Hammerin' Hank Greenberg won two World Series with the Detroit Tigers, in 1935 and 1945, and appeared in two more throughout his career. Sandy Koufax won three rings for the Dodgers, earning the series MVP in two of those matchups, and pitched in eight World Series games total. Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis, Al Rosen, Brad Ausmus, Lou Boudreau and Ken Holtzman, to name a handful, all made it to and participated in World Series clashes.
But it wasn't until the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros met in 2021 for the 117th World Series that our national pastime has seen that we finally got to see a Jewish batter face off against a Jewish pitcher. 117 years!
Though there were some other really cool statistics and moments from last night, such as Jose Altuve tying Bernie Williams for the second most postseason home runs in league history, the stat of the night for my Jewish self — and, I'd imagine, for several of my fellow Jewish baseball fans — was the nugget regarding Alex Bregman and Max Fried.
Also making a lot of noise throughout the postseason, as Mayo noted, has been Joc Pederson, who played for Team Israel in the qualifying rounds of the 2013 World Baseball Classic. This trio is very likely the most star-studded cast of Jewish players in a World Series, though the 1959 World Series featured Koufax and eventual series MVP Larry Sherry on the Dodgers, along with White Sox pitcher Barry Latman (h/t Jacob Gurvis of The Times of Israel).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the aforementioned Koufax was a huge role model for Fried, who has emerged as a star for the Braves despite a rough outing in Game 2.
"Growing up in L.A., being left-handed and also Jewish made Sandy Koufax a really good role model," Fried told the Atlanta Jewish Times. "It didn’t hurt that he was also one of the best pitchers of all time. Those are some big shoes to fill, though."
Fried has filled them admirably to this point, finishing as a top-five Cy Young Award finalist in 2020 after a sparkling 7-0 campaign, and he built upon that effort with another strong year in 2021. The brightest star of the bunch, however, is Bregman, who was twice a top-five MVP finalist — as was the runner-up in 2019 — and continues to lead Houston to postseason success year after year.
And how do we know that this was the first matchup between two Jews in the World Series? No, I haven't dug through every matchup to confirm Mayo's account... but Chana Weinberg of Tablet came awfully close to doing just that, consulting baseball historian Robert Wechsler in an in-depth look at the potential for a Jew vs. Jew pitcher-batter duel in the 2020 World Series, when then-Dodger Joc Pederson and Rays reliever Ryan Sherriff had the potential to face each other. They never did, but we only had to wait one more year to see Fried and Bregman achieve the accomplishment.