With Passover on its way this eve, what better day to review The New York Observer’s Howard Megdal’s new comprehensive evaluation of all things Jewy in baseball, The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-By-Position Ranking of Baseball’s Chosen Players.
If there’s one thing we Chosen Ones look out for, it’s other Jewish folks. Whether in movies, politics, social circles, or yes, even sports. (My parents, Jeopardy fanatics, always root for the contestant with the Jewish last name. Either that, or the one from Brooklyn.) We even have a term for our brethren: “Members of the Tribe.” Well, here in Howard’s new book, you’ll find every single Member who ever made an appearance in the big leagues. Ever. Even if only for one at bat. Almost 300 pages of Jews in baseball. You will either think, “Every single one and only 300 pages?” or “Really, 300 pages of Jews in baseball?”
Using a granted somewhat subjective, but really more objective, stat-based approach, Medgal ranks each player within his position, even breaking pitchers down to right or left-handed starters and right or left-handed relievers. The list runs the gamut from obvious historic heroes (I won’t say which between Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg he ranks #1 of all time–no spoilers!) to current major talents like Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Braun (both whom I loved watching during the WBC), with all the most obscure players in between. Norm Sherry, for instance, sneaks in at #8 among catchers mostly for his greatest contribution to Jewish baseball, advising Sandy Koufax how to improve his fastball. Our own former outfielder Shawn Green ranks #1 among right fielders, and #4 of all time. Of course I wish he’d had his most chosen years with the NY Mets, but oy, what are you gonna do?
Though not a history book really, there are some priceless bits of trivia, quirky facts, and enough stats to satisfy even the pickiest of number junkies, all combined with Megdal’s Jewish-grandfather type sense of humor. If you know Jews who love baseball, this is the perfect gift for them. I anticipate it being a Father’s Day favorite. Plus, Howard’s a huge Mets fan. So no matter what your religious background, we’re supporting one of our own.
And in the spirit of Chosen baseball, even if not about the Mets, this clip below can’t help but make you laugh. It’s not new…but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s friggin’ timeless.
Here’s a list of Howard’s upcoming readings and signings:
Tuesday April 7, 7 p.m. Suffern Free Library, Suffern, NY
Thursday April 16, 7 p.m., Book Revue, Huntington, NY
Wednesday April 22, 7 p.m., Cherry Hill Library, Cherry Hill, NJ
Sunday April 26, 9 a.m. Temple Beth Torah, Nyack, NY
Tuesday April 28, 7 p.m., BU Hillel House, 213 Bay State Rd., Boston, MA
Saturday May 2, 3 p.m. Merritt Books, Red Hook (Dutchess County), NY
Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m., Barnes and Noble, Colonie, NY