish dream team.

Read the whole article here

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All the Jewish Major Leaguers to Watch- Baseball 2017

DETROIT, MI - JULY 20: Manager Brad Ausmus #7 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a win over the Seattle Mariners with Ian Kinsler #3 on July 20, 2015 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Mariners 5-4. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

DETROIT, MI – JULY 20: Manager Brad Ausmus #7 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a win over the Seattle Mariners with Ian Kinsler #3 on July 20, 2015 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Mariners 5-4. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

(JTA) — In baseball, they say time begins on Opening Day. Everyone has a chance for a fresh start. Most of the old familiar names are back, although some have new addresses. If you count Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, there are nine Jews who begin the year on Major League rosters. But then there’s the question of what to do about Ty Kelly of the New York Mets: Is he or isn’t he? That’s still a matter of debate among those who decide on such matters.

Read the rest of the article and find out more here.

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Golden Age of Baseball Blog Archive

The Golden Age of Baseball


Check out the Ciesla Foundation’s archived blog about Hank Greenberg and the golden age of baseball!

Click the image below to visit

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The Annual Jewish Baseball Challenge

Photo from the Ciesla Foundation

As with all walks of life, choices define who we are and what we stand for. Yearly, Jewish baseball players are faced with the difficult choice of observing Yom Kippur or October baseball as the playoffs heat up. Back in the day this choice came to define Hank Greenberg’s laudable dedication to his faith. In an October article in popular Hollywood news site, The Wrap, Aviva Kempner unravels the issue in our current sports and religious society and looks for a path forward to make it simpler for Jewish athletes to practice their religion while still playing ball, thus “covering all their bases.”

Read Aviva Kempner’s article in the wrap here.

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