10 Jewish Baseball Players From History You May Not Know (But You Should)
(JTA) — Jewish baseball fans (and many non-Jews) know the names and accomplishments of Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg, as well as their hallowed status in the great books of American Jewish history.
But they were far from the only Jewish baseball players to impact the game during the 20th century.
Howard Megdal, who writes for Baseball Prospectus and extensively on women’s sports, released an updated version of his 2009 book “The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-by-Position Ranking of Baseball’s Chosen Players” in May. To mark the moment, we’ve highlighted 10 lesser-heralded players from his long list — all of whom played long before contemporary Jewish baseball stars like Alex Bregman and Max Fried were born.
They’re listed here in alphabetical order (by last name), along with the years they played, the teams they played for, and their notable stats.
Morrie Arnovitch, DE (1936-1941, 1946)
Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants
.287 batting average, 261 RBIs in
Born in 1910 in Superior, Wisconsin, Arnovich’s parents pushed him to become a rabbi. Needless to say he had other ideas. Arnovich, reportedly dubbed “Son of Israel” in the Jewish press, played five full seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants before enlisting in the military in 1942. after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a National League All-Star in 1939 with the Phillies, hitting .324 with 67 RBIs. During his career, Arnovich hit for a high batting average and played excellent defense, compiling an impressive .981 save percentage. After his playing days, he returned to Superior, where he coached at a local Catholic high school. He died of a coronary artery blockage at age 48 and was buried in Superior Hebrew Cemetery.
Mike Epstein, 1B (1966-1974)
Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and California Angels
.244, 130 homers
Nicknamed “Superjew” by an opposing minor league manager, Epstein was the leading Jewish slugger of his era. He was a college All-American at the University of California, Berkeley and won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team before the Baltimore Orioles signed him for $20,000 in 1964. Even s he played in spacious parks his entire career and never hit for a high average, he flashed on home run power, hitting 19 or more homers in four seasons.
Sid Gordon, DE (1941-1943, 1946-1955)
New York Giants, Boston/Milwaukee Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates
.283, 202 HR
When Gordon returned from Coast Guard duty in 1946, he began a nine-season streak in which he was one of baseball’s top players for the New York Giants, Boston Braves (and Milwaukee ) and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Every year from 1948 to 1951 he hit 26 or more homers, hit 90 or more runs, and hit .284 or more. His best season came in 1948, when he hit .299 with 30 home runs and 107 RBIs. When the Brooklyn Dodgers, looking for a Jewish player, signed Sandy Koufax, team owner Walter O’Malley said he hoped Koufax could be as good as Hank Greenberg or Sid Gordon . During a game against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1949, he was hit with anti-Semitic slurs from the opposing bench, prompting Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer to berate his team, saying “Sid is one of my friends”.
Elliott Maddox, DE (1970-1980)
Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets
.261, 234 RBI
Before tearing his knee in 1975, Maddox was considered the best defensive center in the American League. He could also hit for average, hitting .304 from the start of 1974 until he was injured in 1975, and displayed excellent discipline at the plate, consistently walking more than he hit. Maddox, born an African-American Baptist, took courses in Judaic studies at the University of Michigan and converted to Judaism before the 1974 season. He said, “I received inner peace with conversion. I really feel at home.
Erskine Mayer, HPR (1912-1919)
Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox
91-70 record, 2.96 ERA
Mayer ended his career with the infamous 1919 Chicago Black Sox – as one of the players who didn’t get caught pitching World Series games. In 1913, at age 23, Mayer began a six-season streak with an ERA (running average earned) of 3.15 or less. In 1915, he recorded a 2.36 ERA as the No. 2 starter behind the great Grover Cleveland Alexander, as the Philadelphia Phillies won the pennant. In Game 2 of the World Series, he pitched a full game, giving up only one earned run. His career ERA of 2.96 is the third-lowest on record for a Jewish pitcher, behind only Barney Pelty (see more on him below) and Koufax.
Dave Roberts, HPL (1969-1981)
San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets
103-125, 3.78 ERA
Roberts was a very good starter and reliever when he stayed healthy. From 1970 to 1974, he won 61 games with a 3.22 ERA for some mediocre-to-bad San Diego Padres and Houston Astros teams. In 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Roberts for the stretch run and he pitched great in 38.2 innings, helping Pittsburgh win the World Series. In 1971, he went just 14-17 for the Padres as they lost 100 games, but he finished with a 2.10 ERA and finished sixth in the NL Cy Young Award voting top pitcher. of the league.
Hello Rosen, DE (1937-1939, 1944-1946)
Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants
.291, 197 RBI
Although he played in the minor leagues for most of his prime, Rosen made a major league impact for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, combining high batting averages with excellent defense. Rosen started pro ball in 1932, but remained in Double A for five seasons, despite hitting between .293 and .314 and excellent defense in center field. He went to the show in 1937 and played well part-time for three seasons before being sold to Columbus in the American Conference, and he remained in the minors for four years. In 1944 Rosen got another shot and in 1945 he took off, hitting .325 and earning an All-Star appearance. Born in Toronto to Russian immigrants, he is said to have expressed pride in being the first Jewish-Canadian baseball player in the major leagues, a distinction he would retain for decades.
Barney Pelty, HPR (1903-1912)
St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators
2.63 ERA, 693 strikeouts
Called “The Yiddish Curver” – a nickname he liked to have – for his wicked curveball, Pelty had a successful 10-year career with the St. Louis Browns, as well as 11 games with the Washington Senators. He recorded an ERA below 2.85 in his first seven seasons, finishing below 2.00 twice, an incredibly rare feat in modern times. In 1906, he went 16-11 with a 1.59 ERA, second lowest in the American League. Pelty’s parents were among the first Jews to live in Farmington, Missouri, where Barney grew up.
Larry Sherry, HPR (1958-1968)
Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros and California Angels
53-44, 3.67 MPM
Sherry came to the big leagues as a starter, but the Dodgers quickly turned him into a reliever. He posted eight solid seasons from 1959 to 1966 with the Dodgers and Detroit Tigers, finishing with an ERA below 3.00 each year. In the 1959 World Series, Sherry won two games while pitching in relief, including the deciding Game 6, as the Dodgers defeated the Chicago White Sox. As Dodger’s teammates between 1959 and 1962, Sherry and his brother Norm formed one of the few Jewish receiving-pitcher batteries in baseball history, and the first (and to date only) battery of brothers. jews.
Steve Stone, HPR (1971-1981)
San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles
107-93, 3.97 ERA, 1980 Cy Young Award
When Stone made his debut in 1971, Larry Jansen, a Giants coach, called him “the most promising young pitcher we’ve seen since Juan Marichal arrived.” In 1980, Stone hosted one of the most surprising seasons in baseball history. After finishing with an ERA below 3.95 only once in the previous seven seasons, Stone went 25-7 with a 3.23 ERA for the Baltimore Orioles, earning the American League Cy Young Award. Writer Ron Fimrite, in the May 17, 1971, issue of Sports Illustrated, called Stone “a Jewish intellectual…who may well be a right-hander (Sandy) Koufax.” Stone would go on to become a longtime television commentator for the Chicago Cubs and later the Chicago White Sox.