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Archive for the ‘Because I can…’ Category

 

My (fantasy) Q&A with Sandy Koufax

Posted on: January 29th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Posted by MLB.com on Facebook:

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I think I speak for a lot of Jewish fans when I say it would be Sandy Koufax.

These are some of the questions I would ask, assuming he was bound to answer honestly and not just sit there sipping his wine.

  • What was really behind the decision not to play in the first game of the 1965 World Series and how difficult was it to make?
  • Did you ever have a face-to-face with Hank Greenberg? You were both symbols for different generations of Jewish fans. What do you know about his struggles?
  • Did you ever face overt anti-Semitism?
  • We all know about your reticence to talk about yourself. Ira Berkow tells the story of getting you to appear in the documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. At first you declined, but then you relented, saying that such a documentary couldn’t really be done without you. Did you come to that by yourself, or did Berkow or others really work on you?
  • How do you feel about being an icon for Jewish baby boomer fans? Is it a burden?
  • You appeared in a few TV shows despite being know for shyness in front of a camera. And yet you threatened to go into acting during a hold-out with Don Drysdale. How serious were you about that?
  • I guess you realized your playing days were numbered by that point. Do you ever think about what you might be able to do with the advantages of medical techniques?
  • If you had to do it over again, would you keep your silence or would you be more outspoken on Jewish issues?
  • Can we ever expect an autobiography or memoir? And can be your “as told to…?”

Image result for ron kapan, sandy koufax

Holocaust survivor photo exhibit to be part of Super Bowl week

Posted on: January 28th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

While there are no Jewish players in this year’s Super Bowl, that doesn’t mean there is no Jewish content. The game will be held at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of the Minnesota Vikings, which are owned by The Wilf family. I did a piece on Zygi Wilf shortly after he acquired the team in 2005.

Now, with the help of the Minnesota Vikings, Wilf Family Foundations, and Delta Airlines, the MSP International Airport will be the site of a photo exhibition of local Holocaust survivors living. “Transfer of Memory” is a joint venture of The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) and the Airport Foundation MSP and the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

The exhibition is on display at both Terminals 1 and 2 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, located near gate C18 in the film screening room (“See 18”) at Terminal 1, and at the Arts@MSP Gallery, across from gate H3 at Terminal 2. Since exhibits at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 are located post-security, those planning to see the exhibits will need a boarding pass to get through security.

From the press release:

“The Wilf family is proud to help support the Transfer of Memory exhibit at MSP Airport. We hope that travelers visiting Minnesota for the upcoming Super Bowl will pause for a few moments to learn and reflect on this time in history that is deeply ingrained in the life of our family and world history,” said Mark Wilf, Owner and President of the Minnesota Vikings and Co-Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Holocaust Survivors Initiative.

Each Holocaust survivor in Transfer of Memory shares a story of survival during exceedingly difficult circumstances, yet as a collection, these images focus on life and hope. From Europe to Minnesota, it was here they fashioned their dreams, their futures, and their families – their lives are a constant reminder of the value of freedom and the enduring human spirit. Photographer David Sherman and writer Lili Chester, in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, created this photography exhibition.

“This exhibition has enabled the JCRC’s Holocaust education program to bring lessons of the Shoah (Holocaust) to communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota who otherwise might not receive firsthand accounts from Holocaust survivors. We thank everyone at the MAC and the Airport Foundation MSP for their leadership and tireless work to bring Transfer of Memory to MSP,” said Steve Hunegs, JCRC executive director.

Exhibition photographer David Sherman added, “The urgency for this project is so clear. Our survivor community is aged and aging. The number of living Holocaust survivors is becoming fewer and fewer. It is important for me to ensure that survivors are remembered in a respectful and beautiful way – by face, by name, and by story. Today we stand at a critical time in regard to the Holocaust. After 70 years since the end of the war, we are in the midst of a ‘transfer of memory.’ The witness to the horrors, hardships, and brutalities of the Holocaust is shifting from those who saw and survived, to a retelling of their testimony. We are shifting our focus from the power and reliability of sight and personal experience to the trustworthiness and importance of hearing.”

“This is a deeply moving and powerful exhibit that links Minnesota to an important chapter in world history,” said Robyne Robinson, Arts@MSP Director for Airport Foundation MSP. “We’ve been working for some time to bring the exhibit to MSP Airport and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to host it for the traveling public.”

The exhibition features 44 portraits of survivors living – or who lived – in Minnesota. The color images depict the survivors as living full and fulfilled lives – full of life and vitality – not defined by victimhood. Each survivor was photographed in their home and everyone was interviewed and videotaped prior to making their portrait. Lili Chester’s text, distilled from the survivor interviews, accompanies each portrait and provides background and a short history in the survivors’ own words. “It is my hope and prayer that these images add an important visual proof to accompany the oral testimony,” added Sherman.

This exhibition is curated by JCRC staff members, Laura Zelle and Susie Greenberg, and is a collaboration between David Sherman, Lili Chester, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. The exhibit will be on display at MSP Airport through February 5, 2018. For more information about the exhibition, please visit http://transferofmemory.org. Follow @TransferMemory on Twitter, @TransferofMemory on Instagram, and @TransferofMemory on Facebook.

Here’s some additional coverage from KARE 11 (NBC affiliate) and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Jewish sports news update (and SSP), January 2, 2018

Posted on: January 2nd, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Got to remember to write “2018” on the checks. What’s a check, you ask? Man, you’re young.

Image result for 10-year celebration

First, a little shameless self-promotion: The big news is that the Korner is celebrating its 10th anniversary around this time 10, or so I’m told by the folks at LinkedIn. I’m sure it would have been immediately after New Year’s when the site launched under the aegis of the New Jersey Jewish News, so I’m gonna stick with that. To paraphrase from Guys and Dolls — and as far as I know — it’s the oldest established permanent floating Jewish sports site on the Web.

It’s been a mixture of fun and frustration. The fun was doing it for a living when I was with the paper when I had lots of time to work on entries and interviews. Speaking to various groups ion the topic was great and being named Blog of the Year by the New Jersey Press Association was also cool. The frustration is finding the time now that I’m no longer there and keeping an audience. Thanks to all for your support and good wishes over the years. A special tip of the hat to Rabbi Jason Miller for pitching in (see what I did there?) and helping the Korner move along to the next phase.

As far as the real news of the day, there isn’t any. No Jews were in pro sports action action yesterday. But on this date in 1925, according the Day by Day in Jewish Sports History, Kid Kaplan — no relation — beat Danny Kramer in the final bout of an elimination tournament to become featherweight champ.

Image result for kid kaplan danny kramer

JML Update, Weekend Edition (8/25-27/2017)

Posted on: August 28th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Let’s start with pitching for a change.

Welcome, Ryan Sherriff, who had a darned good debut for the St. Louis Cardinals (66-65) on Friday in a 5-1 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. Sherriff — who toiled in the minors for seven years — came on in the 7-3 loss, tossing three shutout innings, giving up two hits and a walk while striking out four. Sadly, there’s no clips from MLB.com to mark the occasion but there are these, including an interview with his mother, Renee.

 

Stats courtesy JewishBaseballNews.com

And welcome back, Craig Breslow. The veteran lefty was called up by his new team, the Cleveland Indians (75-53) and pitched one inning (two strikeouts) in yesterday’s 12-0 win over the visiting KC Royals, completing a three-game sweep.

Richard Bleier appeared in all three games for the Baltimore Orioles (65-65), who completed a three-game sweep over the host Boston Red Sox. Bleier pitched one inning on Friday with one walk; retired the only batter he faced on Saturday; and walked the only batter he faced yesterday.

Now for the batters…

Ian Kinsler accounted for the Detroit Tigers’ only run in yesterday’s 5-1 loss to the host Chicago White Sox. His 14th of the season came to open the eighth inning and his only hit in three official at-bats ( he also walked). Kinsler was 1-for-8 with another RBI, run scored, and stolen base (#13) as the Tigers (56-73) dropped two of three to the Sox. Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus was one of the Tigers suspended for his part in the recent brawls with the NY Yankees and he’s not taking any guff from Joe Girardi.

Alex Bregman was 5-for-13 — all singles — with a run scored and his 14th stolen base as the Houston Astros (79-51) took two of three from the host LA Angels.

Kevin Pillar was 3-for-9 in the first two games as the Toronto Blue Jays (61-69) hosted the Minnesota Twins. His line also includes a run scored and an RBI.

Danny Valencia appeared in all three games for the Seattle Mariners (66-65) who dropped to of their three games to the host NY Yankees. He was 0-for-5, splitting time between first base and right field on Friday, in a 2-1, 10-inning win that was decided by a pinch-hit home run by Yonder Alonso, the man who basically replaced him in the lineup. Valencia entered the next game in the eighth as a pinch-hitter himself, doubling and scoring a run in a 6-3 loss. He was called out on strikes in the ninth to end the festivities. He also ended Sunday’s game, flying out as a pinch-hitter in a 10-1 loss abetted by five Mariners’ errors.

Ryan Braun was hitless over the weekend, 0-for-9 with three strikeouts as the Milwaukee Brewers (68-63) took two of three from the host LA Dodgers, who lost their first series since June. Funny how wrong this preview was about Ryan’s prowess at Dodger Stadium.

The Atlanta Braves sent down pitcher Max Fried, but he’ll probably be back soon. In the meantime, the Atlanta Jewish Times posted this article on his roots.

As you may know, the last three days was set up as “Players’ Weekend.” The teams had special uniforms that bore the nicknames of most of the athletes. Many had special cleats designed which will ostensibly be auctioned off as a fundraiser. Some were inspired, others not so much. Of course, the cynic in me cannot let this go without a snarky comment. IMO, this was just another money grab, as fans will no doubt flock to buy replica Jersey with these nicknames. These unis were not especially attractive either. It also gives a bit of marketing power to those companies who provide the cleats and other equipment for the players for this weekend.

Here’s a list of the nicknames for the JMLs, via MLB.com. Some names are missing either because they’re new to their team or, in the case of Joc Pederson and Scott Feldman, are not currently with theirs. :

Alex Bregman: “A-Breg”
Mashing up the first initial of a first name and first syllable of a surname are common these days, as Bregman shows.
Tribute patch: Brady — Brady is Bregman’s Godson, who has autism.

Kevin Pillar: “Pill”
Pillar’s usual “Superman” nickname was unavailable due to it being trademarked, so Pillar went with a variation of his name. He says he’ll still be able to wear Superman cleats for Players Weekend, along with cleats he intends to use to raise money for a charity cause of his choice.
Tribute patch: Mom, Dad — Pillar says his parents are a big reason he’s made the Majors, and he wanted to pay tribute to them.

Ryan Braun: “OCHO”
Fans of the film “Dodgeball” will recognize the reference to No. 8.
Tribute patch: Mom, Dad & Steve — Steve, his younger brother, was an infielder in the Brewers’ organization from 2008-10.

Danny Valencia: Last name
Valencia chose to use his last name, because he said he really doesn’t have a creative nickname.
Tribute patch: Mom and Dad
Valencia said that he will pay tribute to his Mom and Dad, as they paved a way for him and sacrificed to allow him to chase his dreams.

Richard Bleier: Using last name
Tribute patch: Mom and Dad
Bleier’s father, Lawrence, is from the Bronx and grew up playing stickball. His mother is named Kathy. Both had a major impact on his baseball career, which started at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla.

Ian Kinsler: “Bootsie”
Kinsler’s nickname comes from his 2007 season in Texas. He missed a month with a stress fracture in his foot, and when then-manager Ron Washington spotted him in a walking boot, he nicknamed him. “When I got here, we got David Price and then he started calling me that,” Kinsler said. “I don’t know how he found out about it.”
Tribute patch: Mom and Dad — Kinsler’s father got him into Little League baseball in Tucson, Arizona, when he was 9 years old. His parents drove him back and forth to games.

 

 

# #

Posted on: August 1st, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Image result for twitterAs in “Hashtag hashtag.”

I’m a little too old to really care about social media. I include it as a “necessary evil,” required by law, it seems, if you want to stay relevant.

So with that in mind, and for those who do keep up with these things, here are the Twitter handles for a few of the past and present Jewish Major Leaguers. Note: These are listed at baseball-reference.com and I have no way of knowing if the ballplayers are actually handling the Twitter accounts personally.

Kevin Pillar: @KPILLAR4

Joc Pederson: @yungjoc650

Danny Valencia: @dannyvalencia19

Ryan Lavarnway: @RyanLavarnway

Alex Bregman: @ABREG_1

Brad Goldberg: @B_Gumbo30

Craig Breslow: @CraigBreslow

Sam Fuld: @SamFuld5

Shawn Green: @shawngreen15

Cody Decker: @Decker6

Ike Davis: @Iked29

Ryan Kalish: @Ryan_Kalish

Gabe Kapler: @gabekapler

Not listed for current JMLs: Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Scott Feldman

 

 

Ty-ing one on

Posted on: February 17th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Ty Kelly and his mother Diane, who is Jewish, traveled to Israel in January 2017 with a group of Jewish-American ballplayersTime for a little SSP: My interview with Ty Kelly, who made his debut with the NY Mets last year and is scheduled to participate for Team Israel in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, appears on the Jewish Baseball News website.Israel makes its debut on the international stage after winning in the qualifiers last September. Kelly was not on the team at the time because he was in the Majors.

One of the more interesting aspects of our conversation was his take on religious identity. No spoiler alerts; you’ll just have to read the article.

Unfortunately, Kelley was designated for assignment by the Mets just a couple of hours after we spoke. They have since outrighted him to their AAA affiliates in Las Vegas where he had so much success in 2016.

Kelly, shown here with his mom, Diane, was one of a group of Jewish-American players who visited Israel in January.

 

Birthday Greetings, Scott Feldman

Posted on: February 7th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Scott FeldmanHappy birthday to Scott Feldman. The tallest Jewish major leaguer to come out of Hawaii turns 34 today.

He was recently signed by the Cincinnati Reds to a $2.3 million contract and with bonuses he could earn as much as $5 mil. Here’s how the St. Louis Post Dispatch website views him, in context to how his presence might affect the Cardinals.

If things go according to plan, righthander Scott Feldman will claim the fourth spot in the rotation. The club gave the 33-year-old free agent a one-year deal after he went 7-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 40 appearances between the Astros and Blue Jays. Feldman has bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation during his career. He started only five times in 2016. Four of those starts came before May. And all five occurred before Houston traded him to Toronto, where he got shelled, posting a 8.40 ERA in 14 appearances. Feldman has faced the Cardinals six times in his career, five of which came as a Rangers reliever in the 2011 World Series. He has an 8.71 ERA against St. Louis.

Here’s wishing him good health and good luck on the playing field.

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Perfect timing for a little SSP (Hank Greenberg project)

Posted on: January 2nd, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

(As in “shameless self-promotion.”) Actually yesterday would have been the perfect time as it would have been Hank Greenberg‘s 106th birthday. Considering that Tyrus Wong, illustrator for the classic Walt Disney flick Bambi, recently died at that age, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Hammerin’ Hank could still be with us.

As you may know, my new book, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War, is due out on April 4. As the title states, it focuses on that one season during which Greenberg was within a few long foul balls from wresting the single season home run record of 60 away from Babe Ruth. Ruth had set the mark in 1927, but there was no pressure, no competition: if he broke his former record, well and good. If not, no big deal. He was enjoying a fun ride.

But as Ruth grew into a fat old man, a new generation of sluggers — Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Rudy York, and Greenberg — were poised to usurp his place in the record books, although no one could replace him as a legendary character and the man who many credit with “saving” the game following the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Those guys felt the pressure, especially from journalists hungry for sensational story lines. And as the season wore on and time was running out, that pressure built even more.

Of course, baseball was just a minor matter compared with what was going on in Europe. Hitler was creating bigger headlines every day as he stepped up his goal of world domination. The book compares and contrasts, using Greenberg and Judaism as the focal points (not all the anti-Semites were in Germany).

Hank Greenberg in 1938 is entering the home stretch now, having gone through a couple of rounds of edits before the proofreading, followed by the bound galleys or ‘arcs’ (advanced reader copies) which will be sent to reviewers in advance of the release date.

With a couple of books in the bank, I know enough to both enjoy the bustle and excitement of the weeks ahead as well as not having grand expectations that this will wind up on the New York Times‘ best-seller list. (No false modesty, just keepin’ it real.) Anyway, it keeps me busy and from being too depressed about not having a full-time job yet.

 

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Now wait just one minute

Posted on: December 12th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

It bears repeating, so I’ve pulled this section out of the previous weekend updated:

  • Daniel Levitt played a whole minute off the bench as Cleveland State lost to host #18 Purdue, 77-53.
  • So did Ky Feldman, who at least got off a shot in Syracuse’s 99-77 win over visiting Boston University.
  • So did Josh Wolf for Lehigh in their 90-71 win over host St. Mary’s.
  • So did La Salle’s Hank Davis but he actually scored two points on free throws in a 93-78 loss to host Georgetown.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CcAGhZLW0AACRqq.jpg

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Korner review: Jewish Sports Review

Posted on: November 15th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

http://jewishbaseballmuseum.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Jewish-Sports-Review-187x300.pngThe Jewish sports fan’s best friend arrived recently: The November/December issue of the Jewish Sports Review.

Among the topic covered:

  • A thorough look back at the 2016 baseball season, from the majors all the way down to the independent leagues
  • A look ahead at men’s and women’s college basketball for DI, II, and III schools. This is important because for some reason the major sports outlets like ESPN do a crap job of keeping up with the women’s game.
  • An addenda for college football and soccer
  • A glimpse at the 2016-17 college wrestling scene
  • And a grab-bag of info in the “Sports Shorts”
  • Special feature: Benjamin Chernuhin’s essay on “Twenty Best Jewish Soccer Players of the Soviet Period”
  • Neil Keller’s “Jews in Sports” alphabetical quiz

The holiday season is upon and I can’t think of a better gift for the hard core sports enthusiasts on your list. So why not get them a subscription of six bi-monthly issues for $36. You won’t find this information anywhere else. For more, visit Jewishsportsreview.com.

   
 

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