The Jewish Festival of Lights began Friday at sunset, and will last until this Saturday. In honor of this holiday, I would like to highlight the contributions of Jews in baseball.
All right boys and girls, time for a pop quiz: Name one Jewish baseball player who is in the Hall of Fame. If you guessed Rod Carew, you are absolutely WRONG! Contrary to Adam Sandler and popular culture, Carew is not a Jew. He did marry into the Jewish faith, and his children are Jewish, but Carew himself has never converted. So are there any Jews in the Hall of Fame?
There are two: Detroit's two-time MVP "Hammerin' Hank" Greenberg, and the LA Dodger's three-time Cy Young Award winner and MVP Sandy Koufax.
Hank Greenberg played 12 seasons with the Tigers over a period from 1930-1946. He was an imposing slugger, belting 331 career home runs, a .313 batting average, and an impressive 1276 rbi. (It is interesting to note that Greenberg considered rbi's more important than home runs.) Through his tenure with the Tigers, he helped lead them to four pennant wins and two championships. From 1941 to 1945, he served with distinction in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Upon his return, he helped the Tigers achieve their second World Series win. In 1946, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where in 1947, he became the first player to earn a $100,000 salary, although they released him in September. The following year was brought onto the Indians staff by Bill Veeck to direct their farm system, becoming GM of the Indians in 1950. Later, Greenberg would go on to be partial owner of the White Sox before retiring from baseball in 1963. In 1956, Greenberg was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player with 84.9% of the votes.
Sandy Koufax made his major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955. But the southpaw hurler suffered from control issues early in his career. His greatness at the mound emerged after six seasons with the Dodgers. In 1961, Koufax lead the League in strikeouts with 269. The following season his ERA of 2.54 amd 1.036 WHIP was also a league best. 1963 saw the All Star winning the first of three Cy Young awards (the second and third were earned in 1965 and 1966), and the MVP. Hampered by persistent pain and injuries in his pitching arm, Koufax retired in 1966 at the age of 31. In his career, he pitched a total of 2324.1 innings going 165-87, earning 2.76 ERA, 314 saves, 2396 strikeouts, and 1.106 WHIP. Five years after he retired, he became the youngest man to ever be inducted in the Hall of Fame, earning 86.8% of the votes.
A Tribute to Jews in Baseball