Archive for the ‘Jewish identity’ Category


World Baseball Classic update, March 2

Posted on: March 2nd, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

As the various teams start to get together in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, here’s what’s doing with Team Israel, as well as the JMLs who have plighted their trough elsewhere.

  • Ian Kinsler wants to win, just not for the Israeli team apparently.
  • Lincoln Mitchell, author of Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball, contributed this piece to the Forward, asking “Is The World Baseball Classic An Error For The Jews?” While I enjoyed his book, I take issue with some of his assertions which seem to be based on his claim that “there happen to be no Jewish players on the American team,” which is simply not true. In addition to Kinsler, Houston Astros’ sophomore Alex Bregman is on the USA roster. I also take exception to his statement that “because the US team is much better than the Israeli team, the WBC will give some credence to the tired and offensive notion that Jews stink at sports or other physical activities.” On the other hand, there is merit to his concern that allowing American Jews to play for Israel “provides fodder for those who believe that Jews are not quite true Americans and are more loyal to Israel than to the US. During a time when the President of the United States promotes the old anti-Semitic slogan, ‘America First,’ this is something that cannot be ignored.” There are lots of players in the WBC who will be playing for the countries of their ancestry but only Israel seems to bring up that loyalty issue. Can you imagine a Major Leaguer on Team Jamaica being accused of dual loyalties?
  • Team Israel held a mini-camp in Scottsdale recently.


Shalom, Geoff Schwartz

Posted on: February 22nd, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

In this case, I’m using the word for both “goodbye” and “peace.”

It should not come as a giant surprise that the former Giant (and Panther and Viking and Chief) has announced his retirement. He did not play last season and only appeared in  13 of 36 games for New York over his two seasons with them due to an unfortunate series of injuries.

Image result for geoff schwartz familyOne of the things Jewish football fans appreciated about both him and his younger brother Mitchell — who is already being recognized as one of the best at his O-Line position — was how they embrace their religion. They were frequent guests at Jewish day schools and JCCs and earlier this month, they were among a group of local personalities inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. I found it charming that their recent joint memoir, Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith, started off with the family celebrating Hanukka. Sweet.

Geoff wrote about his decision on SBNation. I’m sure he’ll do well; he spent the past season as an analyst for several on-line and broadcast outlets. And despite all the enjoyment he and his family have received through the sport, I can’t help thinking they’re kind of glad he’s getting out while he’s young and in relative good health.

Mazel tov, Geoff, and thanks for the memories.

Image result for geoff schwartz family

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.


It’s all in how you parse it (Julian Edelman)

Posted on: February 7th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan 1 Comment

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman managed to get his fingers underneath the ball and keep New England’s tying drive alive in the Super Bowl Sunday night.

So I’ve been in contact with the editors of the Jewish Sports Review following a bunch of articles about Julian Edelman. Thanks to his miracle catch in the Super Bowl, all of a sudden everyone is manic to proclaim him as the Jewiest Jew to ever don shoulder pads. The Forward mentions him in the same breath as Sandy Koufax; that’s just nuts.

But the folks at JSR are still not ready to admit him to the fold, officially. Yes, he’s said a lot of good stuff and he’s visited Israel but that doesn’t make him Jewish, according the longstanding criteria of the Review.

That’s why I was somewhat amused by this article from the Miami Herald which begins, “It isn’t every day a football player with Jewish roots becomes a Super Bowl hero…” Just by adding the word “roots,” you change the whole identity process. There’s not saying he’s Jewish, per se, but that he does have “connections.” Nicely done.

On the other hand, this headline from NYBlueprint, a site that bills itself as “The Jewish urban event guide,” declared “Jewish player makes football history.” That, to me, is questionable. He caught a football in a crucial game. That the catch contributed to what was indeed a historic comeback, I give you. But Edelman himself making history? How? It’s not really explained in the brief item. I guess everything you do can be considered history in the true sense of the word.


Kicking up their heels for Maccabiah

Posted on: January 5th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Hard to believe the 2017 Maccabiah is just a few months away. And because these are the 20th games, you know it’s going to be a major deal.

Fundraisers and tryouts are already under way. Here’s a piece about an octet of athletes from a dojo in New York that are already gearing up for the competitions.

Black belt members of the Warren Levi Martial Arts dojo in Cedarhurst. Levi is at far right.

For those looking to catch up with the story behind the quadrennial event, I humbly offer The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games. Who knows, maybe I’ll be updating it after July.

The History of the Maccabiah Games

Lest we forget: Peter Horvitz

Posted on: December 30th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/516HCTBTKGL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe teacher and lecturer who published The Big Book of Jewish Baseball with his son Joachim, died in Raleigh, NC, last Saturday at the age of 71.

This was one of those Jewish “reference books” I’m betting a lot of kids received as a bar mitzva or Hanukka present.

Horvitz also wrote The Big Book of Jewish Sports Heros: An Illustrated Compendium of Sports History & The 150 Greatest Jewish Sports Stars.

JNS used him as the main source for a story on “Forgotten Jewish baseball players” in 2012.

HT to Bob Wechsler for the sad news.

Hold on to your money (Guy Zinn)

Posted on: December 26th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Last week I posted about a rare Guy Zinn baseball card and the battle between buyer and seller, as reported in The New York Times. That piece of paper was rendered even more vauable because of Zinn’s supposedly Jewish religion.

I hope that guy didn’t sign the check yet because there are some question circulating about that aspect.

Bob Wechsler, author of Day by Day in Jewish Sports History, is at the forefront of digging when something like this comes up. In a recent entry to the Yahoo Jewish Sports Collectors group, Wechsler wrote

http://www.spikerfamily.com/files/resized/244181/500;688;f3852d84bd695a624f23a948954a1edbf9174ef9.jpgLast week’s New York Times article on the Guy Zinn card got some of us wondering again about the sketchy information identifying Zinn as Jewish.

I wrote to the Baseball Hall of Fame library, and they sent me a scan of Zinn’s biographical questionnaire (see attached). He is listed as a German-Jew. As far as I know, this is the ONLY known reference to Zinn being Jewish.

I also noticed that the form was not filled out by Zinn himself (because it includes death information), but by a Mrs. E.W. (Jean) Talley of Louisiana. Talley is Guy Zinn’s daughter.

We received a note at jewishbaseballmuseum.com from an Elaine Hirschberg, who read the N.Y. Times article and became interested in Zinn’s background. She has spent the week diligently doing research on ancestry.com and came up with the following findings:

I am certain that Guy’s mother’s ancestors and Guy’s paternal mother’s ancestors are all Christians from England/Wales who arrived in America 400 years ago plus.
I am certain that Guy’s father’s paternal ancestors were all Christians from Germany when they arrived in America 400 plus years ago.

New info: Guy’s sister Wilma was married on Christmas Eve by a Methodist Minister in the parsonage. Guy’s grandfather Quilly Manley Zinn is buried with family member in the Oxford Cemetery next to the Baptist church.

Who is Mrs. E.W. Talley (Jean) who either signed the form from Baseball Hall of Fame Research dept or gave the info? Important note- there is no date on this form. When was the information given?

She is Jean Zinn, Guy’s daughter. She lived with him as an infant. He also has a son Guy Zinn Jr. who died young, at age 26 and he had one daughter who died at age 2. Guy Zinn Jr. has no living children.

Jean Zinn was married at least 4 times, to a Talkington, a Hanson, Emmett William Talley and a Ronn. She married Hanson in 1949, don’t know when they divorced. She divorced EW Talley in 1973 so that slightly narrows down when the Baseball form was filled out. She may have divorced Hanson in the 50’s or 60’s, married Talley in the 50’s or 60’s and divorced him in 1973. Don’t know. Jean had one son as far as I can tell. He died in 2012. As far as I can tell he had no children. Jean possibly has no living children or grandchildren.

I have NO idea why Jean said her father’s descent was German-Jew. But she, or someone on her behalf put it on that form. I’d be curious when the information was given and if that is the only piece of paper that contains that information.
Many Americans think they have Native American ancestry until they take their DNA test and realize it was just a family legend.

A mystery, to me anyway.

And from an earlier email:

Guy had two children (his daughter’s son is buried in military cemetery with a Christian cross on his headstone) and I will do some more research on them but it’s important to note that by the 1920 census Guy Zinn’s wife was already living separately from him. She is living with her parents and the two children who were 9 and 10 at that time. Not knowing when they separated, it’s possible the children spent little time with him as youngsters and it’s possible they didn’t know him at all. Especially with him being on the road playing baseball from 1911-1915.

About five years ago I wrote a blog about the Zinn card going on eBay at a price of $250,000. The Spiker family of West Virginia linked the blog on the family history website. I read the diary of the family matriarch, and it was full of Christian quotations. The web manager said the family was puzzled by the Jewish reference, but Guy Zinn was a distant cousin on the other side of the family with which they had little contact. Last night I wrote back to the web manager with newer information and am awaiting a reply.

Anyway, what do you think? Do we keep Zinn on the list, take him off, or hope some other clue appears down the road?

An awful lot of fuss for a Guy (heh) who played just about 60 games a year over five seasons ( and two of those were in the Federal League).

Thanks, Bob, for doing the yeoman’s work on this.

Reminds me of the “Buddy Myer case.” He was a pretty good little second baseman mostly for the Washington Senators from 1925-41 (with two season spent on the Red Sox). Here’s what I wrote about him in a previous entry concerning the dubious identity of hockey player Andre Burakovsky of the Washington Capitals earlier this year. Seems Andrea was staring to take exception over being considered a Jew and vehemently denied it on Twitter. Anyway, about Myer:

Buddy Myer was a major leaguer for almost 20 years, mostly with the Washington Senators. People assumed he was Jewish because of his name (and you know what happens when you ass-u-me). Sportswriters identified him thus. He’s included in several books about Jews and the national pastime and was even inducted in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Myer, who is interred in a Christian cemetery, never thought to deny it, thinking it would make him look bad or some such thing. In fact, at one point the family did have Jewish roots, but they converted out of the faith either before he was born or when he was just a lad.

http://bbcard1.com/double/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/41dp_073-074.jpgOne of those sportswriter was Shirley Povich, who worked for the Washington Post for 70 years. Following  a game between the Senators and Yankees in which Myer was intentionally spiked by Ben Chapman, an unrepentant bigot, Povich wrote that “Chapman cut a swastika with his spikes on Myer’s thigh.” It had always been assumed that it was because the second baseman was a Jew and it didn’t help clear things up that Myer never denied it. So for years he was considered one of the greatest Jewish players and included in books about Jewish athletes. He’s even an inductee to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel.

Getting the band together for Team Israel

Posted on: December 23rd, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Eleven players committed to the Israeli National Team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic will take part in a field dedication ceremony next month in the Holy Land.

The team so far consists of

Top row, from left: Ike Davis (1B), Cody Decker (DH), and Ryan Lavarnway (C)

Middle row, from left: Ty Kelly (OF), Danny Valencia (INF/OF), and Sam Fuld (OF)

Bottom row, from left: Corey Baker, Jeremy Bleich, and Josh Zeid (all pitchers)

The other two players are outfielder Gabe Kapler and pitcher Jon Moscot (assuming he can stay healthy)

Ian Kinsler and Alex Bregman said they would play for Team USA if asked, but if not, I wonder if they would consider the Jewish option.

Still haven’t heard from the other current JMLs: Scott Feldman, Ryan Braun, Richard Bleier, Joc Pederson, and Kevin Pillar.

Jason Marquis and Craig Breslow would make nice additions, as would Sandy Koufax, who still looks pretty good.


YU announces inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame Class

Posted on: December 1st, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Legendary basketball coach Bernard “Red” Sarachek, fencing coach Arthur Tauber, and wrestling coach Henry Wittenberg, along with the all-time leading women’s and men’s basketball scorers, are among the inaugural inductees into the Maccabees Hall of Fame, honoring Yeshiva University alumni and other individuals who have distinguished themselves in National Collegiate Athletic Association competition and who best exemplify the University’s highest ideals and mission. The inaugural class induction ceremony will be held in May 2017.


Bernard “Red” Sarachek


Arthur Tauber


Ben Wittenberg

“The establishment of the Hall of Fame is a testament to the contributions Yeshiva athletes, coaches and others have made to the world of sports over more than a century and the reflection of Yeshiva’s long and illustrious athletic history,” said Joe Bednarsh, YU’s athletic director. “We look forward to adding to the inductee list in years to come with individuals who best exemplify the exceptional athletic ability, personal integrity, high standards of character and ideals and philosophy of Yeshiva University.”

The honorees include:

  • Heidi Nathan Baker led the women’s tennis team to a Skyline Conference Championship in 1999. She went undefeated in singles for all four years that she played, from 1996-1999, and she was named the Conference’s No. 1 singles player in 1999. She also coached the women’s tennis team for two years, after graduation.
  • Irwin Blumenreich played on the basketball team from 1954 to 1957 and served as captain in both the 1955–1956 and 1956–1957 seasons. He scored 513 points in one season, which stood as the most points scored in a season for decades. Other long-standing marks were for the most field goals in one season (211) and the most points in a single game (44), and he was the first Yeshiva basketball player to be elected to the All-Metropolitan team.
  • Daniela Epstein played on the Lady Macs YU women’s basketball team from 1999-2003. She is the all-time leading scorer, with 1,134 career points, and is the only woman in YU history to score over 1,000 points in her career.
  • Yossy Gev is the all-time YU men’s basketball points leader with 1,871 points. He played on the men’s basketball team from 1998 to 2002, serving as captain for three out of the four years. He was also the assistant coach from 2002 to 2005. He has earned many awards, including being named to the New York Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Division III All-Star (four times), National Association of Basketball Coaches Division III Atlantic All-District All-Star team, and East Coast Athletic Conference Division III Men’s Metro Basketball All-Star Team.
  • Marvin Hershkowitz was the first-ever basketball player in YU history to score 1,000 points. In the 1949–1950 season, he led Yeshiva’s scorers with a total of 269 points. From 1954­ to 1956, he served as assistant coach, and from 1956­ to 1957, he was assistant athletic director. Six decades later, Hershkowitz is still ranked 23rd in team history in total points scored.
  • Sheldon Rokach played on the YU men’s basketball team from 1962 to 1966. Accomplishments include the following: third all-time YU rebounder, with 1,020 rebounds; fifth player in YU history to score more than 1,000 points, with a total of 1,223 points; most points in one game (48); and most rebounds in one game (33).
  • Bernard “Red” Sarachek served as coach of the YU men’s basketball team from 1942 to 1943 and from 1945 to 1968. He coached the 1954–1955 YU men’s basketball team that broke every individual and team scoring record, including most wins (13), most points, most field goals, and the highest average score per game than any previous team. He is credited with putting YU basketball “on the map.” He also coached and mentored legendary players and coaches, such as NY Knicks’ Red Holzman, St. John’s/Nets’ Lou Carnesecca, and YU’s own Johnny Halpert. During World War II, he coached in the military at Pearl Harbor, where his Schofield Barracks team won an armed forces title.
  • Herbert Schlussel was a member of the YU basketball team from 1953­ to 1957, and he played alongside Blumenreich and Sodden. He served as captain in the 1956–1957 season. Over his four-year career, Yeshiva basketball posted an impressive 51-29 record.
  • Abe Sodden ranks 16th all-time in YU basketball scoring history. He played from 1952 to 1956, serving as captain during the 1955–1956 season. Sodden broke the record at the time for most points in a season, with 384 points, by averaging the highest individual average per game, with 20.21 points.
  • Arthur Tauber served as the men’s fencing coach at YU from 1949 to 1985 and athletic director from 1979 to 1985. He spent 37 years at YU, where he was a professor of health and physical education and director of health. He also coached the baseball, soccer, tennis and cross country teams. He earned fencing All-American status in 1941 and was inducted into NYU’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001. He received the Bronze Star for his U.S. military service in World War II.
  • Henry Wittenberg coached wrestling at YU from 1957-1967. Wittenberg was a two-time Olympic medalist (winning Gold in 1948 in London and Silver in 1952 in Helsinki, where he served as captain), and his personal wrestling career consisted of over 400 wins and only four losses. He was a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (inducted 1977), the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the CCNY Hall of Fame.

For more information, visit yu.edu/HOF.


New nickname: “Mishaberach” Jon Moscot

Posted on: November 29th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

So far Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Jon Moscot hasn’t had anything close to what one would call good luck. In his rookie season, he sustained a season-ending injury when he dislocated his shoulder making a tag play at second base. This year it was another arm problem that put him on the shelf after just five games.

According to this interview with Jeremy Fine, Moscot seems to be the “most” Jewish major league, perhaps the most Jewish professional athlete of all the major sports.

[M]y father was born into an extremely Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York in the ’50s. He and his brother attended Yeshiva and spent a large portion of their lives in Israel. Being raised Jewish, to me, has provided me with an unbelievable support group from not only my family, but friends and other Jews across the globe. Judaism is my belief, it’s my culture and my heritage and it has molded me into the person I am today. The reason I try and stand out in the community is due to the Torah’s teachings and wanting to make a difference in others’ lives. Being Jewish is a special thing.

Let’s hope the Reds don’t give up on him, or that someone else will give him a chance to show what he can do given a prolonged stretch of good health,


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