Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mensch on the Bench

Michael Lumish

{Also published at The Jewish Press and Jews Down Under.}

Cody Decker with the Mensch
Well, I have to tell you, I am just eating this up.

The Times of Israel tells us:
Israel’s national baseball team clobbered Taiwan 15-7 Tuesday, racing off to a 2-0 start in the country’s first-ever appearance in the World Baseball Classic.

Powered by strong hitting and capped by a three-run homer by Nate Freiman in the top of the ninth inning, the Israeli team continued its fairy-tale start to the international tourney, all but clinching a spot in the next round, after beating Korea in the opener 2-1 Monday.
So, this is a baseball team comprised almost entirely of American Jews that can play under the flag of Israel because they are eligible for Israeli citizenship. The World Baseball Classic rule is that any player can play for any team so long as that individual is eligible for citizenship in that team's country.

Well, that's definitely OK with me and it also explains why the Netherlands are as good as they are.
Israel next faces The Netherlands, considered a weaker team than both South Korea and Taiwan, but still ranked way ahead of Israel, which is seen as a heavy underdog.

The top two teams from each group in the 16-team tournament will advance to the second round in Japan next week.
Jews as underdogs. Imagine that.

There are four "pools" (or divisions) of four, making up sixteen teams total.

As I write, Pool A (Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Netherlands) is meeting at the very cool Gocheok Skydome - home of the mighty Nexen Heroes - in Seoul, from March 6 until March 10.

Pool B (Japan, Australia, China, and Cuba) is playing in the Tokyo Dome from March 7 until the 11th.

Pool C (Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and the United States) is playing in Marlins Park, Miami, from March 9 until the 14th. And the U.S. team is fielding two of my favorite players from Major League Baseball, Giants star-catcher Buster Posey and fellow Giant shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Pool D (Italia, México, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela) is playing at the Estadio de Béisbol Charros de Jalisco, Mexico, from March 9 until the 13th.

This tournament is only getting started and, thus far, Israel is kicking ass and will move on to Round 2 in the Tokyo Dome.

From an academic or political standpoint, however, there is one very important question.

It is this:

Who the hell cares?

Most of the world does not care about American baseball.

Although Israel's participation in the World Baseball Classic has raised a curious eyebrow for Aussie Dave of Israellycool fame, I wonder if my other Australian friends even know that they have fielded a team in this Great American Hot-Dog Eating and Beer-Swilling Endeavor? **

Do you think that Shirlee from Jews Down Under cares about the World Baseball Classic?


That's why she's not an American, dammit!

The Babe in Japan (1934)
U.S. ballplayers and business interests have tried and failed to get others involved in this most glorious and beneficial of all human sports for one-hundred years, but no one is interested outside of Far East Asians and our brothers and sisters from Oaxaca to Caracas.

They even dropped baseball from the Olympics.

Sure, they love it in Japan, but even then it took Babe Ruth - arguably the greatest American to have ever lived outside of 1930s Detroit Tigers first baseman Hank Greenberg - to talk some sense into that heretofore baseball indifferent part of the world.

Nonetheless, it raises questions.

For example, it is possible, although unlikely, that Australia could meet Israel in round 2 in Tokyo next week. Would it be wrong for Australian Jews to root for Team Israel? Would that make them bad Australians with dual loyalty?

On the political left nationalism is bad enough, but would not this make these bourgeois Australian Jews "dual nationalists"? Uber-nationalists? Nationalists squared?

And, if so, just how do these rogue Jewish Australians reconcile their Jewish nationalism with their Australian nationalism?

Or, God Help Us, what if Israel goes up against the United States in the final game for the championship on Wednesday, March 22 at Dodger Stadium?

What then?

What am I supposed to do, huh?

Make Aliyah?

And just what about this Israel as underdog business?

Most diaspora Jews - if not Israeli Jews - are raised to think of ourselves as underdogs with a moral-ethical obligation to help other underdogs, which explains the heavy involvement of American Jews in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as earlier socialist and communist activities in New York City throughout the twentieth-century.

Underdog status, particularly in the contemporary zeitgeist, is both sympathized with and free of moral obligation... just ask anyone from Black Lives Matter.

In any case, Team Israel meets the Netherlands at 7 this evening by my clock.

The Netherlands are a heavy favorite... but so were Taiwan and South Korea.

** (A Tip 'O the Kippa to my buddy Jason Paluch.)


  1. Two of your favorite players are on the Giants? Who'd a thunk it! Buster Posey and some other guy. :0)

    "And, if so, just how do these rogue Jewish Australians reconcile their Jewish nationalism with their Australian nationalism?"
    Rooting for the underdog is supposed to be a left speciatly.

    "On the political-left nationalism is bad enough"
    Unless it's "Palestinian." Only one nation state is allowed to exist. Please don't call it antisemitism, because it is.

    "Or, God Help Us, what if Israel goes up against the United States in the final game for the championship on Wednesday, March 22 at Dodger Stadium?"

    This is a most unlikely outcome, so I wouldn't worry about it. Nevertheless I am proud that some "Israelis" are excelling at the world's greatest sport.

    Besides the really hard leftists pretend to like soccer, because it's so international and American teams aren't that good at it.

    1. Suddenly I feel like hot dogs for dinner with the game.

      I hope that Israel trounces the Netherlands... particularly after how crappy they treated our friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali!

      Jeez, who could have imagined that the world ever would have become quite so complicated?


    2. btw, before God sent Posey into the world he held him aloft among the clouds and the Angels and patted him on the head saying, "He shall be as a god among men and they shall call him Buster."

      It's looking more and more like spring from my window.

    3. I think it was just last year you posted this, and I'm forever grateful. It brings back good memories. That was the year I moved out west and we didn't have ESPN and the rest of it back then. I really missed seeing Yankees games on WPIX, Tuesday and Friday nights, if memory serves.

    4. At around the :16 mark you can see Graig Nettles (No.9) and Mickey Rivers (No.17) drag Bill Lee (No.37) off to the right, down the first base line and out of frame, for some "special treatment."

    5. Graig Nettles felt that Bill Lee had a good beating coming to him from his remarks a few years earlier - from another Yankees / Red Sox brawl - in which he told the press something like, "Watching the Yankees fight was like watching a bunch of women swinging their purses." After Nettles kicked his ass in NY, per the video above, he said something like, "I just didn't want Bill to think that he got hit by a purse."

      And the thing is, they were family friends up until that point.

      Jeez, they don't make baseball brawls the way that they used to.

  2. "Most of the world does not care about American baseball."

    Which makes them suspect in my eyes.

    "In baseball, democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rule book. And color, merely something to distinguish one team's uniform from another's. Ernie Harwell
    Read more at:

    1. I like to tell people - half kiddingly - that our problems with the Arab-Muslim Middle East would vanish if only they would take up baseball.

      Y'know, Pakistan has a WBC team, but it failed to qualify for the tourney.

    2. "Most of the world does not care about American baseball."

      Good. More for me. BTW, loved the Ernie Harrell quote.

  3. Geeze dont get me started. Baseball is a mystical subject with me: my first glove, the games I went to, playing catch with my dad, friends, wife (who loved and played,), raising 2 kids who played and taught their kids to play; coachiong little league; trophy walls, etc etc etc. Just the word conjures up sights, smells and smiles.

  4. Most of the world does not care....

    Except for the US, the entire Caribbean, northern South America, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea.

    1. Indeed. Much of the world does not care...

      But if so much of the world does play baseball, why is it not an olympic sport again?

      Oh, hell, I'll do my own homework.

    2. I come from a place that plays cricket and rugby and those aren't well known outside of the Anglosphere and Pakistan and India.

      Mike - can we hope for a new crop of Cubans in MLB? I'm hoping.

  5. I once watched a final world series? match live. From memory I was in Chicago or somewhere at a dinner and the hosts started setting up screens around the place.

    It was a serious match. It was between two East coast teams and from memory it was a three match final which was one all and this was the tie breaker. Does that sound about right?

    The whole series depended on this match.

    I had absolutely no idea at all what was going on. My attention was entirely focused on this beautiful lady from California sitting beside me who did
    her best to explain to me what was going on but had as much interest as me in who won given they were east coast teams.

    A gang of New Yorkers at a neighboring table were going absolutely raving barking mad.

    It was about 1982 I guess . The main course was " Surf and Turf "

    I have no idea who won.

    1. Dizzy Dean once said that his cure for the Cold War would be to send some bats and balls to Russia and teach them baseball. Once they started playing baseball with us, war would be impossible. Ernie Banks said, "Baseball is the thinking man's game." For those who don't follow baseball, well, I guess you're not!

    2. When I was at the University of Connecticut, in the late 1980s, I had a friend who was a beautiful young lady dating a buddy of mine. If this were 1960s Brooklyn, or whatever, we would have called her a "Shiksa Goddess."

      She was a long-time Red Sox fan who grew up in New England. A bunch of us hooked-up in my off-campus apartment to drink beer and watch the 1986 World Series Game 6.

      Anyone who knows much of anything about Major League Baseball will remember that series because Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner made the famous error that ruined the rest of us his life and led to a NY Mets victory that year.

      This poor girl was so upset about it that she literally flung herself onto a couch and wept!

  6. Mickey Mantle vs. WIllie Mays

    1. They're doing it again!

      It's 4 - 1 Mensches in the top of the 9th as I write, with one man down.

      This is fucking amazing.

    2. 2 balls, 2 strikes.

      the game!

    3. Are you seeing the game? Where?

    4. I ended up watching it livestreamed in Japanese on youtube with the sound turned off!

      I had two versions of my latest piece open on my laptop, one in the event that they lost and the other in the event that they won.

      This whole thing is just flat-out weird.

      But GO MENSCHES!

    5. I see now that the Netherlands game will be shown on ESPN tonight at 6PM EDT, 3PM for you, if you want to watch the repeat of that game in English.
      And yes, I am amazed. Maybe the Yankees should sign these guys. :0)