Baltimore loses Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but say this much for the trade that brought pitcher Dean Kremer here: the Orioles may be last in Major League Baseball’s standings, but they might soon be leading the league in Jews.
As the Good Book says, that ain’t chopped liver.
A California native, Kremer played for Israel’s national baseball team for three years. He’s an Israeli citizen and the son of sabras who served in the Israel Defense Forces.
And never to be diminished, if he’s good enough to advance through the Orioles minor league system to the big club, he would join infielder Danny Valencia and pitcher Richard Bleier to form nearly one-third of a minyan.
That is, assuming the other two don’t get traded before Kremer’s arrival.
Careful research shows us that the current crop of Jews are not the first members of the tribe to play here. Altogether, more than a dozen Jews have donned the Orioles uniform over the club’s 64-year history.
Among them: 1980 Cy Young Award winner Steve Stone, pitchers Jose Bautista, Moe Drabowsky, Scott Feldman, Ken Holtzman and Saul Rogovin, first baseman Mike Epstein, and outfielder Elliott Maddox, who converted to Judaism. But not catcher Myron Nathan “Joe” Ginsberg, who converted away.
And not John Lowenstein, all claims to the contrary.
Remember the Lowenstein story? He was an outfielder with a quirky sense of humor who played for the Orioles during their last World Series era. He gave an interview to one of our local publications, claiming to be Jewish. It was all a great put-on. (Lowenstein wasn’t a member of the tribe but was, in fact, married to a Jewish woman.)
The first of the Jewish Orioles was outfielder Cal Abrams. He started out with the Brooklyn Dodgers and always wore No. 18. “For good luck,” he said. After one particularly good day with the Dodgers, a New York sports page headline read, “Mantle, Schmantle, We got Abie.”
Abrams played here in the Orioles’ first season of big league baseball and hit .293. Pretty good. So good that fans wanted to throw a “day” for him, complete with presents to show their appreciation.
When I was a young sports writer for The News American, Neal Eskridge, the great baseball writer there, told me he interviewed Abrams in the dugout and said, “Isn’t it nice that they want to honor you with a bunch of gifts.”
To which Abrams replied, “If they don’t give me a Cadillac, they’re horse(bleep.)”
Ah, baseball. The game is forever enriched by all players in the great American melting pot, no?
Of course, Abrams played in an era when ballplayers of any religion were lucky to make $20,000 a year. Today, they make far more than that every time they take a breath.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, is now in paperback.