Need it, need it, need it…

March 17, 2014

(As opposed to this; you can stop watching at about the one minute mark.) else can you say about the new set of Jewish Major Leaguers cards?

The updated edition, the first since the 2010 “Deck of the Decade,” features all-new photography for the players who appeared during the 2010-13 seasons (including a clean-shaven Kevin Youkilis in Yankees uniform). The information on the backs is as current as possible, even if the pictures feature last year’s teams; Scott Feldman and Danny Valencia have moved on to the Astros and Royals now, while Sam Fuld and Ryan Kalish are trying to win spots on the As and Cubs, respectively.

Newcomers Kevin Pillar, Nate Freiman, and Josh Zeid get their due, while a smiling Adam Greenberg is shown wearing the Marlins black and teal, a reminder of the “mitzva” they did when they signed him to a one-day contract so he could finally get an official at bat, seven years after he was hit in the head in his debut plate appearance for the Cubs.

Potential JMLs Joc Pederson, Zach Borenstein, Eric Berger, Brett Lorin, and Brad Goldberg get the “prospect treatment,” while other cards pay tribute to the late Joe Ginsberg, Al Federoff, and Marv Rotblatt, the last of whom was prominently featured in the popular documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. cards note the Israeli National Team that participated in the 2012 World Baseball Classic qualifier; Out of Left Field, a book by Rabbi Rebecca Aplert on the role of Jews in the Negro leagues; and a second card for Brad Ausmus, recognizing him as the new manager of the Detroit Tigers.

The set begins with an updated, through 2013, of the all-time Jewish roster and concludes with 10 images from the new “Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American” exhibit from the National Museum of American Jewish History. (Actually it concludes with one card honoring the “Class of 2013.”

If there’s one complaint I have — and its very minor — its that some of the cards seem out of order. Because we all know what an orderly guy I am. The memorial card for Ginsberg is followed by prospect card shared by Pederson and Borenstein. The comes the joint memorial card for the Federoff and Rotblatt, which is followed by three more prospect cards. And while I applaud the inclusion of Alpert’s book, there were others about MOTs in the game, baseball, including Larry Ruttman’s American Jews and America’s Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball and Peter Ephross’ Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words.

Regardless of my little nit pics, this is a must-have for the serious Jewish sports fan. The release coincides with the beginning of the new season and what comes shortly after? Mother’s Day, Fathers’ Day, and graduation (of course, bar and bat mizvas and birthday are years round).

Of course, this is all good news. After the 2010 series, Martin Abramowitz, the creator of the Jewish Major Leaguer card concept, said he was finished. In light of the new set, I asked him what changed his mind?

It turns out there really is such a thing as “popular demand”! and I decided to defer to it: A lot of correspondence over the years from folks who wanted to see it continue. Corny as it sounds, I felt I had an obligation to respond to this pretty wide-spread attachment to Jews in baseball.

The next question is “is that it” for the sets? Not planning anything now, but I’ll be 80 in 2020 and another deck of the decade would be fun if I have the koah and the cash.


The release of the new set corresponds with the National Museum of Jewish American History’s “Chasing Dreams” exhibit and that’s no coincidence.

The Museum exhibit was a spur to doing the set. An even bigger spur was a significant unexpected financial contribution by someone deeply interested in Jews and Baseball.

The Museum cards were written by Ivy Weingram except for the 2 AJHS items, which Marty Appel wrote the cards for. I’m delighted that AJHS and the Museum both agreed to sponsor this edition by making significant pre-publication purchases. Those purchases, together with the contribution, made the set feasible.

In a subsequent note, Abramowitz revealed that the donor was Scott Barancik, host of Jewish Baseball News.

More good news: Abramowitz says he’s working with Bob (Day By Day in Jewish Sports History) Wechsler on a book about Jews on baseball cards. No publishing date set yet.

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