ATLANTA — Major League Baseball saw some rare history when the Atlanta Braves hosted the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night. For just the fifth time ever, the two starting pitchers for the opposing teams were Jewish, according to researchers. In fact, the last time it happened in a regular season game was in 1977.
Max Fried, a 29-year-old lefty and one of the game’s top young pitchers, took the mound for the NL-leading Braves. The Santa Monica native, who, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, was a member of the 2009 gold medal-winning USA 18th World Maccabiah Juniors baseball team, got roughed up by the O’s in his worst start so far this season. Fried gave up seven runs (five earned) over six innings, including two home runs, while striking out seven.
Meanwhile, Orioles starter Dean Kremer, a rising star who pitched for Israel in the World Baseball Classic this year, gave up just one run over six innings, striking out three batters en route to his third win of the season. The Orioles would go on to win the game 9-4, improving to 22-10, while the Braves fell to 22-11 — making them the second- and third-best teams in MLB, respectively.
Kremer, who has emerged as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for the red hot Orioles, holds dual citizenship in America and Israel. He is the first Israeli to ever be drafted by a MLB team (originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2015), and became the first-ever Israeli to pitch in a MLB game when he made his debut for the Orioles in 2020. Fried is a former first-round pick, also by the Padres.
According to the Jewish Baseball Museum, Major League Baseball hasn’t had two Jewish starters in the same game since June 22, 1977, when Ken Holtzman took the mound for the New York Yankees against Dave Roberts and the Detroit Tigers. The other three games include the very same matchup on September 24, 1976; Steve Stone of the San Francisco Giants took the mound against Roberts (on the Padres at the time) on June 20, 1971; and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers against Holtzman, then on the Cubs, on September 25, 1966.
Jewish opposing starting pitchers:
Sandy Koufax, Dodgers, vs. Ken Holtzman, Cubs, Sept. 25, 1966
Steve Stone, Giants, vs. Dave Roberts, Padres, June 20, 1971
Holtzman, Yankees, vs. Roberts, Tigers, Sept. 24, 1976
Holtzman, Yankees, vs. Roberts, Tigers, June 22, 1977
— JewishBaseballMuseum (@JewishBBMuseum) May 5, 2023
Ironically, this latest instance fell on Shabbat, in which orthodox and more conservative Jews typically don’t work.
Other prominent Jewish MLB players over the years include:
- Hank Greenberg: A Hall of Famer and one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history, Greenberg played primarily for the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s and 1940s. He was a 5-time All-Star and won two MVP awards.
- Sandy Koufax: Widely regarded as one of the best pitchers of all time, Koufax played for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1955 to 1966. He was a 7-time All-Star, 3-time Cy Young Award winner, and 2-time World Series MVP. Koufax was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
- Al Rosen: Rosen played for the Cleveland Indians from 1947 to 1956 and was a 4-time All-Star. In 1953, he won the American League MVP award after leading the league in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage.
- Shawn Green: A power-hitting outfielder, Green played from 1993 to 2007, mostly for the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was a 2-time All-Star and won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.
- Ian Kinsler: A versatile infielder, Kinsler played from 2006 to 2019, primarily with the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. He was a 4-time All-Star and won two Gold Glove awards.
- Alex Bregman: The current third baseman on the Houston Astros, Bregman was a key member of the Astros’ two World Series-winning teams in 2019 and 2022. Since making his debut in 2016, he is a 2-time All-Star and won a Silver Slugger award in 2019.
According to the Jewish Journal, there are 14 Jews current on major league rosters. In addition to Fried, Kremer, and Bregman, they include Harrison Bader (Yankees), Dalton Guthrie and Garrett Stubbs (Phillies), Joc Pederson (Giants), Kevin Pillar and Jared Shuster (Braves), Rowdy Tellez (Brewers), Jake Bird (Rockies), Richard Bleier (Red Sox), Eli Morgan (Guardians), and Matt Mervis (Cubs).