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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.

Hall of Fame Writer Murray Chass

Murray Chass
Murray Chass. Photo courtesy
of MurrayChass.com.
Jewish baseball enthusiasts have the opportunity to add a limited edition card autographed by sportswriter Murray Chass to their collections.

A member of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh's Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Chass is the 2003 winner of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."

[Author's note: Among the other Jewish winners of the prestigious honor are writers Shirley PovichDick Young, Milton Richman, Jerome Holtzman, Hal Lebovitz and Ross Newhan.]

Chass has covered baseball since 1956. He previously served as the chairman of the New York Chapter of The Baseball Writers Association of America and the New York Time's national baseball correspondent, according to his Wikipedia biography.

He pioneered coverage of the business of sports, including contracts and labor negotiations.

Chass has written several online columns ("Hall Of Fame Puts Its Shame On The Line" and "Players Line Up To Salute Miller," among others) advocating the election of Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and has been outspoken on the subject in a wide array of media (search Google for a variety of Chass's thoughts on Miller).

Chass is the author of several books, available on Amazon, on both baseball and football. These include The Yankees: The Four Fabulous Eras of Baseball's Most Famous Team, Power Football and Pittsburgh Steelers: The Long Climb.

Murray Chass Panini
Murray Chass 2012 Panini. Photo courtesy of JSC.
I had tried several times, unsuccessfully, to obtain Chass's autograph for my Jewish baseball collection.

So, it was with great delight that I read his April 25 online column (Chass insists his site is not a blog!), "Honus And His Buddy," in which Chass discusses the existence of his baseball card, in the context of reporting on Goldin Auctions' recent sale for $2.1 million of the "Jumbo" T206 Honus Wagner card.

Chass is the subject of card #JSA-MUR in the 2012 Panini Cooperstown Signatures (pictured at left).

The serial numbered, limited edition card -- only 500 were produced --features a black and white image of the Hall of Fame writer along with a bold, clean autograph. 

In his column, Chass makes it clear he doesn't understand why collectors would want his card, and cares little for the "unimportant subject of baseball cards."

Chass's column reads, in part:

"... I wouldn’t have spent $9 for my card.

Let’s be honest here. The Wagner card is probably the most famous baseball card in existence. Nobody knew mine existed. Why it exists I don’t know.

Last year Panini America, Inc. decided to publish a set of cards of Hall of Fame players, Wagner, who was among the first five players elected to the Hall in 1936 among them. But the Panini people decided to include broadcasters and writers, too.

Peter Gammons and I were the two writers selected, and our autographed cards were distributed among the packs otherwise filled with Hall of Fame players. It was unusual enough that the cards existed. But then things got even more bizarre.

One of the recipients of the cards had no use for the Murray Chass card – hey, I don’t have a problem with that – but why he took the next step defies reality. He posted the card for sale on eBay. Why, I asked myself, did he think anybody would bid for the card?

... I am not a collector and have never understood the ravenous thirst memorabilia collectors have for sports items.

I suppose that lack of interest in collecting adds to my reaction to people bidding for my card. However, I will refrain from making any additional comment because the buyer might be a reader and I don’t want to antagonize a reader on the unimportant subject of baseball cards."

I don't want to, nor will I, engage Chass in an argument about sports memorabilia or collectors' passions. I do, however, think Chass should examine sports cards and memorabilia in some context before simply dismissing them as the cardboard idols of crazed collectors. 

Consider the following: Major League Baseball teams' 2013 Opening Day payrolls totalled an estimated $3.156 billion, according to Yahoo Sports. Annually, the global market total of sports collectibles sales is $2-4 billion, according to CNN and ESPN. In this light, alone, sports collectibles can hardly be dismissed as "unimportant."

The size of the sports cards and collectibles markets and collectors' unbridled passion for memorabilia aside, Jewish baseball enthusiasts may be limited to the Panini card if they want to add a Chass item to their memorabilia collections, given Chass' thoughts.

Two Beckett Marketplace sellers were offering Chass's card, at the time of this posting, for $10-$12. 

A search of eBay found several listings of the Panini cards, with prices ranging from $8-$25. eBay sellers were also offering Chass' books and a signed first day cover for bid, at the time of this posting.

Amazon sellers were offering the Panini card and a signed first day cover (the same available on eBay) autographed by Chass, but little else.

I purchased a Chass card last week on eBay for a Buy It Now price of $11, and consider it money well spent to add the Hall of Fame writer's autograph to my Jewish baseball collection. What are your thoughts?

Do you have any Chass memorabilia in your collection? Do you know of other Chass collectibles? Have you had a chance to meet Chass?

Share your thoughts with other JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers 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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Jewish World Series Heroes

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

The Boston Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, which starts tonight, Wednesday, October 23.

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

 

Click on the links that follow to read the JSC overviews of the cards and memorabilia for World Series MVP winners Larry Sherry (1959), Sandy Koufax (1963 and 1965) and Steve Yeager (1981).

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.

***

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

Obituary: Art Modell, 'One of the Most Influential Owners in the History of the NFL'

Art Modell
Art Modell celebrated the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl win. Photo courtesy of SportsIllustrated.com, by Laura Rauch/AP.
Art Modell, the Jewish former owner of the National Football League's Cleveland Browns and Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, died Thursday, September 6, as reported by Kaplan's Korner on Jews and Sports. He was 87-years-old.

ESPN describes Modell as "one of the most influential owners in the history of the NFL," writing that "Modell helped mold the foundation of the league."

An advertising and television executive prior to buying the Browns, Modell served as Chairman of the NFL’s Television Committee for 31 years, from 1962 to 1993. He negotiated TV deals worth billions of dollars to the NFL, according to the New York Times. This included working with ABC Television Network to create Monday Night Football and helping to create NFL Films.

Modell was also an ardent supporter of football's expansion. He pushed for new games (including pre-season games and Thanksgiving Day matches), assisted with the 1970 merger of the American Football League and the National Football League, and led league expansion (the Browns moved to Baltimore as an expansion team), according to ESPN

Fellow owners respected Modell immensely, according to a statement from the Baltimore Ravens. From 1969 through 1969, he served as the only elected NFL president in league history, serving in that capacity in 1967-69. As Chairman of the Owners' Labor Committee in 1968, Modell helped negotiate NFL’s first collective bargaining agreement with players.

Despite his prowess as a 43-year team owner and promoter of football, Modell was vilified by Ohio fans, some of whom never forgave him for relocating the Browns to Baltimore.

That's why, despite his more-than-worthy credentials, Modell has not yet been enshrined in Canton, according to Sports Illustrated. Modell has been nominated repeatedly for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but has yet to be elected. JewishSportsCollectibles.com hopes this egregious oversight will be rectified posthumously.

Off the field, Modell was a generous philanthropist, according to the Baltimore Sun. He gave millions of dollars to a variety of causes, including Jewish and Catholic religious organizations, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and a variety of arts and cultural groups.

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Jewish football collectors can honor Modell's enormous legacy with a variety of collectibles.

Beckett.com lists several football cards for Modell. These include 1974 and 1984 Browns team issues, a 1995 Sports Illustrated card, and a 2009 Sportskings Series C "Owner's Box" cut signature card (#TOB-AM).

The last card is particularly intriguing. Sportskings are a modern revival of the 1930s cards by the same name. The vintage design is colorful and eye catching. A Sportskings company spokesperson tells JewishSportsCollectibles.com that the cut signature inserts were issued as one-of-a-kind, single printing cards, making this the rarest of Modell memorabilia.

Unfortunately, no Beckett Marketplace retailerss or eBay sellers are offering any of the cards at the time of this posting.

Art Modell SP
Art Modell Signed Photo. Photo courtesy of eBay.
As so often happens after a celebrity death, however, eBay is awash in auctions featuring Art Modell memorabilia.

Listings include Browns and Ravens autographed footballs and mini-helmets, team signed items featuring Modell's autograph, along with a variety of signed photos, business cards and art prints. 

Among the more interesting collectibles are vintage press photos of Modell and a group of signed items offered by seller "jewish-collector" that includes an autographed photo inscribed "Shalom!"

There are also dozens of programs, yearbooks and media guides, tickets stubs, etc. from both the Browns and Ravens for collectors who prefer more generic Modell memorabilia.  

Art Modell SI Cover
Art Modell Sports Illustrated Cover. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
Modell was featured on the cover of the December 4, 1995 issue of Sports Illustrated. The magazine details Modell's battle with Cleveland to relocated the Browns to Baltimore. The image is a unflattering caricature of Modell, and the headline reads: "Art Modell Sucker-Punched Cleveland." The cover is not for sale on SICovers.com. Collectors can, however, purchase it on eBay and Amazon.com.

Amazon also offers numerous books about Modell, including histories of Browns and Ravens, along with biographies of Modell. Sadly, there's even a song about Modell -- Blame It On Art Modell -- available for download. On a more positive note, collectors can also purchase a JSA certified Modell autographed index card on Amazon.com.

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What Art Modell memorabilia do you have in your Jewish football collection? Did you ever have occasion to meet the Browns and Ravens owner? Share your thoughts on the legendary football man by commenting below.