Friday, July 31, 2009

The Baseball Talmud: Live Readings/Signings (New! 2010 dates added!)

A constantly updated list! If you have any suggested places for readings, please e-mail me at

Thursday, January 7, 2010 Ohev Shalom, 6:00 p.m.,
Richboro, PA
Sunday, March 7, 2010, Main Line Reform Temple, 9:00 a.m., Wynnewood, PA
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 Temple Israel, 7:00 p.m., Westport, CT

Friday April 3, 7 p.m., Palisades Center Barnes and Noble, West Nyack, NY
Sunday April 5, 2 p.m. Borders, Ramsey, NJ
Tuesday April 7, 7 p.m. Suffern Free Library, Suffern, NY
Thursday April 16, 7 p.m., Book Revue, Huntington, NY
Wednesday April 22, 7 p.m., Cherry Hill Library, Cherry Hill, NJ
Sunday April 26, 9 a.m. Temple Beth Torah, Nyack, NY
Tuesday April 28, 7 p.m., BU Hillel House, 213 Bay State Rd., Boston, MA
Saturday May 2, 3 p.m. Merritt Books, Red Hook (Dutchess County), NY
Monday May 4, 7 p.m., JCC Rockland, West Nyack, NY
Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m., Barnes and Noble, Colonie, NY
Wednesday, May 13, 7:30 p.m., Barnes and Noble, Marlton, NJ
Saturday May 16, 2 p.m. Borders, Marlton, NJ
Sunday May 17, 9 a.m. Temple Emanuel, Cherry Hill, NJ
Thursday May 28, 7 p.m., Barnes and Noble, Cherry Hill, NJ
Wednesday June 3, 8 p.m., Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn, NY
Wednesday June 10, 8:15 p.m., Merrick Jewish Centre, 225 Fox Blvd., Merrick, NY
Saturday June 13, 2 p.m. Borders, Ramsey, NJ
Sunday June 14, 2 p.m., Pawling Book Cove, Pawling, NY
Tuesday June 23 8 p.m. Columbus Jewish Historical Society, Columbus, OH
Wednesday June 24, 7 p.m. Barnes and Noble, Columbus, OH
Tuesday July 7, 6 p.m., Brooklyn Cyclones Jewish Heritage Night, Keyspan Park, Brooklyn, NY
Wednesday July 8, 6 p.m., Trenton Thunder Jewish Heritage Night, Mercer County Waterfront Park, Trenton, NJ
Thursday July 23, 7:30 p.m. Freiberg JCC, Oceanside, NY
Tuesday, August 4, 7:00 p.m., Newton Free Library, Newton, MA
Thursday, August 20, 6:00 p.m., Phillies Jewish Heritage Night, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, September 9, 7:30 p.m., Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
Sunday, September 13, 8:30 a.m., Westchester Jewish Center, Mamaroneck, NY
Sunday, October 18, 9:15 a.m., Temple Beth Shalom, Cherry Hill, NJ
Tuesday, October 27, 6:00 p.m., University of Delaware Hillel, Newark, DE
Wednesday, November 11, 7:00 p.m., Cherry Hill Book Festival, Cherry Hill, NJ
Sunday, November 22, 9:00 a.m., Temple Adath Emanu-el, Mt. Laurel, NJ

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Make Jewish History!

Heading out to Brooklyn soon (come see me at Keyspan Park tonight, or Mercer County Stadium in Trenton tomorrow night!), but I would be remiss if I didn't post this shofar call from Ron Kaplan:

Getting Out the Vote for Kinsler

We have a chance for an All Star Game just six Jews short of a minyan. Let's make it happen. Voting concludes Thursday, so hurry!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Interview with Melanie Greenberg

While most people know Hank Greenberg as the best Jewish hitter in baseball history (and I have him number one overall), his major accomplishment may well be his granddaughter, the writer Melanie Greenberg. Melanie recently joined SNY's blog network with her entry, Struck Out Looking, an informed, witty take on the world of baseball. She was gracious enough to discuss her work, and her grandfather, via e-mail.

1. Tell me a bit about how you came to write Struck Out Looking, along with its fantastic predecessor, You Suck Coco Crisp.

I started You Suck Coco Crisp on a whim, more or less. Most of the energy that I was expending on writing was going into my novel, and I wanted a forum where I could just mess around -- say whatever I felt like. It happened to be baseball season, so that's what was on my mind. "You Suck Coco Crisp" has been a long standing joke amongst my friends, and that was how how I went about selecting the blog name. I go into that in my inaugural entry. I think that choosing that particular name was part of what shaped a lot of my recurring themes -- particularly having fun with names and wordplay. As for Struck Out Looking, it's more or less the same content, but since SNY is hosting it now, I try to keep it more narrowly focused on sports. I also try to keep it a little less rambly. As it happened, the day after I came to an informal agreement with SNY, Coco was traded to the Royals, so I was able to justify the name change in a way that didn't make me feel like a corporate sellout.

2. Your dogs are named Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Rookie. Why the impersonal third name- wouldn't it have been more appropriate to go with a particularly impressive Yankee rookie- say Joe DiMaggio, 1936 or Shelley Duncan, 2007?

I felt like it was important that the selection process not be arbitrary. Strange as it may sound, in one way or another, Yogi and Phil both remind me of the players for which they're named. When I first met Rookie, the only player she really called to mind was Thurman Munson. That just didn't seem like a workable dog name. Of course, now that I know her better, I think she has a little bit of the Chuck Knoblauch afraid to throw the ball thing going on. She's a little bit of a headcase. In any event, the name Rookie is actually less impersonal than it seems. I grew up with a dog named Rookie. My godparents then named their dog Rookie after my parents' dog. So, as it happens, my Rookie is actually carrying the meshpucha torch on this one.

3. Do you look at the old picture of your grandfather in the Yankee uniform- the one that allegedly got him traded by the Tigers- and think about what could have been?

Sure, I have definitely indulged the fantasy. However, it's a fantasy that involves me in the dugout working in a consultative capacity with Joe Torre (the eternal Yankees manager) and having thanksgiving every year with Bernie Williams, so it's probably not particularly realistic.

That said, given the chance, I wouldn't rewrite history if i could. For starters, from a purely practical perspective, Yankee Stadium was a graveyard for right-handed hitters in those days. Still is -- but back then, it was even worse. Who knows what that would have meant for his career as a slugger? Plus, I think in a funny way, he was able to have a bigger impact on both the game and the Jewish community as a player in Detroit. It's true that a career in New York would have probably afforded him more long lasting celebrity. But I think that by going to a smaller city that was hit so hard by the Depression and playing for a ball club that was pretty down and out, he was better able to establish a presence and make people aware of him. Not to mention that Detroit was a much bigger hotbed of anti-Semitism than New York. My grandfather never decided to become a ballplayer in order to fight a political fight, though unwittingly, that's what ended up happening. Being in Detroit put him on the frontlines of that fight.

4. There's been tremendous scholarship done on your grandfather, particularly the Aviva Kempner film. What do you think is the biggest thing the study of him has missed so far?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that there's not a lot of scholarship out there on his personal life. In particular, people rarely write anything on the twenty-five years he spent with his second wife, m step-grandmother, Mary Jo Greenberg. This can probably be attributed to the fact that he was a private person. As far as his career is concerned, there is very little out there about his time as a baseball executive. In addition to being the first Jewish GM in baseball for the Cleveland Indians, he was also part owner of both the Indians and White Sox along with the legendary Bill Veeck.

5. Can you imagine what kind of reaction a legit Jewish star would get here in New York?

I think if you could get a Derek Jeter caliber star, who was either a nice, single boy (e.g. not making Page Six on a biweekly basis for being out at all hours every night with a different starlet) or a family guy with good values, and he was openly Jewish playing for a New York team, people would go crazy.

But I do think that he would have to meet both of those qualifications in order to evoke any kind of real large-scale excitement.

6. Tell me about the novel you are working on- when will the public get a chance to read it?

The book is actually based loosely on my own experience in Cambodia, back in the days when I thought I wanted to go into human rights law. The characters and storyline are very much fictional, however. Essentially, it's about a volunteer who goes to Cambodia all starry-eyed and with the idea in mind that she's going to change the world. As the book unfolds, she discovers that an unfortunate number of the non-profit agencies in the region are almost absurdly ineffective and incapable of navigating the cultural landmines. It's both a coming-of-age and a bit of a satirical look at Western non-profits.

As for when the public will get to read it? You're probably in just about as good of a position to answer that question as I am. I've learned through this process that writing a novel is not actually nearly as challenging as publishing one. I am in the middle of a rewrite at the moment, after which point, I am going to renew my efforts to find an agent. This theoretical agent will try to find me a theoretical publisher, who, if I'm lucky, from what I hear, will have the book on the shelves about 18 months later. So, all told, I think we're talking best-case scenario about three years from now.

7. What is your foremost writing goal over the next five years?

Publish the aforementioned novel -- and then never look at it again.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Odds and Ends

A few quick notes:

The good people at Baseball Prospectus assure me that their 2009 PECOTA projection calling for reduced power from Kevin Youkilis is about the fact that a larger-than-expected number of his fly balls left the park last season--not anti-Semitism. I guess I believe Steve Goldman and Kevin Goldstein... Christina Kahrl and Cliff Corcoran, too.

The general consensus of four very smart baseball people, incidentally, was that Ryan Braun is by far the best Jewish player today. I brought up his awful third base defense, and Goldstein made a great point, that with Braun, as with many players, his bat was major league ready before his glove was.

In all seriousness, go see the Prospectus team anywhere you can-worth your time.

I also see that John Grabow will be playing for Team USA, giving the Stars and Stripes a third Jewish representative to go with Youkilis and Braun.

Later this week, I'll be running down the fantasy prospects in Jewish baseball-who to draft among the Chosen People and when.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Madoff and Koufax

Sad news, with the release of information that Sandy Koufax was among those who lost money in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme.
It makes sense-Koufax and Fred Wilpon, the owner of the Mets, are friends going back to childhood, and we know Wilpon lost hundreds of millions.
Remember, Koufax retired after the 1966 season, about a decade before free agency. So it isn't as if he made millions of dollars playing baseball. Let's hope he didn't have all his eggs in the Madoff basket.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

David Newhan: Back to the Astros?

For those of you who like your Jews with a dash of Jesus, Messianic Jew David Newhan has a standing invite to come back to to spring training and battle for a reserve infield spot.

Newhan, the son of sportswriting legend Ross Newhan, was a delight to deal with when I had the chance during his tenure with the Mets. And unlike his time in New York, Newhan even hit a little with the Astros, posting a reasonable line of .260/.297/.404.

His whole career has been an unlikely one. And I'd imagine some will say he doesn't belong in my book. But he was Bar Mitzvahed, and considers himself Jewish. I will leave it to others to say who is and isn't a Member of the Tribe. (The Indians, incidentally, are one of the few teams he hasn't played for.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brad Ausmus: Modern-Day Moe Berg

No, he's not a spy (that I know of- though if I did, he'd be an awfully poor spy!)- but in the fact that Brad Ausmus continues to get work- a $1 million, one-year deal with the Dodgers after also being courted by the Padres.

And no, he's not getting paid for his offense- his line of .218/.303/.296 is unimpressive- but more so when you realize he put it up in Houston's Minute Maid Park, which had a park factor of 103 last year- hitter-friendly.

But like Berg, Ausmus is Ivy League-educated. And like Berg, teams believe it is helpful to have him around. Berg hit .243/.278/.299 for his career- and lasted 15 seasons.

Ausmus should get a fair amount of playing time- the Dodgers want to play Russell Martin at third base more to keep him fresher. It is a great landing spot for Ausmus.

Of particular note to Jewish fans- with 10 games played in 2009, Ausmus passes Buddy Myer for the all-time record in games played among Jewish players. Let's hope he has a Rickey Henderson moment where he holds up a Torah at second base and recites the Sh'ma.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Jewish Greek God of Long-Term Contracts

Okay, perhaps not Zeus, more like the Department of the Interior God, but great news for Kevin Youkilis, who signed a four-year, $41 million contract that covers his final two arbitration-eligible seasons and two free-agent years.

Youkilis has developed into an all-star level player at first base- at third base, he'd be in Hall of Fame discussions, should he continue at this level offensively and defensively for another 5-6 years (though his last start hurts him in terms of career totals).

Regardless, he is certainly in the discussion with Ryan Braun and Ian Kinsler for best Jewish player in the game today.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another Florida Jewish Transplant

The news came today that Gabe Kapler signed a one-year, $1 million deal to join the defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays.

Kapler is a terrific signing for Tampa. He can fill all three outfield spots, which will help if B.J. Upton is slow to recover from offseason surgery, and he has the bat to play in the corners. His 2008 line was terrific--.301/.340/.498.

The projections system put his 2009 OPS at .759, .751, .746 and .775- Dan Szymborski's ZIPS, Bill James, CHONE and Marcel, respectively. This is very good for a fourth OF- and I suspect this is a softer prediction than many others, as the comps for players that took a year off, then resumed a career must be few and far between.

I am hopeful that there will be a fan group created at Tampa games called either "Kapler's Knishes", who will all dress up as enormous potato products, or "Kapler's Kvetchers", who will all dress up as my grandmother.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Marquis and Hirsh and Some Guys Who Go to Church

Ah, the variation of the old "Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain" chant. But it is entirely possible- the Colorado Rockies, known just a few years ago as the Christian baseball team, will have a rotation next year that is 40% kosher following the acquisition of Jason Marquis from the Chicago Cubs, and the hopeful return to health by Jason Hirsh.

As a Mets fan, I was hoping the rumored deals sending Marquis home (he is a Staten Island native) would replenish the Semitic stock in Queens, with Scott Schoeneweis off to Arizona. Alas, it is not to be.

But the Rockies can easily become a favorite team for Jews, especially should Jason Hirsh regain form. Hirsh not only has the chance to become a tremendous pitcher, he is also the tallest pitcher in Jewish history, at 6'8".

Other things to watch for: Jason Marquis is a terrific hitter. What will the .206 hitter do in Coors Field? He hit 2 home runs last year-will 5 home runs be possible? Mike Hampton hit 7 in his first season in Colorado.

Most promising will be, of course, if both Marquis and Hirsh become the 1-2 punch for the Rockies. Here are some themed nicknames, to get the ball rolling ahead of time:

Yom Kippur for Hitters
The Mordecai and Esther of Denver
No Ham or Hits
The Two Answers
The Festival of Lights-Out

Feel free to add your own to the mix!