On this Yom Kippur we salute the Jewish ballplayers. The following Jewish players played or coached at one time or another with the Cubs…
~Cy Block 1919 (Cubs 1942-1946)
Cy played briefly for the Cubs during the 1942 season, but Uncle Sam stole him before the 1943 season began. Block returned to the roster before the end of the 1945 season, in September, just a few weeks before the World Series. He didn’t get a chance to bat in the Series, but he did come in as a defensive replacement. The Cubs sent him to the minors for the 1946 season when all of their war-time players returned, but in September Cy got one more shot at the bigs. He played his final four major league games that month. After his playing career was over, he became a successful businessman and philanthropist. Block died in September 2004 in the midst of that season’s notorious Cubs collapse.
~Lou Boudreau (Cubs manager 1960, Cubs announcer 1958-1987)
Lou had a Hall of Fame playing career with the Cleveland Indians, winning the World Series as a player/manager in 1948 (the last time Cleveland won it), but he spent many more years in his hometown of Chicago, covering the Chicago Cubs. Lou’s only season wearing a Cubs uniform was 1960. He took over the managing job from Charlie Grimm and led the team to a 7th place finish, 29 games under .500. After the season he asked for his radio job back, and was replaced as manager by the ridiculous College of Coaches experiment. A whole generation of Cub fans grew up listening to Lou on the radio. His interviews with Cubs manager Leo Durocher were the stuff of legend. Because of Durocher’s unique personality, the show (Durocher in the Dugout) was often entertaining, but the outtakes let you know just how challenging that job really was (unbleeped example below). Lou passed away in 2001 at the age of 84.
(Lou’s mom was Jewish)
~Hy Cohen 1931 (Cubs 1955)
The big righthander (6’5″, 220 lbs) pitched in exactly seven games for them that year, between April and June. He was 24 years old at the time. He got his first action on April 17, 1955 when the Cubs starting pitcher Harry Perkowski couldn’t record an out in the first inning. Cohen pitched seven innings of relief to save the bullpen that day. But he was hit hard. He gave up 13 hits and 7 earned runs against the Cardinals. Ken Boyer doubled. Stan Musial tripled. Wally Moon homered. It was ugly. The final score was 14-1. In his final game on June 2nd, he entered under simliar circumstances in the second inning, and got hit hard again–this time by the Phillies. Hy never made it back to the big leagues. He pitched three more seasons in the minors before hanging up his spikes.
~Scott Feldman 1983 (Cubs 2013)
Feldman was one of the “flip-able” players brought in during the Epstein regime to garner prospects in return, and it worked like a charm. He was traded to the Orioles in July 2013, in exchange for pitchers Jake Arietta and Pedro Strop. Feldman has the distinction of having the most wins in a season by a Jewish pitcher (17 in 2009) since Steve Stone in 1980.
~Sam Fuld 1981 (Cubs 2007-2010)
Sam was a crowd favorite in his limited playing time with the Cubs, mainly because of his take-no-prisoners style of outfield defense. The fans loved the way he flung himself toward the ball. He wasn’t a bad hitter either. In his longest stretch of playing time in 2009, Fuld hit .299. It was enough to attract the attention of the Rays, who asked for Sam to be included in the trade package that brought Matt Garza to the Cubs. Fuld has since also played for Oakland and Minnesota. He has stolen more than 20 bases in a season twice since he left Chicago.
~John Grabow 1978 (Cubs 2009-2011)
Grabow was a very effective lefthanded reliever with the Pirates for several seasons, so the Cubs went out and got him via trade (along with Tom Gorzelany). As soon as he arrived in Chicago, however, Grabow started to get knocked around pretty well. He developed arm problems, and missed a good chunk of the 2010 season. His last year in the big leagues was with the Cubs in 2011. In retrospect, that wasn’t a very good trade for the Cubs. They sent a few prospects to Pittsburgh in that deal, including future all-star Josh Harrison.
Adam Greenberg 1981 (Cubs 2005)
His Cubs career was undeniably unique. On July 9, 2005, the Chicago Cubs called him up to the big leagues. They were in Miami facing the Florida Marlins. Greenberg’s entire family flew down to Florida from Connecticut to watch his first major league series. They could barely contain their excitement in the 7th inning of the game, when Adam was called on to pinch hit for Cubs pitcher Will Ohman. The pitcher was Valerio De Los Santos, a left-hander. “I get in the box,” Greenberg remembers, “and all of a sudden he throws it, and I’m thinking, ‘Am I swinging?’ and all of a sudden, bam.” Here’s the way New York Times reporter Ira Berkow described the only pitch of Greenberg’s major league career: “No one imagined that the very first pitch the left-handed Greenberg faced in the major leagues would be a fastball that would crack him squarely in the head, smashing against his helmet and the part of his neck just under his right ear, making a sound so loud that it stunned the crowd of almost 23,000. His parents, his sister and two brothers had come to Dolphins Stadium from Guilford, Conn., near New Haven. His grandfather was watching at home on television. His mother, Wendy Greenberg, said she was horrified when she saw her son drop to the ground as Cubs Manager Dusty Baker and the trainer rushed to the plate.” Greenberg had to be removed from the game and was placed on the disabled list after the game. He never returned to the Cubs, and never returned to the majors until the Marlins gave him one at bat at the end of the 2012 season as a publicity stunt. He struck out. (Photo: 2002 Upper Deck Future Gems Baseball Card)
~Ken Holtzman 1945 (Cubs 1966-1971)
He would become one of the rarest animals on the North American continent…a quality home grown Chicago Cubs starting pitcher. The Cubs had the smallest staff of scouts in baseball, and they had virtually no instructors in the minor leagues. In the late 40s and the 1950s, they had exactly one minor league pitching coach…a roaming instructor who went from team to team. The results were predictable. Between Bob Rush (who wasn’t even that good) in the late 40s and Ken Holtzman in 1965, the Cubs didn’t produce a single quality starting pitcher from their farm system. Those twenty seven years (1948-1967) just so happen to coincide with the worst teams in Chicago baseball history. Holtzman was the real deal. He went 9-0 for the Cubs while serving in the National Guard in 1967, and when his military service was over, he followed that up with back-to-back 17 win seasons in 1969 and 1970. Holtzman also pitched a no-hitter in each of those seasons. When he had an off-year in 1971, and started arguing with Leo Durocher (who allegedly was mad because Holtzman beat him at gin rummy), he was shipped off to Oakland in the trade that brought Rick Monday to the Cubs. In four seasons with Oakland he won an astounding 77 games, was named an all-star twice, became a three-time World Series champ, won four games in those World Series, and even hit a home run. He returned to the Cubs in 1978 for the last two seasons of a very impressive career. (Photo: Topps 1970 Baseball Card)
AUDIO: No hitter…
~Ryan Kalish 1988 (Cubs 2014, 2016)
Kalish came up through the Red Sox system, and was signed as a free agent by his former bosses Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. With the Cubs he showed great hustle and determination, but he hit only .248 in 57 games. He signed with the Blue Jays after the season. The Cubs brought him back in 2016 and he played with the big league club for about a week in May. He had a few big hits, but the stacked roster didn’t have a permanent place for Kalish. He was granted his free agency after the season again.
~Johnny Kling 1875 (Cubs 1900-1911)
Kling was one of the best catchers in baseball; a grizzled veteran who was so good defensively, he caused former catcher Frank Chance to move positions (to first base). Hall of Fame pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown often said that his secret weapon was Johnny Kling. Kling (nicknamed “Noisy” and “The Jew”) was loved by his teammates (because of his gritty attitude), loved by the umpires (because he didn’t swear, smoke or drink), and loved by the fans. He was the starting catcher for all four pennant winning teams in the first decade of last century (1906, 1907, 1908, 1910), and the pitchers claimed that his absence, and his absence alone, was the only reason the Cubs didn’t win five pennants in a row. Kling sat out the 1909 season to pursue and win the World Pockets Billiard Championship. After a salary dispute, the Cubs traded him in 1911. (Photo: 1909 Tobacco Card)
~Johnny Klippstein 1927 (Cubs 1950-1954)
Klippstein was a swing starter/reliever in his days with the Cubs. He has the distinction of winning the game at Wrigley Field on the same day and in the same town (July 1952 in Chicago) General Dwight D. Eisenhower was nominated to be president by the Republican Party. He beat the Brooklyn Dodgers that day. He later won the World Series as a member of the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers (beating the Chicago White Sox). In his 18-year big league career, Johnny won 101 games, and saved 66 more.
~Andrew Lorraine 1972 (Cubs 1999-2000)
Lorraine was a highly regarded prospect who had been traded for Jim Abbott and Danny Tartabull before arriving on the Cubs doorstep as a free agent. By then he had pitched for four big league teams with limited success. His time with the Cubs was about the same. He started 16 games over two seasons, and his ERA was over six. The lefthander later also pitched for Cleveland and Milwaukee.
~Jason Marquis 1978 (Cubs 2007-2008)
For the first nine seasons of his big league career, Jason Marquis’ teams were in the playoffs every year. The streak began in 2001 in his rookie season in Atlanta, and it ended when his 2010 Washington Nationals team didn’t make the playoffs. In between then, his Atlanta, St. Louis, Cubs, and Rockies teams all made the playoffs. He won the World Series with the Cardinals and made the All-Star team with the Rockies. His time with the Cubs was not exceptional, but he took the ball every five days during his two playoff seasons with the Cubs, and pitched more than 350 innings. He was also a strong hitter. He hit three homers and knocked in 14 runs during his Cubs tenure. Jason’s last appearance with the Cubs was in the 2008 NLDS. He pitched one inning and gave up a homer to Dodgers catcher Russell Martin. As of 2014 he is still an active pitcher in the Philadelphia minor league system. (Photo: 2008 Topps Baseball Card)
~Ed Mayer 1931 (Cubs 1957-1958)
Mayer was another left-handed reliever. Over two seasons he appeared in 23 games; winning two and saving one. It was Mayer’s only time in the majors. He pitched in the minor leagues for eight seasons. (Photo: Topps 1958 Baseball Card)
~Dave Roberts (Cubs 1978)
How can you tell the difference between the utility man Dave Roberts who played for the Padres, Rangers, Astros and Phillies during the same era (the 70s), and our Dave Roberts, the pitcher? Simple. Our Dave Roberts had the courage to grow a big bushy mustache. Roberts got knocked around pretty good during his year with the Cubs (1978), but he also won a World Series championship the following year with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Roberts is in the top five of several career categories for Jewish pitchers, behind only the likes of Sandy Koufax, Ken Holtzman, and Steve Stone. His other claim to fame was giving up the very last hit and RBI of Hank Aaron’s career.
(Dave’s father was Jewish)
~Art Shamsky 1941 (Cubs 1972)
Shamsky was part of the Miracle Mets team that kept the Cubs out of the playoffs in 1969, but just a few years later he was wearing a Cubs uniform. The outfielder/first baseman was used in only 15 games, almost exclusively as a pinch hitter. He hit only .125 in that role before being released.
~Steve Stone 1948 (Cubs 1974-1976)
Of course we all remember Steve Stone’s long run as the TV color man for the Cubs, but he also pitched for them three seasons in the mid 70s (74-76). The Cubs acquired him from the White Sox (along with catcher Steve Swisher) for Ron Santo, who toiled away painfully on the South Side in his last big league season. Stone’s best season with the Cubs was 1975 when he won 12 games. He became a free agent after the 1976 season and had two more good seasons (winning 15 games with the South Side Hitmen White Sox in 1977, and the Cy Young award with the Baltimore Orioles in 1980.) He became a broadcaster shortly thereafter, and still broadcasts baseball games somewhere. (It’s too painful to say where). We salute him for his years with the Cubs, and specifically for those years in the mid-70s when he and his fine mustache took the mound at Wrigley Field. (Photo: Topps 1975 Baseball Card)