Like Hank Greenberg three quarters of a century ago, Pedro Martinez’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame is a victory for his home nation the Dominican Republic. A fierce competitor, Martinez strung together some of the most dominant pitching seasons in the history of baseball, comparable only to that of the Jewish star Sandy Koufax who pitched thirty years before him. In the greatest offensive era the sport had ever seen, Martinez was close to unhittable, which made him an icon in the eyes of his Dominican neighbors. He is only the second Dominican born player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the first was Juan Marichel, also a right handed pitcher. Pedro Martinez represents hope for the Dominican people, hoping to work with Major League Baseball’s commissioner to help bring more Dominicans to the sport. He means as much to the people of the Dominican Republic as Hank Greenberg did to Jewish communities all across the country in the 1930s and 40s. Both men transcend the typical athlete, inspiring their people to achieve great things. View Pedro’s full speech here.
Max Scherzer, a starting pitcher who is having a stellar first season wearing the curly W, did not just bring his 96 mph fastball and a Cy Young award to DC. After a walk-off win early in the season, Scherzer grabbed a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate from the clubhouse and proceeded to douse Dan Uggla who hit a three run homerun against the Atlanta Braves. It didn’t take long before raining chocolate was the official post game celebration of the Washington Nationals. But as Nats players leave the field soaked in chocolate, it begs the question: who washes all these uniforms? Darwin Beachem, assistant clubhouse attendant, says there is a three-step process: soak the uniforms in Tide detergent powder, scrub them by hand with Slide Out, and then a normal wash cycle. This is repeated three times, so maybe it’s a six-step process. Whether the Nationals are the best team in baseball is up for debate, but so too is the method for cleaning the jerseys. A Deadspin stain expert has said that the best option is to use oxygenated bleach, or Borax, as it could save the clubhouse attendants from having to repeat the process so many times. Chocolate syrup rituals were unknown and unheard of in the Golden Age of baseball, day games were more common back then so that chocolate would have dried and baked in the sun. In any case, there’s no debate among Washington baseball fans, the more dirty jerseys the better, more Hershey’s means more wins. Bring on the chocolate.
Next Wednesday, June 17, the Nationals are hosting their annual “Night Out” for LGBT fans. Erica Scherzer, wife of Nationals’ pitcher and former Detroit Tiger Max Scherzer, will be on hand to lend her to support for the event. Scherzer herself was a softball pitcher who was used to being around openly lesbian athletes, and has said she cannot understand how anyone could be denied rights based on who they love. This is one just of many causes she helps out with. Scherzer wants to combat the stereotype that girlfriends and wives of baseball players do not do anything productive. “In reality,” she says, “we all want careers; we want to feel that we’re providing a value to society.” Click here to read more about in The Washington Post.
Also, Mazel Tov to her husband for pitching such a great one hitter on Sunday, June 14. Go Nats!!!
According to an article by Lawrence Richards from The National Pastime Museum, Hank Greenberg was an athlete who “eclipse[d] sport,” much like Jackie Robinson. Born in New York City, Greenberg was a shy, awkward kid with a passion for baseball, much to the dismay of his parents, who wanted him to become a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. He was on the receiving end of more hatred than other white baseball players at the time due to rampant anti-Semitism in the United States. A spectator once ran up to Greenberg on the field and was surprised to find out that the Jewish player did not have any horns. During the war, Greenberg commented, “I was representing a couple of million Jews….I felt I had a responsibility. As time went by if I hit a home run it felt like I was hitting one against Hitler.” He became a hero and a source of pride for Jewish people. Read more about Hank Greenberg’s life and career here.
Photo Credit: http://www.jewishsports.net
For years, baseball player Ty Cobb had been painted a racist villain by the media. However, when Charles Leerhsen began investigating the claims for his new biography, “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty,” he was surprised to find that Cobb may not have been such a bad man after all. Cobb did have a temper, and was known to get into fights, but nothing suggests his actions were racially motivated. According to Leerhsen, “Two or three times he got in fights with black people, but it was never clear what part, if any, race played in those incidents, and of course he got in many more fights with white people.” As for why the rumors persisted for so long, Leerhsen said, “People cherish their sports myths. Their father told them, and there’s a sacredness to them about what you learned when you first learned about baseball.” To read more about it in The New York Times, click here.
Jewish Baseball News has written an article about a young baseball player. Kevin Pillar may just be the best Jewish baseball player who you’ve never heard of. In high school, Pillar participated in many sports, including football, basketball, and baseball. However, in college, he decided to make baseball his main focus. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, and has proven that he is an impressive player, leading “his rookie league with a .347 batting average.” During one game he had a 9th inning grand slam, and in 2012 he was named MVP of the Midwest League. To read more about him, click here.
After the events of the Baltimore riots this week, The Orioles and the White Sox played yesterday’s game with no fans in the audience. This is quite the rarity for a sports game. Even back during World War II, when players like Hank Greenberg were in the army, President Roosevelt declared that baseball should continue to be played. Dr. Justin Frank delves more into this topic in his new blog post, which you can read here: http://www.obamaonthecouch.com/national-pastime-or-national-guard/