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Jewish World Series MVPs

Jewish Major Leaguer Craig Breslow will become the 24 Jewish player to appear in the World Series, should he pitch for the Boston Red Sox in the 2013 Fall Classic.
Craig Breslow. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Boston Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, which starts tonight, Wednesday, October 23. 

Should he have the opportunity to come on in relief, Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow will become the 24 Jewish Major Leaguer to play in the World Series, as documented in these postings from Kaplan's Korner and Jewish Baseball News.

Koufax Upper Deck Print

Sandy Koufax Upper Deck artwork. Photo courtesy of Beckett.com.

 

During the history of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award (which started in 1955), two Jewish baseball players and a player who converted to Judaism after his career won a total of four MVP trophies.

Interestingly, all three played for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they captured the honors.

 

 

Larry Sherry 1960 Topps

Larry Sherry Topps card. Photo courtesy of eBay.com.

JewishSportsCollectibles.com offers reviews of the players' baseball cards and collectibles ... which range from common cards to $100,000+ game-used leather, from books to DVDs, from postcards and programs to books by the yard. 

Steve Yeager 2004 UD Legends 2 Autograph
Steve Yeager Upper Deck card. Photo courtesy of Beckett.com.

To read the JSC's overviews of the cards and memorabilia for World Series MVP winners Larry Sherry (1959), Sandy Koufax (1963 and 1965) and Steve Yeager (1981) click on the players' names.

Feel free to comment below, or in the individual postings, to let JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know what your most treasured collectible for these World Series winners might be.

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Editor's Note: A version of this posting originally ran under the headline "Jewish World Series MVP Profiles" in 2011.

Wilt Chamberlain: 'Borscht Belt Bellhop'


Wilt Chamberlain BellHop
Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhop. Photo courtesy of Kutshersdoc.Jimdo.com.
Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhop is currently airing on ESPN's 30 for 30 series. The documentary short film, from the Jewish filmmakers who made Welcome to Kutsher's, sheds light on basketball great Wilt Chamberlain's Jewish connections and ties to the famed Catskills resort.

Directed and produced by Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg, both Jews, Borscht Belt Bellhop examines Wilt Chamberlain's time working at Kutsher’s Country Club in New York's Catskill Mountain region in the summer of 1954.

Then a senior in high school, the future Basketball Hall of Famer served as a bellhop by day, and played basketball for the Kutscher's basketball team, which was coached by Jewish coaching legend Arnold "Red" Auerbach, who would later go on to a Hall of Fame career coaching the Boston Celtics.

According to the film's web site:

"Mixing rarely-seen archival video and interviews with people who lived and worked with Wilt during that magical summer, this documentary short reveals an unexplored and pivotal chapter in the life of one of basketball’s greatest players, and a fascinating glimpse of a time when a very different era of basketball met the Borscht Belt in its heyday." 

Wilt Chamberlain BellHop screencap
The film is available to view, in it's entirety, on ESPN's web site (or by clicking on the image above). Borscht Belt Bellhop is also being screened at a variety of film festivals. Visit the documentary's web site for a list of upcoming showings.

The mini-documentary about Chamberlain is an outgrowth of Laskow and Rosenberg's Welcome to Kutsher's: The Last Catskills Resort.

That film, released in 2012, takes a "fuller look at the increasingly forgotten aspects of this unique chapter of the Jewish American experience," Rosenberg said in an email to JewishSportsCollectibles.com. The film is expected to release on DVD later this year, according to Rosenberg.

Other than the soon-to-be released Welcome to Kutsher's DVD, memorabilia from both films is extremely limited. Rosenberg says that he and Laskow don't expect to have any merchandise to sell. "ESPN Films may later make the 30 for 30 Shorts available for sale at some point," Rosenberg told JSC, "but that's out of our hands." 

For now, posters from and tickets to the various film festivals at which the documentaries have been (or will be) shown may be a Jewish basketball collector's only option. Borscht Belt Bellhop made is festival debut at the internationally-acclaimed Tribecca Film Festival, for example. Visit the film's web site for a list of past and upcoming screenings.

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In addition to the documentary film, Jewish basketball enthusiasts have access to a wide variety of cards and memorabilia associated with Chamberlain and Auerbach, including books, jerseys, autographed photos, basketballs, etc.

Wilt Chamberlain card
Wilt Chamberlain Panini Century Greats card. Photo courtesy of eBay.
Chamberlain is the subject of hundreds of basketball cards and numerous books. For a checklist of his pasteboard, visit Beckett.com. To purchase Chamberlain's cards and other collectibles, visit the Beckett Marketplace, eBay or Amazon.com.
Red Auerbach
Red Auerbach Center Court Art postcard. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Likewise, Red Auerbach cards -- including several specifically Jewish basketball cards -- and memorabilia is plentiful. For a checklist of his cards, visit Beckett.com. To purchase Auerbach collectibles, visit the Beckett Marketplace, eBay or Amazon.com.

For a look at some of the Red Auerbach memorabilia collection sold at auction by SCP Auctions in 2011, check out this posting from JewishSportsCollectibles.com.

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Have you seen Borscht Belt Bellhop or the Kutsher's documentary? What Red Auerbach memorabilia is part of your Jewish basketball collection? Given his connections to the community, does Wilt Chamberlain have a place in your Jewish basekball catalogue?

Let JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know by commenting below.


Ryan Braun Public Signing

Topps Triple Threads Hebrew Hammer
Ryan Braun 2012 Topps Triple Threads Hebrew Hammer card. Photo courtesy of BlowOutCards.com.
Legends of the Field, a Wisconsin-based sports card shop and memorabilia dealer, is scheduled to host a public signing with Jewish Major Leaguer Ryan Braun on Saturday, June 8, 2013 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. in Mequon, WI.

The event is Braun's first public signing in five years, according to the company's web site (read about some of Braun's previous private signings here).

Collectors can purchase a variety of baseballs, bats, helmets, photos and artwork for signature. Jewish baseball collectors can also submit their own items to be autographed.

Collectors unable to attend the event in person can send in items to be signed, but memorabilia must be delivered to Legends of the Field by no later than Thursday, June 6.

Autographs on baseballs and flat items, less than 16"X20" cost $149.99. Signatures on premium items, including bats, helmets, jerseys, etc., cost $179.99. Inscriptions cost $79.99 each.

Additional information about the signing and items available for purchase is available on Legends of the Field's site, or by calling Legends of the Field at (262) 367-1300. 

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2013-topps-opening-day-baseball-cards-box
Topps 2013 Opening Day cards. Photo courtesy of Topps.com.

Braun is featured on the packaging for Topps' 2013 Opening Day card products, and Jewish baseball collectors have access to thousands of Braun cards. These include minor and major league cards of all form and fashions, with dozens of limited edition, autograph and memorabilia card varieties (Beckett.com shows 2,700+ different cards for Braun).

Among Braun's cards area 2012 Topps Triple Threads autographed memorabilia card bearing Braun's "Hebrew Hammer" nickname (pictured above).

There are thousands of other Braun cards and collectibles listed on eBay, and available for direct purchase in the Beckett.com MarketplaceAmazon.com, the MLB.com Shop and MLB Photo Store.

These include cards; bobble heads and figurines; photos; jerseys; bats; tickets associated with notable games; programs, yearbooks and other ephemera.

Jewish Baseball Players artwork
Jewish Baseball Players artwork. Photo courtesy of JewishBaseballPlayer.com.
Braun is also featured in the Jewish Baseball Players limited edition lithograph by sports artist Ron Lewis and promoter Greg Harris.

The Brewers star is also the subject of several Sports Illustrated covers, as detailed in this JewishSportsCollectibles.com posting. Collectors can purchase back issues of SI from Amazon.com or eBay, and can buy reprinted from SportsIllustrated.com.

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What Braun memorabilia should JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know about? What Ryan Braun memorabilia do you have in your Jewish baseball collection?

Do you plan to attend or buy anything from the upcoming Braun signing?

Let JSC.com by commenting below.


Welcome Back, Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia
Danny Valencia. Photo courtesy of MLB.com, Orioles.com.
Danny Valencia has been called up from the minors by the Baltimore Orioles, according to JewishBaseballNews.com.

Valencia made his Major League debut in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins. He batted .311, swatted 7 HRs and 40 RBIs over 85 games, and garnered enough votes to finish third in the A.L. Rookie of the Year polling, according to JBallNews. After a significant sophomore slump in 2011, Valencia was sent to the minors by the Twins in 2011 and then traded to the Red Sox, for whom he appeared in just 10 games before being traded to the O's in the off-season.

Valencia had a strong showing with Baltimore in 2013 Spring Training, but started the season with the AAA Norfolk Tides. He performed well in the International League, batting .306 in 40 games with 11 HRs, 14 doubles and 35 RBIs before his call-up.  

Recalled on Sunday, May 19, the newest Jewish Major Leaguer whacked a double in his first at-bat of his first game with the O's.

Jewish baseball collectors have access to numerous of Valencia cards and memorabilia.

Valencia has more than 200 different cards, according to Beckett.com

This includes a wide variety of big league issues from Topps and Bowman. In addition to his standard cards, Valencia's pasteboard includes dozens of limited edition color variations, autographed and memorabilia cards, and serial numbered limited edition printings.

Danny Valencia 2012 Topps Danny Valencia 2011 Topps Triple Threads    Danny Valencia 2010 Topps Update RC  Danny Valencia 2011 Gypsy Queen

Among my favorites are Valencia's 2010 Topps Update Rookie card, 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen, 2011 Topps Triple Threads autographed memorabilia, and 2012 Topps cards, pictured above.

Danny Valencia New Britain Rock Cats
Danny Valencia New Britain Rock Cats card. Photo courtesy of eBay.
Valencia's minor league cards include team issues from the 2005 Glacier Pilots, 2006 Elizabethton Twins, 2007 Beloit Snappers, 2008 Fort Meyers Miracle, 2009 New Britain Rock Cats, 2010 Rochester Red Wings, as well as 2009 AA and 2010 AAA Top Prospects cards.

All of these cards are available on eBay, Amazon.com and in the Beckett.com Marketplace.

Minor league cards collectors can also look on MinorLeagueNetwork.comSTB Sports, and MinorLeagueSingles.com.

Prices vary widely, depending on the seller and the scarcity of the card you seek. 

Danny Valencia Signed Ball
Danny Valencia signed ball. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Among the Valencia memorabilia available on eBay and Amazon.com at the time of this posting were signed bats, baseballs, jerseys, batting gloves and mini helmets, along with a variety of autographed and unsigned photos. Prices range from $30-a few dollars to more than $250, depending on the item.

As always, buyers beware. 

Two photos featuring Valencia in his Twins uniform are available for purchase on the MLB.com Photo Store

Valencia Walkoff
Danny Valencia walk-off hit. Photo courtesy of MLB.com Photo Store. Photo by Hannah Foslien, Getty Images.
This includes an image of his teammates mobbing Valencia after an extra-innings game-winning hit. 

No Valencia memorabilia is available for sale in the MLB.com Shop, as of this posting.

In 2010, following his call up to the Majors during his rookie campaign for the Twins, I obtained a through-the-mail autograph from Valencia. I've subsequently mailed to him during Spring Training on two different occassions, without success. Has anyone else obtained Valencia's signature, either in person or through-the-mail.

What Valencia cards and memorabilia do you have in your Jewish baseball collection? Have you met him? Let JSC readers know by commenting below.


Jackie and the Jews: Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg

Jackie Robinson 2013 Gypsey Queen
Jackie Robinson
Topps 2013
 Gypsy Queen.
Photo courtesy of JSC.com.

Throughout his career, Jackie Robinson played with and against numerous Jewish Major Leaguers in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Burt and Benita Boxerman's two-volume series Jews And Baseball, Larry Rutman's American Jews and America's Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in BaseballHoward Megdal's The Baseball TalmudPeter Ephross and Martin Abramowitz's Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words, and The Big Book of Jewish Baseball by Peter and Joachim Horvitz are all excellent resources for learning more about Jewish Major Leaguers on the era.

The most notable, however, of Robinson's Jewish opponents was Hank Greenberg.

Robinson faced Greenberg during Robinson's 1947 rookie season and Greenberg's last season as a player.

42 Pee Wee Reese
Pee Wee Reese puts an arm around Jackie Robinson in 42. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
A touching scene in 42 shows Dodger captain Pee Wee Reese placing an arm around Robinson on May 13, 1947 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, comforting Robinson while fans hurled racial epitaphs. The tear-jerking scene is given the full Hollywood treatment, and is a high point of the movie. According to ESPN.com, however, it may not have happened as depicted in the film.

What happened on May 15, when Brooklyn played against Pittsburgh -- Greenberg's team -- that year is clear.

As described by Stephen Norword and Harold Brackman in their SABR award-winning research paper, "Going to Bat for Jackie Robinson: The Jewish Role in Breaking Baseball's Color Line."

"The most dramatic display of Jewish solidarity with Jackie Robinson came from Hank Greenberg. The legendary Detroit Tiger slugger who hit 58 home runs in 1938, then with the Pittsburgh Pirates in his last season, was the first opposing player to offer Robinson encouragement. Probably no major leaguer before Robinson had been more abused by opposing players and fans than Greenberg, who was continually taunted for being Jewish.

"On May 15, 1947, in a game between the Pirates and the Dodgers, Robinson laid down a perfect bunt and streaked down the line to first. The pitcher’s throw pulled first baseman Greenberg off the bag. Reaching for the throw, he collided with Robinson, who was able to get up and reach second. The next inning Greenberg walked, and asked Robinson, who was playing first base, if he had been hurt in the collision. Assured by Robinson that he hadn’t been, Greenberg said to him, 'Don’t pay any attention to these guys who are trying to make it hard for you. Stick in there ... . I hope you and I can get together for a talk. There are a few things I’ve learned down through the years that might help you and make it easier.'"

Despite wide coverage of the episode at the time it took place -- Robinson old the New York Times, “Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg.” -- the conversation between Robinson and Greenberg is given scant attention by Robinson's biographers.

Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life.
Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Both Robinson and Greenberg, however, mention it in their autobiographies; Robinson in Jackie Robinson: My Own Story (co-written by African-American sportswriter Wendell Smith, who chronicled Robinson's rookie season for the Pittsburgh Courier), and Greenberg in Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life (co-authored by Ira Bekow).

Recalls Greenberg:

"Here were our guys, a bunch of ignorant, stupid Southerners who couldn't speak properly ... and all they could do was make jokes about Jackie. The couldn't recognize that they had a special person in front of them. ... I identified with Jackie Robinson. I had feelings for him because they had treated me the same way. Not as bad, but they made remarks about my being a sheenie and a Jew all the time."

Hank Greenberg Hero of Heroes
Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
John Rosengren's new biography of Greenberg, Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes, also recounts the episode (drawing on The Story of My Life as a source).

"The moment held lasting significance for Robinson," writes Rosengren. "It also burnished Hank's reputation as a hero for the way he conducted himself."

The books Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn't Want to Be One, Hammerin' Hank Greenberg, Two Pioneers: How Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson Transformed Baseball - and America and When Jackie and Hank Met also touch, to varying extents, on Greenberg and Robinson's interaction.

Life And Times of Hank Greenberg DVD.
The Life And Times of Hank Greenberg. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Aviva Kempner's documentary, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, the more recent Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story and the YouTube documentary, Jewish Activism in Baseball Part 5: Life Long Friendship, one of a series of short documentary vignettes on the topic of Jews in baseball, also detail the encounter.

"My Dad said, many times, that he didn't know what having it bad was until he saw what Jackie Robinson went through in 1947," recounts Steve Greenberg, Hank's son, in Life and Times. 

Two baseball cards also commemorate Robinson and Greenberg's infamous interaction.

2002 Fleer Hank Greenberg Jackie Robinson card.
2002 Fleer Hank Greenberg Jackie Robinson card. Photo courtesy of FindFreeGraphics.com.
These include a 2002 Fleer "Rival Factions" card and a 2008 Jewish Major Leaguers issue.

The Fleer card includes standard and limited edition variations.

The later include cards featuring swatches of Robinson's game used pants, slices of Greenberg's bats, or both.

Beckett.com offers a checklist of the various issues.

As of the time of this posting, no Beckett Marketplace seller is offering the card. Prices, when collectors can find the Fleer cards on eBay or Amazon, range from $10-$100 or more, depending on the scarcity of the particular issue.

While potentitally difficult and costly to obtain, the Robinson pants/Greenberg bat variation (which saw a limited production of just 50 cards) would represent a jewel in the crown of any Jewish baseball card collector, in my opinion.

The only problem with the card is that it depicts Greenberg in his Detroit Tigers uniform. Greenberg, of course, played for the Pirates when he faced Robinson, and for the Tigers for years prior to Robinson's major league debut. As such, Greenberg as a Tiger was never a "rival" of Robinson's.

Even with this historical inaccuracy, I think the card is a terrific addition to any Jewish baseball collection.

Jewish Major Leaguers Hank Greenberg Jackie Robinson card
Hank Greenberg Jackie Robinson JML card. Photo courtesy of JSC.
The Jewish Major Leaguers card is much more accessible to buyers who don't have deep pockets.

Card #50 in the 2008 "Hank Greenberg 75th Anniversary Edition of the JML series, titled "An Encounter," can be found on Amazon for $4.

At the time of this posting, no Beckett Marketplace or eBay sellers were offering the 2008 JML card.

Collectors interested in purchasing the card, however, can follow this link to search for it on eBay and this link to search Beckett.

Do JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know of other Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson memorabilia? Let JSC know by commenting below.

We'll look at the ties between, and collectibles associated with, Robinson and his Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Sandy Koufax in the next posting in this series. Stay tuned.

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