(JTA) — Any Jewish baseball fan knows the names of the two Jews in MLB’s Hall of Fame: Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg.
But since Koufax got his Hall call 52 years ago to the day — when he became the youngest player ever elected, at 36 — exactly zero Jewish players have made it into Cooperstown. And that drought will stretch for at least one more year: No Jews appear on the 2024 Hall of Fame ballot, whose voting results will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23, by the Hall’s Jewish president, Josh Rawitch.
Jewish players are actually pulling their weight, more or less, when it comes to making the Hall of Fame: Of the 20,532 players who have appeared in what is now known as Major League Baseball, 194 have been Jewish — a ratio of 0.9 percent. That’s not much higher than the 0.7 percent of Hall of Fame players who are Jewish — two out of 270.
Three Jewish executives — Barney Dreyfuss, Bud Selig and Marvin Miller — have also made the Hall. Two-time curse-breaking front-office maven Theo Epstein is a near certainty to join that group one day.
But for those eager to see another Jewish player inducted into the Hall, is there any hope? Is anyone worthy of joining Koufax and Greenberg in Cooperstown?
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency surveyed a number of Jewish baseball writers and experts — including the MLB’s official historian and multiple Hall of Fame voters — for their predictions. Read on to see what they said.
How to make it in
For any baseball player, just getting onto the Hall of Fame ballot is an achievement.
To get a shot at the Hall, players need to have played 10 or more years in the major leagues. They must then pass a screening committee that filters out clearly under-qualified candidates (like Jewish veteran players Gabe Kapler and Jason Marquis, who didn’t make the cut in 2016 and 2021, respectively). Qualified players first appear on the ballot five years after retirement and can remain on the ballot for up to 10 years.
The ballot is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, and to get into the Hall, a player must receive at least 75% of the vote. If he receives 5% or less, he’s removed from consideration in the future.
The last two Jewish players to appear on the ballot were Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis in 2019 and Houston Astros catcher Brad Ausmus in 2016. But the most recent Jewish player to receive any votes was Shawn Green in 2013, who got only two votes out of 569 ballots that year. One of the writers who voted for him, Jill Painter Lopez, cited his Jewish identity in justifying her vote. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Other Jewish players have had a shot in the past. Three-time World Series champion pitcher Ken Holtzman received votes in 1985 and 1986 but fell well short of induction. Lipman Pike, the first Jewish baseball star and one of the first professional baseball players ever in the 1860s-80s, received one vote in the veterans’ election in 1936, Cooperstown’s first year of voting.
The retired players with a chance
While no Jews are on this year’s ballot, one is on deck and another is in the hole.
Ian Kinsler, a four-time All-Star with a 14-year MLB career, is set to join the ballot next year. Ryan Braun, the former National League MVP with the most home runs of any Jewish player (352), will be on the ballot the following year, in 2026.
Kinsler — a former Team Israel player and manager who won two Gold Gloves for his defense and a World Series in 2018 with the Red Sox — is eighth all-time among second basemen with 257 home runs. By some metrics, Kinsler has a shot at a plaque in Cooperstown: He is 20th on sabermetrician Jay Jaffe’s ranking of second basemen by Hall of Fame worthiness, ahead of several Hall of Famers.
Braun, who spent his entire 14-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers, won the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2011 NL MVP. He also received six All-Star selections and five Silver Slugger awards for his offensive prowess.
Braun’s legacy was tarnished when he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and served a 65-game suspension in 2013. Other erstwhile all-time greats who were busted for steroids — such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — have so far been denied Hall of Fame induction, an ominous sign for Braun.
But Braun, who sometimes went by the moniker “Hebrew Hammer” during his playing days, has gotten some recognition: He was recently chosen for induction into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
In the veterans committee category — where players who were not inducted on the ballot get a second look — Pike could be a candidate. He helped professionalize the sport and was one of baseball’s first sluggers. Pike led the sport in home runs four times (peaking at a grand total of seven home runs in a season — it was a different sport then) and finished his 10-year career with a .322 batting average.
What about active players?
Among players still on the field, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried are the best bets.
Bregman, the two-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, has 165 home runs and a .274 batting average through his first eight seasons. He won the Silver Slugger in 2019, when he also came in second place in American League MVP voting. Bregman is additionally a decorated postseason hitter — he ranks in the top 10 all-time in postseason games, at bats, home runs, runs scored, total bases, runs batted in and walks.
A recent MLB.com article on “40 potential Hall of Famers we’ll see play in 2024” listed Bregman 17th, part of the third-ranked tier of players who are “well on their way.”
Bregman, who has been involved in the local Houston Jewish community, will also have to overcome an ethical asterisk on his baseball resume: the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal, which tainted the team’s championship season.
Fried’s biggest hurdle may be staying healthy. When he’s on the mound, Fried is among baseball’s elite starting pitchers — MLB Network ranked him the ninth-best starter entering 2024, and he was ranked seventh the year before. The Los Angeles native grew up idolizing Koufax and is a Maccabiah Games alum.
In 2022, Fried posted a 2.48 ERA with 170 strikeouts and 14 wins, finishing second in the NL Cy Young Award voting and earning his first career All-Star selection. He won three consecutive Gold Gloves from 2020-2022 and the 2021 Silver Slugger — the last-ever pitcher to win the offensive award. Fried also helped lead the Braves to a World Series title in 2021.
What do the experts say?
If there’s one thing Jews and baseball fans both love, it’s a debate. We reached out to a number of Jewish baseball writers, some of whom vote on the official Hall of Fame ballot, to seek their predictions.
Here’s what they had to say.
Ken Rosenthal, senior baseball writer for The Athletic and a Hall of Fame voter:
I’ll go with Bregman. He’s not really on a Hall of Fame track at the moment, but he still has a chance to have a long, stellar career. And by the time he is eligible — probably 10 or more years from now — the sentiment against members of the sign-stealing Astros might be diminished. [His Astros teammate Jose] Altuve could be in by then.
Jonathan Mayo, reporter for MLB.com and MLB Pipeline:
As a Jewish fan of baseball, I wholeheartedly wish there was an obvious “next up” for Cooperstown. As someone who writes about the game professionally and analyzes it, however, I can’t see anyone who currently fits the description. Alex Bregman is having a very good career and Max Fried has had some very good seasons, but I think their ceiling is the “Hall of Very Good.” I love young players like Zack Gelof, and you should never say never (keep an eye on his brother, Jake, too!), but again, they don’t jump out as Hall-worthy type players. But that won’t keep me from wishing.
Bob Weschler, managing editor of jewishbaseballmuseum.com:
Of the current active players, Max Fried might have the best shot if he stays healthy. He’s a free agent next year, and signing with a media-saturated, successful franchise like the Dodgers could help his chances.
It’s too soon to consider Zack Gelof, who’s only played 69 games. Only 20 second basemen are in the Hall.
It’ll never happen, but Lipman Pike — the first home run champion — should be in the Hall.
If we’re talking non-players, Theo Epstein will be the next Jewish inductee.
Jayson Stark, senior baseball writer for The Athletic and a Hall of Fame voter:
Is Alex Bregman going to wind up Cooperstown? He’d be my pick from the current pool of active Jewish players.
He ranks top 10 in the modern era among all third basemen in a category I look at closely — park-adjusted, era-adjusted OPS+. And he’s an excellent defender who is still agile enough to play shortstop.
Seven full seasons into his career, he has never had a bad season. And he’s made an indelible impact on a team that has done nothing but win since he showed up. But now comes the hard part — his 30s!
He hasn’t reached 1,000 hits or 200 homers yet. So these next seven years are going to have to look a lot like his first seven.
But I’ve always believed you can’t be great at anything unless you aspire to be great. And it’s always clear that greatness is where Alex Bregman sets his bar.
Scott Barancik, editor of jewishbaseballnews.com:
No current or recent Jewish player has much chance of making the Hall, in my opinion. Ryan Braun is out due to PED use. Alex Bregman is a no because of Houston’s sign-stealing scandal. Active veterans lack Hall-level stats. As for newbies like Zack Gelof and Matt Mervis, it’s too soon to tell. The player with the best chance? I’d say Max Fried. But pitcher is by far the most competitive position in Hall voting.
Howard Megdal, author of “The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-by-Position Ranking of Baseball’s Chosen Players”:
It is tempting to select Max Fried and his 2.66 ERA since 2020, but the counting stats may work against him, even with two top-five Cy Young finishes and three Gold Gloves by age 29.
Similarly, Zack Gelof’s OPS+ of 137 as a rookie was overshadowed by the Oakland Athletics’ team drama but remains one of the most impressive rookie seasons of any Jewish player. For comparison: Hank Greenberg’s rookie OPS+ was 119, Al Rosen’s 145.
But my pick for the next Jewish Hall of Famer is Alex Bregman. Through his age-29 season, he’s already collected 35.4 win shares, 19th all-time among third basemen through age-29. Most of the third basemen ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame — the third baseman just below him is the late, great Brooks Robinson. He’s consistent, he’s durable, he’s yet to post what anyone could consider a down year, and he’s got precisely the type of makeup and profile that should age well. (As Al Rosen proves, durability is as important as dominance when it comes to creating a Hall of Fame resume.)
There aren’t enough third basemen in the Hall of Fame. And Alex Bregman is a good bet to fix that.
Finally, MLB’s official historian, John Thorn, said he believed that no Jewish player aside from Koufax and Greenberg are worthy of entry to Cooperstown. Rather than offer a prediction — “my crystal ball works only in retrospect,” he said — Thorn shared his insight on why Jews love baseball.
“First, because in Europe outdoor play had been forbidden to their children,” he said in an email to JTA. “Second, because for an oppressed people it offered a window onto freedom and joy; and third, because it promised a level playing field from which heroes might emerge, like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax … heroes who were like us.”
Amid Security Fears, Muslim Access to the Temple Mount During Ramadan Will Be Limited
i24 News – As the month of Ramadan approaches, concerns over security have prompted Israeli authorities to implement limitations on Muslim access to the Temple Mount site, and Al-Aqusa Mosque.
The decision, made in accordance with recommendations from the Minister of National Security Ben Gvir, comes amidst opposition from the Minister of Defense Gallant, Shin Bet, and the army.
The restrictions include a cap on the number of individuals permitted to enter the site, with additional sorting based on age. While the details regarding the authorization of Palestinians from East Jerusalem are pending, the implementation of security measures proposed by Itamar Ben Gvir, which would allow security forces to intervene in response to provocative behavior, was rejected.
Under the current plan, only Muslim pilgrims aged 60 or above with permits issued by the Shin Bet will be granted access to the Temple Mount. However, domestic intelligence agencies have expressed reservations, fearing that such restrictions could exacerbate tensions and fuel Hamas’s rhetoric about Israel’s intentions to seize the site and deny Muslims access.
This sentiment was echoed by Walid Al-Huashla, an Arab MP from the Ra’am party, who condemned the decision as dangerous and racist. Al-Huashla warned of the potential consequences of the measures, accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of capitulating to provocateurs and exacerbating tensions in Jerusalem.
The post Amid Security Fears, Muslim Access to the Temple Mount During Ramadan Will Be Limited first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Unopened Medicine Boxes Bearing Names of Israeli Hostages Found in Hospital Raid
i24 News – The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Shin Bet forces executed a strategic mission at Nasser Hospital in Gaza, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of terrorists and the discovery of a cache of weapons hidden within the hospital premises.
Prior to entering the hospital complex, the forces engaged in intense battles, including face-to-face combat and repelling rocket fire from within the hospital compound.
The forces apprehended numerous terrorists and terror suspects who had sought refuge within the hospital including individuals linked to the October 7th massacre. These individuals were subsequently transferred to security forces for further investigation.
IDF releases footage of soldiers uncovering unopened boxes of medicine in Al-Nasser Hospital that were meant to be transferred to Israeli hostages – some of which should have been refrigerated but was found sitting out. pic.twitter.com/wWAJqvmEz4
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 18, 2024
During the operation, a substantial quantity of weapons was seized, with some weapons concealed in a vehicle believed to have been used in previous terrorist attacks. Additionally, a vehicle belonging to Kibbutz Nir Oz, which had apparently been stolen, was recovered from the hospital vicinity.
IDF forces also discovered un-opened boxes of medicine bearing the names of Israeli hostages. The packages were found sealed and undistributed, raising concerns about the previous breached agreement in which Qatar would distribute medicine for the chronically ill hostages.
The medical assistance includes essential treatments such as inhalers for asthma patients, medications for diabetics, insulin injections, glucometers, medications for heart disease and blood pressure, as well as treatments for intestinal infections and thyroid gland imbalances.
During talks, Qatar had committed to providing verifiable proof to Israel that the medications will indeed reach the hostages. However the IDF finding the France-sent boxes with medicine, indicates the never reached the hostages.
The post Unopened Medicine Boxes Bearing Names of Israeli Hostages Found in Hospital Raid first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
The Myth of British Exceptionalism
JNS.org – That old image of the Jewish family with a packed suitcase at the ready in case they are compelled to suddenly leave their home has returned with a vengeance across Europe.
In France and Germany, home to sizable Jewish communities, the “Should we leave?” debate is raging in earnest. Both of these countries experienced record levels of antisemitic incidents in 2023, most of them occurring after the Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7 in southern Israel. Similar conversations are also being held in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Belgium and Spain—countries with tiny Jewish communities that are nevertheless enduring a painful rise in antisemitism.
What about Britain, though? It’s a pertinent question insofar as there has always been a “British exceptionalism” with regard to the continent. During World War II, the Nazis failed in their quest to conquer the British Isles, in contrast to the rest of Europe. After the defeat of Hitler, the British supported efforts to transform Europe into an economic and political community that eventually became the European Union, even joining it. Yet Britain was never fully at peace with its identity as a European state, and as is well known, the “Brexit” referendum of 2016 resulted in the country’s full-fledged withdrawal from the European Union.
When it comes to antisemitism, however, Britain is very much part of the European rule, not the exception. Again, that’s important because while the British don’t deny that antisemitism is present in their politics and culture, they don’t believe that it’s as venomous as its German or French variations. “It is generally admitted that antisemitism is on the increase, that it has been greatly exacerbated by the war, and that humane and enlightened people are not immune to it. It does not take violent forms (English people are almost invariably gentle and law-abiding),” wrote George Orwell in an essay, “Antisemitism in Britain,” penned towards the war’s close in April 1945.
At the same time, Orwell conceded that British antisemitism was “ill-natured enough, and in favorable circumstances, it could have political results.” To illustrate this point, he offered a selection of the antisemitic barbs that he had encountered over the previous year. “No, I’ve got no matches for you. I should try the lady down the street. She’s always got matches. One of the Chosen Race, you see,” a grumpy tobacconist informed him. “Well, no one could call me antisemitic, but I do think the way these Jews behave is too absolutely stinking. The way they push their way to the head of queues, and so on. They’re so abominably selfish. I think they’re responsible for a lot of what happens to them,” a “middle-class” woman said. Another woman, described by Orwell as an “intellectual,” refused to look at a book detailing the persecution of Jews in Germany on the grounds that “it will only make me hate them even more,” while a young man—a “near-Communist” in Orwell’s description—confessed that he had never made a secret of his loathing of Jews. “Mind you, I’m not antisemitic, of course,” he added.
I’d wager that were Orwell to tackle the same subject today, he would write a similar essay. The rhetoric he quotes echoes eerily in what we are hearing almost 80 years later, particularly the denial that recycling antisemitic tropes makes one an antisemite, as well as the digs against chosenness—because antisemites have never understood (or don’t want to understand) that Jewish “chosenness” is not about racial or ethnic superiority, but a duty to carry out a specific set of Divine commandments.
Last week, the Community Security Trust (CST), a voluntary security organization serving British Jews, issued its annual report on the state of antisemitism in Britain. The CST has been faithfully issuing these reports since 1984, and over the last few years, it has regularly registered new records for the number of offenses reported. 2023 was the worst year of all; there were a stomach-churning 4,103 incidents reported—an increase of 81% on the previous annual record in 2021, when 2,261 incidents were reported (largely due to that year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas for 11 days in May).
Instructively, the worst month in 2023 was October, in the days immediately following the rapes and other atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on that black day. Oct. 11 was, in fact, the worst day, with 80 incidents reported. As the CST pointed out, “[T]he speed at which antisemites mobilized in the U.K. on and immediately after Oct. 7 suggests that, initially at least, this increase in anti-Jewish hate was a celebration of the Hamas attack on Israel, rather than anger at Israel’s military response in Gaza.”
Of course, the present situation in the United Kingdom differs from Orwell’s time for two main reasons. Firstly, in 1945, there was no Jewish state, and antisemitism revolved around cruder tropes invoking supposed Jewish rudeness, clannishness, financial power and so forth. (Even so, Britain was also one of the first Western countries to experience antisemitic rioting linked to the Zionist movement and Israel; in 1947, after two British officers in Mandatory Palestine were executed by the Irgun, or “Etzel,” resistance organization, violence targeting Jewish communities broke out across the United Kingdom, thereby establishing the principle that all Jews, everywhere, are to blame for the alleged evils of Zionism.)
Secondly, in 1945 Britain was still largely a white, Christian society. In the interim, it has become far more diverse and is now home to nearly 4 million Muslims who constitute 6.5 percent of the population. Since the late 1980s—when the Iranian regime issued a fatwa calling for the death of the Anglo-Indian author Salman Rushdie, alleged to have slandered Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses—what was once a relatively docile population has become politically animated, with the Palestinian cause pushed front and center.
In the four months that have passed since the Hamas atrocities, with weekly demonstrations in support of Hamas in London and other cities, Muslim voices have been disproportionately loud in the opprobrium being piled not just on Israel, but on those Britons—the country’s Jewish community—most closely associated with the Jewish state. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every Muslim, and many of the worst offenders are non-Muslims on the left. Indeed, the Oct. 7 massacres have enabled the return to politics of a particularly odious individual whom I had forlornly believed had been banished to the garbage can of history; George Galloway, an ally of Hamas and one-time acolyte of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who is standing in the forthcoming parliamentary election in the northern English constituency of Rochdale for an outfit called the “Workers Party of Britain,” whose manifesto combines nationalism and socialism, but which would probably balk at the description “national socialist” in much the same way that some antisemites balk at the description “antisemitic.”
British Jews have weathered a great deal in recent years, especially the five years when the Labour Party, the main opposition, was led by the far-left Parliament member Jeremy Corbyn, who has since been turfed out of the party by his successor Sir Keir Starmer. Having survived that, the belief has spread that they can survive anything. But there’s another question to be asked: Is the effort worth it? Increasingly, and worryingly, growing numbers of British Jews are now answering “no.”