Monday, October 27, 2014

Baseball Fans Hit It Out Of The Shul

Sunday morning, 350 guests attended Skirball’s baseball round-up tying Jewish American legacies to our national sport. Larry Ruttman moderated a lively conversation between baseball fans and ex-players including Ira Berkow, Alan Dershowitz, Donald Fehr and Art Shamsky. Hearing insider stories for the first time made the event a home run.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bud Selig’s "Hope and Faith" in His Last Great Goal Rewarded on Jupiter's Field of Dreams

Published in NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, Volume 22, Number 1, Fall 2013. Copyright © 2014 by the University of Nebraska Press. Reprinted by permission of the University of Nebraska Press.

What do the following seemingly disparate folks have in common: Major League Baseball commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 1909 Nobel Peace Prize winner Paul-Henri-Benjamin Baluet d’Estournelles baron de Constant de Rebecque (November 22, 1852&endash;May 15, 1924) of France; SoHo wine bar manager Shlomo Lipetz of New York by way of Tel Aviv, Israel; Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame manager and player Yoshio Yoshida; Team Spain’s 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC) manager Mauro Mazzotti from Italy; Nate Freiman, Team Israel’s 2013 WBC home run slugger from Phoenix, Arizona, by way of Wellesley, Massachusetts; native black Sotho tribe member and minor-league South African shortstop Gift Ngoepe; and secretary general of the French Federation of Baseball and Softball Jean-Christophe TinĂ©?

They love baseball, whether it is played on fields in America, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Israel, Japan, the Dominican, Cuba, or anywhere else on earth.

The field of dreams for the WBC qualifying round among France, South Africa, Spain, and Israel was comely Roger Dean Stadium in luxurious Jupiter, Florida, where green abounds, not only in the pockets of its well-known residents, but on the many golf courses rolling across the landscape. So when players from nine countries took the diamond on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, hopes were high in and behind the dugouts.



MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was onto something a decade or so ago when he decided to put the strength of his office behind the WBC and the internationalization of baseball. Always a proponent of “hope and faith,” Selig hoped that the teams from many lands would put on a good show, get along, and grow the game he loves, and he had the faith to commit to that idea. If this week of WBC qualifiers has evidentiary value, Selig’s faith was rewarded.

[As the games unfolded, the author interviewed players, managers, and coaches from all four teams from France, Spain, South Africa, and Israel, whose words are recounted in this article.]

[The general manager of the French entry, former player Jean-Christophe TinĂ©, supplied fascinating information about the long history of baseball in France, including the effective coaching of French teams by former Japanese star Yoshio Yoshida, who came for a holiday, and stayed for years; a French Nobel Peace Prize winner who found in baseball a source for world peace; and the status of the game’s development in France and Europe today.]

[Mauro Mazzotti, the weathered and charismatic winning manager from Team Spain, and a former Seattle Mariners scout, told of his early days in the high quality Italian baseball leagues, and why most national teams pull out all the stops to win in the World Baseball Classic, taking advantage of the loose eligibility rules.]

[Interviewing official Mike Randall, black shortstop Gift Ngoepe, and white pitcher Dylan Unsworth, all from Team South Africa, afforded valuable insights into the state of baseball and race relations in that still troubled country.]

[Newly appointed Detroit Tigers manager, Brad Ausmus, managed Team Israel in these games. Ausmus was interviewed along with Peter Kurz, their general manager, who emigrated from New York to Israel some years ago; pitcher and native Israeli Shlomo Lipetz; trainer and New Yorker Dan Rootenberg; 1969 Miracle Mets star Art Shamsky; and Adam Greenberg, famous for being beaned on the first MLB pitch he saw, and years later striking out on his only other big league at-bat.]

That Sunday night [after the exciting deciding game], there was happiness in Team Spain’s clubhouse, sadness and disappointment in Israel’s [despite the heroic slugging of giant Nate Freiman, then a minor leaguer, now a mainstay in an Oakland Athletics uniform]. But the tensions of the five-day competition did not spark any ill feeling. The spirit of goodwill and fellowship that marked the week held. Maybe everyone didn’t go home as happy as they might have been, but everyone from South Africa, France, Spain, Israel, and wherever else, went home feeling something good had transpired.

Bud Selig’s “hope and faith” that baseball would continue its peaceful march around the globe was rewarded yet again.