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The Greatest Jewish Baseball Players of All Time, by Position

The dog days of summer call for a roster of the best, from Sandy Koufax to ‘The Hebrew Hammer’ and more

Jesse Bernstein
July 29, 2016

Jews—we love baseball! Since the game’s humble beginnings in the mid-19th century, Jews have taken the field, called balls and strikes, and called the games. On the occasion of perhaps yet another Member of the Tribe adding his name to the list of the greats—and because it’s the dog days of summer—here’s a list of the best Jewish baseball players, by position, in history. Your Tablet All-Stars (if you will), are buoyed by three Hall of Famers, two Cy Young Award winners, and a slew of All-Stars.

And, if you want to fight with me about the particulars of the team, feel free to get at me on Twitter. I’m all ears.

C, Harry Danning
“Harry the Horse” was a four-time All-Star for the New York Giants, earning a reputation as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball while hitting over .300 thrice, and placing in the top 10 in MVP voting twice.

Honorable Menschins: Mike Lieberthal, Brad Ausmus, Moe Berg.

1B, Hank Greenberg
Greenberg has a case for being one of the best first baseman of all time, let alone the best Jewish one. Led the league in home runs four times, once drove in an insane 184 runs in a season, and won two MVP awards in a 13-year career that was interrupted for three seasons for WWII service. Hammerin’ Hank is the greatest Jewish hitter, and it’s not particularly close. The Hall of Famer also chose to sit on Yom Kippur before it was cool.

Honorable Menschin: Ike Davis, I guess?

2B, Ian Kinsler and Lipman Pike (tie)
Early homerun king Lip Pike, known as the “Iron Batter,” accounted for (read: hit) “17.2 percent of all homers in the league in 1872, a number not bested until 1920 when Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees broke Pike’s record (20.07 percent).”

But Kinsler’s had a very respectable career too, splitting time between the Rangers and the Tigers, with two 30-30 seasons to his name and four All-Star berths. He’s also notable for being so angry after being traded from the Rangers that he said he “hope[d] they go 0-162.”

1953 Bowman Color baseball card of Lou Boudreau of the Boston Red Sox #57. (Wikimedia)
1953 Bowman Color baseball card of Lou Boudreau of the Boston Red Sox #57. (Wikimedia)

SS, Lou Boudreau
This one is actually a little unfair, because outside of Boudreau, there doesn’t appear to have been a single other Jew to spend any significant time at shortstop other than Buddy Myer, who played SS only for three seasons. Regardless, Boudreau deserves the spot. His resume includes seven All-Star appearances, a World Series title as a player-manager, a batting title, and the 1948 MVP. A baseball lifer, he continued to manage after his playing career ended, after which he joined the Cubs broadcast team. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Honorable Menschin: Hopefully, Alex Bregman

3B, Al Rosen
Nicknamed “Flip” and “The Hebrew Hammer,” Rosen only played seven full seasons in the majors, but in that time, he earned a reputation as one of the best clutch hitters in the league. Hall of Famer Early Wynn once said to Roger Kahn, author of The Boys of Summer, “Believe me, the two best clutch hitters in the game are [Yogi] Berra and Rosen. Most of us pitchers wish to hell they’d switch to golf.”

Rosen was also known to forcefully confront anti-Semitic taunts from fans and opposing players, and Hank Greenberg once wrote that Rosen “used to want to go into the stands and murder somebody when they’d taunt him about being a Jew, but he learned to control himself pretty well.” Usually, Rosen just let his play speak for itself; he led the league in home runs twice, made four straight All-Star teams, and won the 1953 MVP. After he retired, Rosen was a stockbroker for 22 years before he came back to the baseball world, working for the Yankees, Astros, and Giants. With the Giants, Rosen became the first former player to win Executive of the Year honors. (Fun fact: Rosen was born on a Leap Day!)

Honorable Menschin: Kevin Youkilis

OF, Ryan Braun
Great outfielder, yes; great dude, not so much. Regardless, Braun has been one of the best power hitters in baseball since he won Rookie of the Year back in 2007, winning an MVP in 2011 and making six All-Star squads. Though his father, the son of Holocaust victims, was born in Israel, his Catholic mother gifted the world with this gem: “He’s totally not Jewish. I heard some organization started called him ‘The Hebrew Hammer.’ I said, ‘Oh no.’ My mother would be rolling over in her grave if she heard that.”

OF, Shawn Green
Shawn Green—he’s better than you remember! At his peak, he was good for close to 40 HR’s per year and a .288/.369/.545 slash line, plus 20 stolen bases. Green played 15 years in the majors, and is one of only 16 players to hit 4 homers in a game. Green also chose to sit on Yom Kippur several times, and in the 2007 season, pledged to donate $180 for every RBI he accumulated.

OF, Sid Gordon
Gordon was born in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn and was discovered by Dodgers manager Casey Stengel; and yet, he somehow ended up on the Giants. When he made the majors in 1941, the Giants fielded four Jewish players: Gordon, Morrie Arnovich, Harry Feldman, and Harry Danning. He made two All-Star teams and was an exceptionally disciplined hitter, walking more than twice as much as he struck out.

Honorable Menschins: George Stone, Ron Blomberg, Kevin Pillar

SP, Sandy Koufax
Koufax’s 1963-66 numbers are beyond comprehension: Three Cy Young Awards, an MVP, three strikeout titles, four ERA titles, and 97 wins. Koufax, the GOAT Yom Kippur-sitter, won three World Series, taking home the Series MVP award twice. He retired at the height of his powers after the 1966 season, finishing his career as one of the greatest pitchers to every step on the mound.

Honorable Menschin: Steve Stone, Ralph Branca, Ken Holtzman, Jason Marquis

RP, Craig Breslow
Yeah, we’re doing relievers. Often referred to as “the smartest man in baseball,” Breslow and Jewish catcher Ryan Lavarnaway once formed the first Yale battery since 1883. Though he’s fallen off by now, Breslow, who graduated with a B.A. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, was once one of the more consistent relievers in baseball.

Honorable Menschin: Mark Clear

Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.