Jewish card set features baseballs best and worst

There’s a funny story about the time the Philadelphia A’s first baseman Lou Limmer stepped up to the plate against the Detroit Tigers’ Saul Rogovin while Myron Ginsberg caught.

The umpire laughed and said, “Well, well, three Heebs. Wonder who’ll prevail?” (This was the early 1950s and you could still make jokes like that.)

Limmer smacked a home run and that answered that.

That anecdote and many others are included in a new set of Jewish major-league baseball cards, set to hit stores Monday, Nov. 28 — well after the end of baseball season, but well in advance of Chanukah.

The collection of Semitic sluggers is the latest release from Martin Abramowitz, who came out with his initial set of Jewish major-leaguer cards in 2003. The new 55-piece set contains cards for the six Jews who have broken into the big leagues since then, six old-time Jewish ballplayers Abramowitz has since unearthed and four women who played in the wartime women’s baseball league.

It also comes stocked with trivia and theme cards. Now you too will know who was the first Jew to play in Japan (it’s Richie Scheinblum, pictured making a fat pitch go “sayonara”). Two old-time Jewish players who made major-league rosters yet never saw game action even share a card.

The success of Abramowitz’s first set coupled with the relative ease of tracking him down (when he’s not poring over baseball records he’s the vice president of planning and agency relations at Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies) lead to dozens of people calling him every week and pitching their uncles, fathers or grandfathers as card-worthy.

About 99 percent of these calls end up being exercises in diplomacy for Abramowitz, as he has to politely insist that a card set of Jewish major leaguers includes only players who actually played major league baseball.

But a caller named Joe Weinert mentioned his father Lefty Weinert, who didn’t let his children know he was Jewish until they were teenagers.

Not only did Lefty Weinert pitch in the big leagues, he won a spot in a book entitled “The Worst Baseball Pitchers of All-Time.”

“Well, he wasn’t that bad,” Abramowitz said last week. “To last for a decade as a major league starter, you have to have something.”

Lefty had enough to go 18-33 with a 4.44 earned run average in parts

of nine seasons between 1919 and 1931, including a

4-17 mark for

the Philadelphia Phillies in 1923. On the other hand, he did bat .322 and drive in eight runs in that dismal season.

While Lefty might have been one of the worst ballplayers to ever don a uniform, Lou Boudreau was one of the best. The Hall of Fame player and manager for the Cleveland Indians was the son of a Jewish mother and Christian father, and was raised by his father.

“For years he gave off-putting answers to Jewish fans asking for an autograph. But Ira Berkow of the New York Times says Lou told him he was Jewish in his later years, and that’s good enough for us,” said Abramowitz.

Former San Francisco Giant Jose Bautista is also new to Abramowitz’s set. More than any other player, Bautista qualifies for the “Funny, you don’t look Jewish” cliché — he’s a black Dominican. But his mother was a Jew, and he has always been candid about his Jewish identity. In fact, he once told the Village Voice, “My family and I go to synagogue when we can and we pray every Friday. We fast on Yom Kippur and not only do I not pitch, I don’t even go to the ball game.”

The set features a card for each of the 13 current Jewish major leaguers and memorial cards for the former players who have died since the first set, including “Subway Sam” Nahem of Berkeley, who died in April last year at age 88.

The $36 collection is printed by Upper Deck and can be ordered at or at (866) 740-8013 starting Nov. 28.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.