Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Nice one Marlins
The Marlins thought they were honoring their Jewish first baseman when they decided to give away Mike Jacobs T-shirts as part of Jewish Heritage Day at Dolphin Stadium this afternoon.
One small problem — Jacobs isn't Jewish, a fact the Marlins would have learned if they'd asked Jacobs himself.
Better yet, they could have contacted Martin Abramowitz.
As records custodian for the non-profit Jewish Major Leaguers Inc., Abramowitz is on a mission to catalogue every Jewish player who ever played in the majors — from Lipman Pike of the 1871 Troy Haymakers to Kevin Youkilis of the 2006 Boston Red Sox.
He's at 154 now, and his mission also includes distinguishing the likes of Shawn Green and Brad Ausmus from imposters like Mike Jacobs and Walt Weiss, players with common Jewish names who are not.
"Of course, the classic misapplication in the last couple of years has been David Eckstein (of the St. Louis Cardinals). David happens to be a very pious Christian,'' said Abramowitz, who also works as vice president of the Jewish Federation in Boston.
Abramowitz's odyssey began in Brooklyn, where he said he grew up a Dodgers fan, but was forced to root for the Yankees.
"The only television in our lower-income neighborhood was in the landlord's apartment. The landlord's kid was four years older than me and he was a Yankees fan. So if I wanted to watch a baseball game in 1949, I had to watch the Yankees,'' he said.
Abramowitz began collecting baseball cards of all his favorite Jewish players. Soon it turned into a passion — to collect a baseball card of every Jewish player, a mission he nearly aborted six years ago in a fit of frustration.
"I was sitting around with my 11-year-old son, Jacob, bemoaning the fact that I would never have a complete collection because 42 of the then-142 players never had a baseball card, either because they were not stars or were playing in days when there were no cards,'' he says.
"So 11-year-old Jacob, in his infinite wisdom, says, 'Go make your own cards.' "
Abramowitz did. His original set was produced by Fleer in 2003. An update set was released this year by Upper Deck and is available for $41 online at jewishmajorleaguers.org.
"All I wanted to do was give these forgotten players that piece of immortality, which we call a baseball card,'' he said.
As part of what he calls a Jewish tradition of scholarship identifying Jewish players, Abramowitz also is chronicling the oral histories of Jews in baseball.