The best Jewish baseball players of all time

16 Dec

Baseball is a sport full lists, the best hitters, pitchers, and yes even the best Jewish baseball players of all-time. It may seem to many there are few choices but in all honesty it is tough to actually pare the list down and decide who is and isn’t Jewish even. As a fairly free thinker I have expanded my list a bit to embrace a bit of a wider segement than some traditionalists may, but with no further ado here are my selections as the best Jewish professional baseball players ever in no particular order.

Shawn Green began his career with the Toronto Blue Jays and later moved on to the Dodgers with brief stops in Arizona and with the Mets. Green although born Jewish didn’t wholly embrace his faith until he established his career in Toronto and later in Los Angeles took a day off for Yom Kippur like former Dodger great Sandy Koufax. On the field Green slugged his way to 328 homers and 1,070 RBI’s with a career .283 average he compiled over fifteen years. Shawn was a two time All-Star with a silver slugger and gold glove on his reume who at one time was considered one of the top outfielders in the game.

Al Rosen may have had a short career only lasting ten seasons but in that time he was amazing distinguishing himself as not just a great Jewish player but a great player period. He picked up an MVP at third base with Cleveland along with 192 homers, a .285 average, and 717 runs driven in. Rosen made four All-Star teams and led the league in homers and EBI’s twice. Had it not been for injuries which ended his career at thirty two he likely would have reached the Hall of Fame. Rosen was noted as being fiercely protective of his faith and refused to tolerate negativity from anyone concerning it.

Over fifteen years Lou Boudreau established himself as one of the finest shortstops ever with Cleveland and later the Red Sox. Boudreau snagged an MVP award as well as eight top ten finishes in the balloting. Lou, known for his slick glove, picked up a .295 average with eight All-Star appearances, a batting title in 1944, and even a pair of 100 plus RBI seasons. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1970. Some argue Boudreau doesn’t make the list as only his mother was Jewish and he didn’t really ever seem to embrace the faith but for the most part he is regarded as Jewish.

Rod Carew is in the same boat as Boudreau to some degree in that he is not technically Jewish but does have a Jewish wife and obsrves many of the rituals as well as choosing to raise his children Jewish which is good enough for me. Carew may very well have been the finest hitter of his generation with the Twins and Angels compiling a .328 career average including an amazing run of fifteen consecutive seasons with an average over .300. Add in 3,053 hits, and 353 steals you have a Hall of Famer. Consider eighteen straight All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year award, MVP, and seven batting titles there is no doubt about his prowess even if some debate his eligibility on the list.

Hank Greenberg was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1956 with a .313 average, 331 homers, 1,276 ribbies, and 1,628 hits over a thirteen year career. Greenberg also grabbed two MVP awards with a total of six top ten finishes in the balloting and five All-Star appearances and four league leading home run seasons. Had Greenberg not lost years to the war his numbers would have been even more impressive. Hank’s 58 homers stood as a record for righthanded hitters for sixty years and he was recognized as the first Jewish player to gain noteriety for his faith when he refused to play on Yom Kippur during the 1934 pennant race.

Sandy Koufax is widely regarded as the greates Jewish baseball player of All-Time as well as one of the greatest pitchers ever. His four no-hitters stood as a record until broken by Nolan Ryan and his dominance over his twelve year career is evidenced by his Hall of Fame inclusion. Koufax racked up a 165-87 career won loss record with three seasons in which he won twenty five or more games to go along with an amazing 2,396 career strikeouts in 0nly 2,324 innings pitched. Sandy was a seven time All-Star, MVP, three time Cy Young winner, and five time ERA leader. Over a six year period there was no more dominant pitcher, but arthritis plagued Koufax and ended his career after going 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA when many thought he was peaking. Koufax was always known to fully embrace his faith and rest on Yom Kippur regardless of the standings.

While there have been many more Jewish players and many more certainly to come these ar the ones I rate as the best. In several years the Ranger’s Ian Kinsler or Boston’s Kevin Youklis may make the list but only time will tell. The important thing here is these men were not just great Jewish players, but great players period.


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