Question #171: Who is the best Jewish baseball player of all time?
So, in today’s paper and on LoHud.com, I wrote a column about the Sandy Koufax vs. Hank Greenberg debate and included thoughts from a Rockland County author who has written a book called “The Baseball Talmud” in which he ranks by position all the Jewish major leaguers.
While Howard Megdal’s quest was a good one, to me the question will always come down to Koufax vs. Greenberg. And so now I want to pose it to you.
Here’s Greenberg’s career numbers: 1393 games, .313 BA, .412 OBP, .605 SLG, 331 HR, 1276 RBI, two MVPs, 5-time All-Star plus he missed four years to fight in World War II.
Here’s Koufax’s career numbers: 314 GS, 165-87, 137 CG, 40 shutouts, 2324 1/3 IP, 2.76 ERA, 2396 K, 1.106 WHIP, 1 MVP, 3 Cy Youngs, 6-time All-Star plus his career was short-circuited by arthritis at age 30.
I’ve always been a Koufax guy and I’ll come back later to explain why. What’s your take?
I actually saw Koufax at the end of his brief career, although I was too young to appreciate him … the thing that always stood out to me was that in photographs his arm appeared to bend like a bow.
Anyway, I think the argument is this simple. It is either Greenberg or Koufax. They are the two best. Greenberg never gets his due as an all-time great hitter/slugger, whose stats—like many in his era—were sawed off by service in the military. He was one of the best ever.
But Koufax, from what I’ve heard, read, seen, and gleaned, may have been the best pitcher ever, and if he’s not, well he is the best left-hander and easily in the top three from either side. So good that he retired young and was a no-doubter Hall of Famer in a number of seasons that would immediately eliminate pretty much anybody else from even being considered.
The best pitcher I ever saw was Bob Gibson. But lots of people think Koufax was better than Gibson.
So I’m going with the lefty on this argument, with all due respect to Greenberg.
11:34 a.m., Sam says:
A few weeks ago I wrote a column about Tiger Woods’ fame that compared him to Muhammad Ali, and in that piece I talked about how I once was fortunate enough to meet Ali. As someone who gets to meet athletes with some regularity, it was unusual for me to feel as awed as I did when standing in front of the Champ. But that’s also the way I felt when I got to meet Koufax.
Although he has become somewhat more visible in recent years than he was in the past, I – along with several other writers – got to meet and talk to Koufax at the 2003 Baseball Writers dinner in New York. Just seeing Koufax and hearing him talk about baseball a little was something I’ll always remember. I also recall him delivering a funny line about Randy Johnson, to whom he was giving the NL Cy Young award. In his introduction of Johnson, Koufax said there were two things that “jumped off the page” about the Unit: “One, he’s very tall. Two, he’s very good.”
What was it like to watch him pitch, Carp? Or anyone else who had the pleasure?
I was only nine or 10 when he stopped pitching, and since I was an AL fan I never really saw enough of him to leave an impression. But I knew that Koufax-Drysdale meant big problems for opponents.
I know what you mean about certain athletes making that impression the first time you meet them. I know I was awed the first time I met Gretzky (now I know him very well, and that feeling is gone), and the first time I met Herb Brooks after the Olympics, and when I finally met Mickey Mantle, and later on the first time I interviewed Michael Jordan.
Those feelings mostly wear off as you go on in this business. But I must say that last summer I was blown away the day of the all-star game at Yankee Stadium when I was interviewing, one-on-one in a hotel conference room in NYC, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson, and so many immortals. I felt like an AIG executive at bonus time.
And certain celebs can still do that, but very few. When I see Paul McCartney at a ballgame, for example. Or when I met Bill Clinton when the Rangers visited the White House, or Richard Nixon at Shea Stadium.