Greetings, sports fans! Call me Bob Uecker because this post is juuuuuust a bit outside my regular range. Tonight, instead of drafting a column or taking in a draft beer or plugging up the cracks in my windows so I don’t feel the draft, I attended a draft. And it was full of Jews.

You know the joke about the book about Jews in sports. (“It’s a pamphlet.”) But tonight’s player draft was for the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League, and the event, co-sponsored by the David Project, Taglit-birthright israel, Heeb and a few others that (sorry, others) I can’t remember right now, celebrated the arrival of America’s national past-time in Israel.

While I didn’t write down all of the names of the draftees, I can tell you that all the players are guaranteed to look familiar. One early draft pick looked like he was follicularly channeling Nathan Englander. There was only one who didn’t resemble someone I knew, and he looked like any minute he’d be auditioning for the next Superman movie.

There are some differences: 7 innings, not 9. Tie games are broken by a home run derby. And stadium vendors will sell shvarma-im-tzchips in a lafah instead of hot dogs. (Maybe not the last one. But maybe yes the last one. We’ll see.)

The four teams–the Tel Aviv Lightning, the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, the Ra’ananna Express, the Petach Tikva Pioneers, the Netanya Tigers and the Modi’in Miracle–named undoubtedly for Chanukah’s oil/military victory, but with the added resonance of sporting as its manager Miracle Met Art Shamsky. Three other coaches, Ron Blomberg (Yankees/Bet Shemesh), Ken Holtzman (Cubs and As/Petach Tikva), and Steve Hertz (Astros/Tel Aviv), are also former Major League players. An Australian manager, Shaun Smith, will manage Netanya, and the Tigers have yet to name their manager.

The June 24th opening night game, the Miracle vs. the Pioneers (which sounds like a conference on contemporary Zionism), will be shown live on Israel’s Arutz Sport (like ESPN, but in Israel); public broadcasting stations in the US will also carry the game a week later. Full schedules will be available on and needless to say, these teams don’t pitch on Shabbos. (And yes, there are plenty of other “Jews in baseball” jokes to come. So stay tuned.)

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Esther Kustanowitz

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  • This may be the first time since I got married that I wish I were single. I would have loved to have played in the IBL.

  • Maybe there are more Jews in baseball than you think, Esther, beginning, of course, with Hank Greenberg, the legendary Detroit Tigers slugger. More recently, you’ve had Shawn Green (sadly, now with the NY Let’s-Gos); pitcher Scott Schoeneweis; and Gabe Kapler, a former OF now managing in the Red Sox system…. GMs include Theo Epstein of Boston and Mark Shapiro of the Tribe, uh, Cleveland Indians.

    Middle can tell you that Kenny Holtzman wasn’t chopped liver in his prime. I hated that guy.

  • I hear that. You probably woulda been great. Some of the dudes are married with kids, so don’t let that stop you…you’d have to relocate, but might it not be worth it?

  • FUnny, Muffti was goign to post about this yesterday becase he heard a long piece on the IBL by NPR, with interviews and the like. But, let’s face it, 7 innings is not baseball and a homerun derby to settle ties? Bullshit.

  • Well, aside from the fact that my wife has no desire to go to E”Y and that even with a FT job, I can’t afford to pay our bills or raise our kids properly, you’ve got a great idea, Esther. 😉

    I’m annoyed the IBL is guarding the draft list. Such a stupid idea, imo.

    PS I agree with Muffti. Why change the rules?

  • They changed the rules because Israelis wouldn’t have had the patience for tie games that go on and on. At least that was the theory.

    And if you’re really interested, I have the list of draftees and their bios in a handy little booklet. If I find some time, or an intern, I’ll type up who was picked in what round. If you guys really care…

  • “If you guys really care…”

    Umm, Esther… well, okay go ahead… for us guys. Not that we really care… but since you’re taking the time can you also give us each player’s ERA, BA, W/L, OBP, BB/K’s, and what side they bat and throw from. Only if you’re into it… 🙂

    Muffti – agreed. But neither is the DH. But give this fledgling league a chance. (BTW, heard there was a nasty little dust up in the parking lot after the Israeli Womens’ basketball championship.)

  • DH is questionable Muffti thinks but he sees your point. Muffti will give anything a chance; he just agrees iwth Aristotle that we should say of what is that it is and what is not that it is not and this is not baseball.

  • Middle, of all your innumerable Jewlicious posts and comments, #11 above is by far the most disappointing.

    (Though if the game you attended featured Mr. The Cream & The Clear, serves you right.)

  • I have other disappointing posts or comments?!

    Sorry, my man, sometimes baseball can be good and fun, and there’s no question that an exciting 9th inning where a single swing can make all the difference in the outcome can be very exciting, but the game in question was a snore-fest.

  • most sports events are now only exciting during the playoffs. Fandom is mostly for kids.

    This league in Israel is very interesting to me. My gut reaction is that the fan base, which is needed to support the league, be it ticket sales or on cable, will come from the North Americans living there but again, I can’t see the one year kids getting crazy over this, altho I could be wrong. So this fan base, where is it coming from? THe American families who made Aliyah? They are going to go to games?

    I recall that in the distant past, the thinking was in Official Zionist circles that the Oleh would be better off to leave the Diaspora behind, and this included baseball, organized or not.

    We were advised to get into Soccer, or Football. But of course, I couldnt, woudnt, etc. So my failed youthful Aliyah included befriending those foregners who had the magic currenct, the daily NY POST or News.

    And I was berated and castigated for this, by the faithful. And I did participate in Some Basketball league they started that was a failure, going to all the games.

    Wow, now you could have a home grown baseball exprience, shoot, I am mixed up with both jealousness and emotional longing.