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Happy Baseball!

Don’t knock Jewish ballplayers—they’re better than you think

Marc Tracy
April 04, 2012

Check out this excerpt from Peter Ephross’ new book, Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players. Notes Ephross:

Jewish players on the whole have fared better than average. They hit 2,032 homers—0.9 percent of the Major League total, and a bit higher than would be expected by their percentage of all players. Their .265 batting average is 3 percentage points higher than the overall average.

Jewish pitchers are 20 games above .500, with six of baseball’s first 230 no-hitters (four by Sandy Koufax, including a perfect game, and two by Ken Holtzman). The group ERA is 3.66, slightly lower than the 3.77 by all Major Leaguer hurlers. With the recent influx of top-flight Jewish Major Leaguers—Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, and Ian Kinsler come to mind—the statistics even may have improved since 2002. [Ed.: Almost undoubtedly.]

The stat in which Jews have fallen short is stolen bases, with a total of 995 through 2002—many fewer than Rickey Henderson stole all by himself. Apparently, Jewish players have observed the Eighth Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.”

In the course of editing my book about “Jewish Jocks,” it became quite clear that boxing and basketball have been the two most quintessentially Jewish sports in America. Yet the sport best represented among the figures written about in the book (from Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax to Adam Greenberg and Theo Epstein) is, of course, baseball: it’s so indelibly American, and therefore the stage on which the plurality of sports Jews have aspired to and achieved greatness. Today ought to be a national holiday.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.