Posts Tagged ‘baseball cards’


Korner Review: The Jewish Baseball Card Book

Posted on: November 27th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the Jewish sports fan, you can’t do much better than The Jewish Baseball Card Book, by Bob Wechsler.

Image result for the jewish baseball card bookBased on the popular Jewish card sets produced by Martin Abramowitz (who helped on the project along with Peter McDonald), this coffee table edition features photos and brief stories about every JML from Lipman Pike through Alex Bregman, presented by the year of the athlete’s debut.

You might remember Wechsler from his previous contribution to the religion’s sports library, Day by Day in Jewish Sports History. He does his usual great job of mining for little gold nuggets in the genre. (Full disclosure: he’s one of my go-to guys whenever I have a question about an athlete’s identity or other Jewish-related sports puzzlers.)

As you might imagine, it’s hard to find cards for many of these MOTs, especially those who barely had a cup of instant coffee in the big leagues. That’s what makes this volume stand out. In addition to the pages on “regular” Jews, the writers have included a section on “Jews by Choice,” which includes such notables names as Elliot Maddox and Joel Horlen, among others.. There’s also a chapter on Jews who have appeared in Topps regular sets, along with the numbers of their cards, a sort of checklist without the standard checking part.

Even rarer than Jews on American baseball cards? Jews on sets produced in foreign countries. That’s here, too, along with the beloved “error cards” that usually have the wrong photo attributed to a player.

The book concludes with a checklist of cards issued prior to 1988. Why that date? Because that’s when the industry exploded, with several companies competing for the collectors’ dollars, making the undertaking of finding every single card a bit more arduous.

All in all, this is a must-have for those who love the very narrow theme. Remember, Hanukka is just around the corner.

Check out Peter Ephross’ recent article in Tablet. He tells a more sentimental story than my “just-the-facts” rendering. Ephross was the editor of Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players. There’s also this from the Jewish Baseball Museum and this one from JewishBaseballNews.com.



They used to cost a penny…AND you got free gum

Posted on: December 19th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

This story from The New York Times about the baseball card hobby goes from A (Jeff Aeder, aka the prospective buyer) to Z (Guy Zinn, the rare item in question).

http://www.spikerfamily.com/files/resized/244181/500;688;f3852d84bd695a624f23a948954a1edbf9174ef9.jpgIt also comes on the heels of a discovery I had in my attic while looking for books to donate to the nearby Yogi Berra Museum: a box of 1969 Topps cards. It’s not a complete set — it’s missing about 10 cards — but the nostalgia is more important to me.

Long story short: “Aeder offered $125,000 for the card in 2014 and nearly claimed it. But the deal went sour at the last minute. Aeder balked because, he said, he received a poor appraisal of the card’s condition. The owner, Dan McKee of Baltimore County, refused to renegotiate.”

“If Zinn was not a Jewish player, this card is probably worth $10,000,” Aeder said. “If you talk to any dealer or collector, they’ll say McKee’s idea of value is the most overblown, crazy valuation of all time.”

So why was Aeder willing, at one point, to pay $125,000? “It really is something that if you have the means and the obsession, then someone pays a lot more than it’s worth,” he said.

Aeder is the founder of the online Jewish Baseball Museum. No doubt this would add gravitas to his project. Although as a “virtual” entity, does it really matter? It’s like listening to a ventriloquist on the radio.


Is you is or is you ain’t my player?

Posted on: December 9th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

With apologies to Louis Jordan

Just because baseball’s winter meetings are over doesn’t mean player transactions are, too.

Rumors are still swirling:

Frankly, I think it’s fun when players switch teams. When I was a kid the baseball card technology was for crap. The way they were distributed at the time, you could get one “series” every month or so from March through September (there were usually seven). The cards in the last group were considered more valuable and, IMO, always looked better than those coming out early in the year. And if a player in that later series had been traded over the course of the season, you could get something that looked like these:

“The blank hat”


“The air-brush”


“The underbill”


“The bare head”


It’s my understanding — and I’m sure the real story is out there somewhere — that the Topps photographers took one shot with the player in uniform and one without a cap, “just in case.” Airbrushing became more prevalent in the 1970s but as you can tell from the Lolich card, the results weren’t very artistic.

And remember, prior to the 1980s there was only Topps back them, aside from the attempt by Fleer to break into the industry. Nowadays there are multiple card companies, each providing more than one set. One thing that’s true for all, the photography has greatly improved. The same can’t always be said for the cards’ designs.

Can you Topps this? (Ken Holtzman)

Posted on: October 5th, 2012 by Ron Kaplan

The Hardball Times, one of my favorite baseball sites, occasionally posts a “Card Corner” entry, which serves to a) deconstruct the “meaning” of a particular baseball card; b) offer a mini-bio of the card’s subject(s); and c) comment on a particular event.

This one features Ken Holtzman’s 1972 card.

In those days, when the process of producing the cards was much more cumbersome (Topps was the only game in town at the time) air-brushing was quite common, especially later in the summer. The cards came out in batches, approximately 132 cards per “series” that were released on a monthly basis from February through August. A number of players might be traded during the course of the year, so Topps hauled out the old airbrush to bring the players hat and/or uniform up-to-date, often with mediocre results. Later on, they wised up, both aesthetically and financially, by putting out a “traded” set that featured the players in the actual togs of their new teams.

You're the Topps…

Posted on: March 29th, 2011 by Ron Kaplan

For those collectors out there, or anyone interested in the “backstory” of things, this is on the MLB Network tonight at 10 eastern/7 Pacific.

Birthday greetings, Ken Holtzman

Posted on: November 3rd, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

The all-time winningest JML turns 65 today. He also managed in the lone season of the Israel Baseball League (well, part of the season anyway).

This is how I remember him best. This comes from the 1969 Topps set. I was about six cards shy of a complete set back in the day when the only way to could acquire cards was pack by pack. A “near-mint” set is worth about $3,000 nowadays. (more…)


Posted on: August 25th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

More bits and pieces.

  • A few weeks ago I attended a tryout in Ft. Lauderdale for the Maccabi Haifa basketball team. I’m happy to report that some of those fellows made the team, including Zack Evans, Matt Shamis, Adrian Moss, and Brett Harvey (far right in the photo below), who was a main point of my report.

  • NBA.com posted this article about ex-head coaches like the Nets’ Lawrence Frank, who now serves as an assistance for Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics. Thanks to Ari for the tip.
  • And let’s let Ari speak for himself on this soccer item:

Hapoel Tel Aviv has reached the biggest soccer competition in the world, the Champions League group stages.

As the Israeli Champion, they had to play a extra preliminary playoff to reach the CL because Israel is not exactly considered the highest tier professional league.  However, they got through beating an Austrian team of all countries (extra sweet if you ask me).

It’s the second straight year an Israeli team has qualified for this major tournament, but let’s hope Hapoel Tel Aviv does better than last year’s entrant, Maccabi Haifa, which if memory serves correct did not only not win a single game, but didn’t even score a single goal in their six games before being eliminated.

By the way, this is the same team that scored the cool yarmulke goal you posted.  I don’t usually appreciate overt religious displays when it comes to sports, but I’ll make an exception in this instance since you rarely, if ever, see a Jewish one.

  • I’ve already written about Gary Cieradkowski and his spiffy “Infinite Baseball Card Set,” which includes Moe Berg and Sandy Koufax (or at least it did include Koufax until the killjoys at the University of Cincinnati made the artist remove it). Add Lipman Pike, the first Jewish pro ballplayer, to the Cieradkowski’s checklist.
  • Sage Rosenfels did not play a single down in the Vikings 15-10 preseason loss to the SF 49ers. Favre did. Jackson did. Even Joe Webb, who’s fourth on the depth chart, did.  That‘ll teach Minnesota. Unless, on the other hand, perhaps the coaching staff knows that Rosenfels is a reliable backup and the battle is for the third slot. That’s all right, then.

To "Infinity" and beyond

Posted on: July 20th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

Baseball has always been a game that bonds fathers and sons. When Gary Cieradkowski lost his father and “baseball pal” earlier this year, it left a void.

In an attempt to fill that void, Cieradkowski, a designer and illustrator based in Long Beach, Calif., developed what he termed The Infinity Cards Set.

“There is no complete set,” he writes on his blog. “It will go on forever, each card representing a unique and interesting baseball player, from Negro Leaguers and obscure semi-pro players to cards of hall of famers when they were in the minor leagues. I am going to create all the cards I wanted when I was kid, and share some knowledge and stories from baseballs forgotten corners.”

One of those players is “our own” Moe Berg.

“I’ve been wanting to do a card of Moe Berg for quite some time,” Cieradkowski writes in his entry on the colorful character. “[H]e is one of the most asked for players by readers of this blog. He appeals to me on so many different levels, he’s from Jersey, was friggin’ brilliant, spied for the O.S.S. during the war, lived in Paris during the 20’s, parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia and oh, yeah, he played major league baseball, too!”

Cieradkowski previously drew a card of Sandy Koufax as a member of the University of Cincinnati baseball team. Unfortunately, he was forced to remove it by the school, which cited “violation of college licensing laws.” Spoilsports.

The first series (20 cards) is available as a limited edition for $25 and includes such players (real and imaginary) as Leon Day, Eiji Sawamura, Satchel Paige, and Fidel Castro. Visit the blog for more details.

The 2009 JML Card Set: An appraisal

Posted on: April 26th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

Received the Jewish Major Leaguer 2000-2009 Deck of the Decade set this morning (thanks, again, Martin). The producers have done their usual fine job of giving collectors a nice, colorful, high-quality product.

If nothing else, the set serves as a reminder of a handful of players who were just cup for that “cup of coffee.” As Martin Abramowitz said in a recent interview for NJ Jewish News, his idea was to give every MOT who played even a single inning in the big leagues a card of his own, as “proof of his existence.”

Among those who fall into this group:

  • Eddie Zosky (44 games spread over five seasons from 1991-2000)
  • Keith Glauber (seven games in 1998, 2000)
  • Frank Charles (3-4 with a double, run scored and two RBI in four games for the Astros in 2000 at age 31. So why didn’t he have a better shot?)
  • Tony Cogan (0-4 with 24.2 innings and seven homers alloweed stretched out over 39 games in 2001)
  • Matt Ford (0-3 for the Brewers in 2003)
  • Adam Greenberg (still trying to make a comeback after being hit in the head in his only Major league appearance)

The rest of the players from the “aughts” are more familiar, so we’ll omit them here.

Other cards include:

  • a 2009 yasher koach for Ryan Braun, Kevin Youklis, and Jason Marquis, who were selected for the 2009 All-Star Game (Marquis didn’t appear in the contest)
  • “Deans of the Decade” recognizing Brad Ausmus, Scott Schoeneweis, and Marquis as the only JML to appear in each season from 2000-2009
  • An “In Memoriam” for Dave Roberts
  • JML 2009 Award Winners (Braun and Marquis)
  • Youkilis consecutive errorless streak
  • Shawn Green’s record-setting 19-total base game in 2002
  • Longest Hitting streaks (Green and Gabe Kapler wwith 28 games)
  • Three MOT in one game (Kapler, Youkilis, and Adam Stern in 2005)
  • Bud Selig
  • Labor Leaders (Marvin Miller, Donald Fehr, and Michael Weiner)
  • Florida Marlins  ownership
  • Jeff Idelson, president of the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Baseball in Israel
  • Jewish programs held at the Hall of Fame
  • Youkilis as JML of the decade
  • Three cards of JML category leaders
  • And the finale:  The Class of 2009, which included seven position players and seven pitchers

For more information, or to purchase the set, visit JewishMajorLeaguers.org.

Farewell to a new old favorite

Posted on: April 21st, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

This article appeared in the April 15 edition of the New Jersey Jewish News.

Tempered with the excitement of Opening Day, some baseball fans have to contend with the end of a tradition, even if it was only a few years old: 2010 marks the final release of the Jewish Major Leaguer card set.

According to Martin Abramowitz, a former Jewish community executive and the brains behind the cardboard, the process simply became too expensive.

“We’ve basically been using the royalties off the first set to subsidize the economics of subsequent sets, like an endowment,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Newton, Mass. “To do this on an ongoing basis, we’re just undercapitalized. We would need to be able to print a lot more sets and we’d need to have a marketing budget…. We just didn’t have the dollars for that.”

The idea for the project first came to him in the summer of 2000. “I wanted to do a baseball card for every Jewish player. One, because I was a collector and was lamenting the fact that I’d never have a complete set of [Jewish] cards because a lot of these guys never had cards,” either because their careers were too brief or they played before the card industry took off in the early 1950s. “[As] corny as it sounds, I came to understand that I wanted to give those players…that piece of immortality. If you played the game, you’re obviously in the record books, but if you never had a card, it’s almost as if you never existed.”

Another reason: he wanted to teach his son, Jacob — then 11 — about following one’s dreams, “seeing someone take a wild and crazy idea and turn it into something and run with it,” he said.

When Abramowitz produced the 15,000 sets in late 2003 for the American Jewish Historical Society, he thought it would be a one-shot deal. But the response was so positive, it had fans clamoring for more. He waited a couple of years before issuing an update, which covered the 2003-05 seasons. The 2008 release included a subset of cards commemorating the 75th anniversary of Hank Greenberg’s debut, and 2009 paid tribute to Jewish record-holders. Abramowitz also produced an 18-card set — in English and Hebrew — highlighting the one and only season of the Israel Baseball League in 2007.

The 2010 “deck of the decade” consists of 50 cards and includes the 29 players who appeared in games since 2000; career leader cards; a decade-leader stat card; and cards honoring baseball commissioner Bud Selig, Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson; and Major League Baseball Players Association leaders Michael Weiner, Marvin Miller, and Donald Fehr.

After the initial run in 2006, production dropped to about 6,000 sets for the next couple of years, and, most recently, 3,000. The big expenses were on the production side. “You have to use a Major League Baseball licensed producer for the cards.” The quality is high, but “costs are much higher than if I went around the corner to my local Kinko’s,” Abramowitz said. Fortunately, the companies — including Fleer, Upper Deck, and Topps — offered considerable discounts. “They’re a million dollar business; they’re not going to make any money from this. They’re just doing it for the sake of the sport and the industry…. I’m just grateful to everybody for making this possible.”

Abramowitz mentioned one regret, and it’s a common theme regarding one of the legends of the game known for his reclusiveness.

“The only thing I feel bad about is that we were not able to produce cards commemorating [Sandy] Koufax’s career as we did Greenberg’s. Otherwise, I think we’ve done justice to the legacy of Jews in baseball.”

Abramowitz takes pride and pleasure in what he has accomplished. “I feel very fortunate, very blessed to have been doing this.” he said. “It’s ironic; I’ve spent most of my career in Jewish communal service and I’d like to think in my work as a senior executive I’ve made a difference in the life of Jewish communities.”

But, he added, “when it comes time to do my obituary, I might be remembered more for the baseball cards than anything else. Which is fine.”

Abramowitz, who turned 70 earlier this month, hopes to produce another set in 2020 to highlight the current decade. Perhaps Koufax will have a change of heart by then.

For more information, visit jewishmajorleaguers.org.


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