8 Nights of Jewish Tigers– Night One

It being the holiday season and all, I thought it would be nice to have a special holiday event here at Roar of the Tigers. Last year I did 8 Days of Jewish Baseball at my other site (you can find them on the sidebar if you scroll down). I’m doing something different over there this year, and you here at RotT are getting the 8 Nights of Jewish Tigers. Every night of Chanukah we’ll have a look at a different former Jewish Detroit Tiger (as there aren’t any Jews on the current team, sadly), and baseball fans Jew and gentile alike shall be filled with educatin’ joys.

If you were reading me last year, you will recognize that some of the ballplayers profiled are repeats, but the dearth of Jewish baseball players at the professional level (and the fact that 3 more-or-less current players used to be on the Tigers) makes this necessary.

For the first night we start with what I believe is the most recent Jewish Tiger,

Al Levine

Levine is a 37 year old right-handed relief pitcher who worked in a little over 70 innings for the Tigers in 2004. He was cut loose after that season and glommed on with San Francisco at some point this past year, where he was probably viewed as a fount of youthful spriteliness.

Born and raised in Illinois, he was originally drafted out of Southern Illinois University by (and spent 7 years in) the Chicago Wrong Sox organization, which I guess must have been nice for him. He hopped around after that, doing some time in Arlington and bouncing between the majors and minors as part of the Rally Monkey Angels World Series year. 2003 was split between Tampa and Kansas City before the Tigers picked him up for ’04, which was probably comforting, as even Detroit fresh off the ’03 season seems at least nominally less depressing than a D’Rays/Royals combo platter.

Levine’s one-year tenure with the Tigers wasn’t spectacular but wasn’t the most horrible thing the Bengals have seen (not that this is saying much). He ended it with a 4.59 ERA and a 3-4 record, but at least his ratio of Ks to walks was, well, positive. With enough ABs he doesn’t show a huge difference in performance against righties and lefties. After only pitching in a little over 10 innings for the Giants and throwing up an ERA of well over 9.00, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be back with them next year. He may retire; I’m not at all sure, it’s a bit difficult to find news on the poor guy.

The important bit, however, is that he is, in fact, Jewish. He attended Hebrew School as a kid in Illinois, was bar mitzvahed, the whole gantzeh megillah.

Of being a Jewish baseball player, he says,

I get a lot of mail from Jewish fans, and am always more than happy to respond. I’m proud, actually. And when I’m watching sporting events, I always look to see which other athletes might be Jewish…

One of the great things about baseball is that players of all ethnicities are in the league. So religion or background don’t matter on the field. It’s playing hard that means something.
Jewish Journal

Jewish Tiger Number 2 will be up at some point tomorrow (probably on the later end, as I’ll be out all day), so be sure to check back, and hope you’re all having Stripe-tastic holidays thus far (or did, if you’re Christian and all that’s left is cleaning up the wrapping paper.

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