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MLB Jewish Set Sparks Gathering

by Paul Angilly
August 10, 2004

An interesting special-edition baseball card set has provided the spark for a historic gathering to be held later this month at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., celebrating Jews in Major League Baseball.

Dr. Martin Abramowitz, vice president of planning and agency relations at Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, took on a project in recent years that led to the development of the first set of baseball cards devoted exclusively to Jewish Major Leaguers.

The American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), in cooperation with Jewish Major Leaguers Inc., created the commemorative baseball card set, called "Jewish Major Leaguers: America’s Jews in America’s Game." Each set contains 142 cards of every identifiable Jewish Major League baseball player from 1871 to the 2003 All-Star break -- Boston’s Kevin Youkilis has since become the 143rd Jewish Major Leaguer -- including Hall-of-Famers Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg.

Printed for AJHS by the Fleer Trading Card Co., the cards are not sold commercially and include the first and only publicly issued card for 42 players. There are also 10 active players in the set: Brad Ausmus of Houston, John Grabow of Pittsburgh, Shawn Green of Los Angeles, Gabe Kapler of Boston, Al Levine of Detroit, Mike Lieberthal of Philadelphia, Jason Marquis of St. Louis, Scott Schoeneweis of the Chicago White Sox, Justin Wayne of Florida and David Newhan of Baltimore.

Now, Abramowitz has helped organize the gathering at the Hall of Fame on Aug. 29-30. The event, which is open to the public, will feature discussions, trivia contests, panels, films, a clinic, book signings, and special appearances by a number of former players.

According to a press release, the event is unique, not only because it will include what is believed to be the first kosher dinner served at the Hall of Fame, but because it will recognize the contributions of Jews to the national pastime for the first time in a formal setting.

In anticipation of the popularity of the Major League Baseball Properties and the Major League Baseball Players Association licensed set, Bob Ruxin, a director of Jewish Major Leaguers Inc., approached officials at the Baseball Hall of Fame with the idea for a special symposium on the subject. The idea was quickly welcomed and plans set in motion to coincide with the celebration of 350 years of Jewish life in America.

All the panels and youth clinic at the Clark Recreation Center are offered as part of the regular Hall of Fame admission price on the two dates on a space available basis. Information on reserving seats is available by calling the Hall of Fame’s membership office at (607) 547-0397. Information on purchasing tickets for the Sunday evening reception and banquet can be obtained by emailing BaseballJews@aol.com.

Among former players who have already accepted invitations are Ken Holtzman, Norm Sherry, Mike Epstein, Richie Scheinblum, Ron Blomberg, Bob Tufts, Elliott Maddox, and Joe Ginsberg. Also participating will be best-selling Koufax biographer Jane Leavy, ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, the Boston Red Sox Executive Vice President Dr. Charles Steinberg, authors Peter Horvitz, ("The Big Book of Jewish Baseball"), Nicholas Dawidoff, ("The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg"), Roger Abrams, ("The First World Series and the Baseball Fanatics of 1903"), and Marty Appel, ("Now Pitching for the Yankees"), along with filmmaker Aviva Kempner ("The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg"), which will be screened at one of the sessions in the Bullpen Theatre.

A panel of particular interest will be one called "The Koufax Legacy," featuring author Leavy, Norm Sherry, who is credited with helping to turn Koufax’s career around while serving as his catcher, and Ken Holtzman, a contemporary of Sandy’s and a no-hit pitcher who was inspired by Koufax’s career. In addition, Abramowitz will describe his five-year quest to create the card set.

Funding for "A Celebration of Jews in Baseball" comes in part from proceeds of the card sales and from the American Jewish Historical Society.

Information on purchasing the card set is available at www.AJHS.org. To get a copy of the set, you’ll need to make a minimum donation of $100 to the American Jewish Historical Society, plus $5 for shipping. Silver ($200 donation) and Gold ($500 donation) versions are also available.

A-Rod Named Topps Spokesperson: The Topps Company recently announced that Alex Rodriguez has been named as the first-ever official spokesperson for its baseball card line. The deal also grants Topps exclusive rights within the MLB trading card category for autographed baseball cards, game-used memorabilia cards and the use of Rodriguez’s image on packaging and advertising.

The card company and superstar Yankees player have obviously come a long way. Although other MLB-licensed companies issued A-Rod rookie cards in 1994, Topps was unable to produce a regular-issue card of the emerging superstar until its 1998 Topps set, when he was added as card number 504 in the 503-card set (which had no card number 7). Rodriguez was reportedly left out of Topps sets during the first four years of his career due to a dispute between Topps and his agent.

First Shaq Heat Card: As soon as Topps heard that the Miami Heat was closing in on a deal to bring Shaquille O’Neal back to Florida, it was in its graphics room making some big changes.

Topps recently announced that Shaq’s first card featuring him in his all-new black Miami Heat threads will be included in the upcoming 2004-05 Topps basketball set being released on Aug. 16. And best of all, the card will be personally autographed by Shaq himself.

The card will be randomly inserted into packs. Shaq’s non-autographed card will feature him as a Laker.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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