There are few harbingers of spring more true than the appearance of the season’s first baseball cards — and all the more when every player’s card is a member of your team, as with the new 50-card set of Jewish Major Leaguer cards.
The set celebrates the current, golden age of Jewish baseball (not only Bud Selig, the commissioner, but more than a dozen in uniform), whose reach is now international, with Kevin Youkalis now playing in Japan. The set also highlights cards from Israel’s 2012 team in the World Baseball Classic.
Israel’s team is well represented in this year’s majors, with cards for Israel’s manager Brad Ausmus, who has graduated to the Detroit Tigers, and players Josh Satin, now of the Mets, and Nate Freiman, now of the Athletics.
In this set the key word is inclusion. Neither bad character nor identification as a Christian counts against anyone, be it Ryan Braun, suspended for steroids last year after lying and defaming others extensively, or Lou Boudreau, a Hall of Famer and former manager who had a Jewish mother but was raised Catholic and died with a funeral at St. Anthony’s. In honor of Ausmus, the set includes other Jewish managers, such as Lefty Phillips, Norm Sherry and Lipman Pike, the 19th-century skipper of the Cincinnati Reds, the Hartford Dark Blues and the Troy Haymakers.
There are memorial cards for those who were called up to a higher league since the last Jewish card set in 2010: original Met Joe Ginsburg, Marv (Rotty) Rotblatt of the White Sox, and Al Federoff of the Tigers. Other players in this year’s set: Ian Kinsler, Danny Valencia, Scott Feldman, Sam Fuld, Jason Marquis, Ike Davis, Kevin Pillar, Ryan Kalish Josh Zeid and Boston’s all-Jewish battery, Craig Breslow and Ryan Lavarnway. There is even a card for Max Rosner, owner of the Brooklyn Bushwicks, an independent team that faced barnstormers from the majors and the Negro Leagues.
The set is curated by Martin Abramowitz, who originated the Jewish cards in 2003. They are co-sponsored by Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History and the American Jewish Historical Society. To purchase, see Jewishmajorleaguers.org, or send $41 to JML Inc., 104 Greenlawn Ave., Newton, MA 02459.