Tag Archives: MLB

Jew of the Week: Barney Dreyfuss

The World Series

Barney Dreyfuss, creator of the World Series

Barney Dreyfuss, creator of the World Series

Bernhard Dreyfuss (1865-1932) was born in Germany to a Jewish-American family that had returned to Germany when the American Civil War broke out. When he was 16, Dreyfuss moved to the US to avoid being drafted into the German army, where conditions for Jews were not very good. Arriving in Kentucky, he lived with his distant relatives, the Bernheim family – famous for their ‘I.W. Harper’ bourbon whiskey – and soon played a key role in their family business. Meanwhile, Dreyfuss fell in love with baseball. He began organizing baseball tournaments for his co-workers, then moved on to organize baseball clubs in Kentucky. In 1889, he bought a stake in the Louisville Colonels, a pro team with the American Association. The following year, his team won the championship (against the Brooklyn team that became the LA Dodgers). After the American Association collapsed, the Colonels moved to the National League. By 1899, Dreyfuss had complete ownership of the Colonels, and also purchased a stake in the Pittsburgh Pirates, which went on to win three championships in a row. At the same time, the American League was becoming ever popular, igniting a “baseball war” between the two major leagues. In 1903, Dreyfuss put together a “peace treaty” between the leagues, and drafted a single set of rules to govern the sport. He also included a set of games that would determine the best baseball team of both leagues, and thus was born the World Series. Dreyfuss continued to play a key role in both the development of baseball, and in American business, until the very end of his life. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, and a monument in his honour still stands at PNC Park, the current home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Words of the Week

Your fellow is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look upon your fellow man and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering – you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself.
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

Jew of the Week: Moe Berg

Baseball Player, Lawyer… and Secret Agent¬†

Moe Berg

Moe Berg

Morris Berg¬†(1902-1972) was born in New York to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He began playing baseball at age 7, and by 16 was on Newark’s baseball “dream team”. He studied first at New York University, then Princeton, and graduated with a degree in languages, learning to speak seven of them. By his senior year, he was captain of Princeton’s baseball team. A day after his last game with Princeton, Berg signed a contract with the Brooklyn Robins. In the off-season, he headed to Paris and continued his studies at the world-famous Sorbonne (University of Paris). There, he began a personal routine of reading as many as 10 newspapers every single day. Berg was never very good at baseball, and was often traded and loaned between many different teams. Always a scholar first, in 1926 he told the Chicago White Sox that he is skipping spring training because he was enrolled in law school at Columbia University. He earned his law degree in 1930, and then split his time between baseball in the summer and working at a prestigious Wall Street law firm in the winter.

In 1932, Berg toured Asia, visiting Japan, China, Siam, India, and Egypt. A couple of years later, he returned to Japan with a video camera, later traveling to the Philippines, Korea, and Russia, before returning to play with the Red Sox for 5 seasons, then coaching the team for 2 more. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Berg joined the war effort and eventually became a spy. He shared his video footage of Japan, which was instrumental in planning American raids during the war. After serving in South America and the Caribbean, Berg was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assist resistance groups fighting the Nazis. His next mission was to travel across Europe and convince scientists working for the Nazis (particularly on their nuclear bomb project), to come work for the U.S. instead. In 1951, he requested that the CIA station him in Israel. Instead, they sent him to Europe to spy on Soviet nuclear work. In 1954, the CIA let him go and for the rest of his life Berg lived with his siblings, having never married. His wishes were to be cremated, and his ashes were scattered in Jerusalem. Berg was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and Baseball’s Shrine of the Eternals. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, and his baseball card is on display at CIA headquarters. Berg was described as “the most scholarly professional athlete”, and the “strangest man ever to play baseball.”

Words of the Week

If you begin a good deed, finish it, for a mitzvah is credited to the one who concludes the task.
– Talmud, Sotah 13b