Al Rosen, circa 1953.
February 29, 1924|
Spartanburg, South Carolina
|Died: March 13, 2015
Rancho Mirage, California
|September 10, 1947 for the Cleveland Indians|
Last MLB appearance
|September 30, 1956 for the Cleveland Indians|
|Runs batted in||717|
Career highlights and awards
Albert Leonard "Al" Rosen (February 29, 1924 – March 13, 2015), nicknamed "Flip" and "The Hebrew Hammer", was an American baseball third baseman and right-handed slugger in the Major Leagues for ten seasons in the 1940s and 1950s.
After serving for four years in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Rosen played his entire ten-year career (from 1947 to 1956) with the Cleveland Indians in the American League. A stand-out on both offense and defense, he drove in 100 or more runs five consecutive years, was a four-time All-Star, twice led the league in home runs and twice in RBIs, and was an MVP. Rosen was a .285 career hitter, with 192 home runs and 717 RBIs in 1,044 games. He was selected for the All-Star Game from 1952 to 1955. Rosen appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1955.
Following two decades as a stockbroker upon retirement from baseball, Rosen returned to the game as a top front office executive in the late 1970s, serving the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Giants variously as president, CEO, and general manager. Regarded as a GM who still thought like a player, he became the only former MVP to also earn baseball's Executive of the Year award.
Rosen was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina to Louis and Rose (née Levin) Rosen. His father left the family shortly thereafter, and Rosen's mother and grandmother moved the family to Miami, Florida, when he was 18 months old.
Rosen suffered from asthma as a child, which prompted his family to move further south. While growing up, his two favorite baseball players were Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg. He attended Riverside Elementary School, Ada Merritt Junior High School, and then Miami Senior High School for a year attending Florida Military Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, on a boxing scholarship. After graduating from Florida Military Academy, Rosen enrolled in the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. He left the university after a semester to play minor league baseball in North Carolina.
Rosen enlisted in 1942, and spent four years in the U.S. Navy fighting in the Pacific during World War II, delaying his professional baseball career. He navigated an assault boat in the initial landing on Okinawa in the bitter battle for the island. In 1946, he left the Navy as a lieutenant and returned to his emerging baseball career.
Minor league career
Rosen played for the 1946 Pittsfield Electrics, where he was initially given a back-up role. Upon leading the Canadian-American League in home runs (16) and RBIs (86), while batting .323, however, he was bestowed his idol Hank Greenberg's nickname, the "Hebrew Hammer". Rosen played for the Oklahoma City Indians in 1947, and had one of the finest individual seasons in league history. He led all hitters in average (.349), hits (186), doubles (47), extra-base hits (83), RBIs (141), total bases (330), slugging percentage (.619), and on-base percentage (.437). He was elected Texas League MVP. In 1948, Rosen was Rookie of the Year for Triple-A Kansas City in the American Association.
Major League Baseball career
Rosen made his first appearance in the major leagues in 1947 at the age of 23. In 1948, Rosen played most of the year in minor leagues with the Kansas City Blues, before joining the Indians in September and winning a ring following the 1948 World Series as a reserve behind regular third baseman Ken Keltner. When Keltner was traded in 1950, Rosen took over as the Indians' third baseman, leading the American League in home runs with 37, hitting more than any previous American League rookie. It stood as the AL rookie record until Mark McGwire surpassed it in 1987. He homered in four straight games in June, a feat unmatched by an Indians rookie until Jason Kipnis in 2011. Rosen averaged a league-best homer every 15.0 at bats, and led the league as well in HBP (10). He batted .287 and had 116 runs batted in, while finishing fifth in the league with 100 walks and a .543 slugging percentage. His 100 walks remained a team rookie record for a right-handed batter, through 2014. Despite his home run title, he finished 17th in the American League MVP Award voting.
In 1951 Rosen led the league in games played, and was fifth in the league in RBIs (102), extra-base hits (55), and walks (85). He batted .265, with 24 home runs. Rosen hit four grand slams, a team season record that was not broken until Travis Hafner hit five in 2006.
Rosen led the American League with 105 RBIs and 297 total bases in 1952. He also was third in the league in runs (101) and slugging percentage (.524), fifth in hits (171) and doubles (32), sixth in home runs (28), and seventh in batting average (.302). On April 29, he matched the then team record of three home runs in one game, which was surpassed only when Rocky Colavito tied the Major League single-game record with four home runs on June 10, 1959. Rosen came in tenth in the American League MVP Award voting.
In 1953, Rosen led the American League in home runs (43), runs batted in (145; still a record for an Indian third baseman, through 2010), runs (115), slugging percentage (.613), and total bases (367). He also came in second in OBP, and third in hits (201), and tied for eighth in stolen bases. He also had a 20-game hitting streak. Defensively, he had the best range factor of all third basemen in the league (3.32), and led it in assists (338) and double plays (38).
He batted .336, and missed winning the batting title – and with it the Triple Crown – on the last day of the season, by just over one percentage point. He was elected American League MVP by a unanimous vote, the first to be elected unanimously since the original "Hebrew Hammer," Hank Greenberg.
In Bill James' New Historical Baseball Abstract, Rosen's 1953 season is called the greatest ever by a third baseman. It is ranked 164th overall, and 48th best by a position player by Baseball-reference.com as of Rosen's passing.
In 1954 he hit an even .300, led the league in sacrifice flies with 11, was fourth in SP (.506), and fifth in home runs (24), RBI (102), and OBP (.404). He also hit consecutive home runs in the All-Star game despite a broken finger, earning him the game MVP. His five RBI in the game matched the record set by Ted Williams five years earlier, which still stood through the 2011 season.
Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel said of him: "That young feller, that feller's a ball player. He'll give you the works every time. Gets all the hits, gives you the hard tag in the field. That feller's a real competitor, you bet your sweet curse life." Cleveland won the pennant, but lost the World Series. In spite of Rosen's 5th straight year with 100 or more RBIs Cleveland cut his $42,500 ($373,200 today) salary to $37,500 ($330,100 today) for 1955.
In 1955 Rosen finished in the top ten in the league in at-bats per home run, walks, and sacrifice flies.
By 1956, back problems and leg injuries caught up with Rosen and he retired at age 32 at the end of the season.
In 1978 he became President/CEO of the Yankees (1978–79), then the Astros (1980–85), then president and general manager of the Giants (1985–92). His maneuvering brought San Francisco from last place in 1985 to the NL West title in 1987 and the NL pennant in 1989, earning him the National League Executive of the Year honors. Regarded as a GM who still thought like a player, he became the only MVP in history to also earn the top executive award.
Rosen's wife of 19 years, the former Teresa Ann Blumberg, died on May 3, 1971. He remarried, to second wife, Rita (née Kallman), several years later. He has three sons, and a stepson and stepdaughter. Rosen occasionally consulted for baseball teams, including a stint with the Yankees as special assistant to the general manager in 2001 and 2002. He was featured in the 2010 movie narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.
Rosen was tough, an amateur boxer, and had a reputation for standing up to anyone who dared insult his ancestry. While some reports have him commenting that, as a minor leaguer, he wished his name were something less obviously Jewish, he is later known to have remarked that he wished it were more Jewish—something like Rosenstein. When Ed Sullivan, himself a Catholic with a Jewish wife, suggested that Rosen might be Catholic, pointing to his habit of drawing a "cross" in the dirt with his bat, Rosen said the mark was an "x" and told Sullivan he wished his name were more Jewish so he wouldn't be mistaken for Catholic.
Once a White Sox opponent called him a "Jew bastard". Sox pitcher Saul Rogovin, also Jewish, remembered an angry Rosen striding belligerently to the dugout and challenging the "son of a bitch" to a fight. The player backed down.
Rosen challenged another opposing player who had "slurred [his] religion" to fight him under the stands. And during a game, when Red Sox bench player Matt Batts taunted Rosen with anti-Semitic names, Rosen called time and left his position on the field to confront Batts. Hank Greenberg recalled that Rosen "want[ed] to go into the stands and murder" fans who hurled anti-Semitic insults at him.
A 2010 documentary, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, highlighted Rosen, who in it is frank about how he dealt with anti-Semitism: "There's a time that you let it be known that enough is enough. . . . You flatten [them]."
During his career, Rosen refused to play on the High Holy Days, as would baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, arguably the most famous American Jewish baseball player. In a 1976 Esquire magazine article, sportswriter Harry Stein published an "All Time All-Star Argument Starter", consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Rosen was the third baseman on Stein's Jewish team. Through 2014, he was fifth in career home runs (behind Sid Gordon), seventh in RBIs (behind Ryan Braun), and tenth in hits (behind Mike Lieberthal) among all-time Jewish major league baseball players.
- "The greatest thrill in the world is to end the game with a home run and watch everybody else walk off the field while you're running the bases on air."
- "Oh no, Al Rosen hits a home run and I gotta miss it!" —Bob Hope on I Love Lucy, aired October 1, 1956
- Member of the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame (2006).
- Member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (1980).
- Member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
- Member of the Texas League Hall of Fame (2005).
- Cleveland Indians all-time roster
- List of Florida Gators baseball players
- List of New York Yankees owners and executives
- List of select Jewish baseball players
- List of Major League Baseball players who spent their entire career with one franchise
- Sports Illustrated obit "Best remembered for winning the American League’s Most Valuable Player award in 1953 as Cleveland’s third baseman, Rosen shined brightly but only briefly as a player and would later reach similar levels of accomplishment as a general manager, becoming the only former MVP to also earn the Executive of the Year award."
- The Big Book of Jewish Baseball
- Berger, Ralph. "SABR Baseball Biography Project: Al Rosen". The Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Figures, 2008 Edition, p.346, David Nemec and Scott Flatow, A Signet Book, Penguin Group, New York, NY; ISBN 978-0-451-22363-0
- "Baseball Today". Associated Press Archive. August 10, 2008.
- Hoynes, Paul (August 4, 2011). "Jason Kipnis on a HR roll: Cleveland Indians daily briefing". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). Retrieved November 4, 2012.
- [dead link]
- "Cleveland Indians Records/History". Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- "Hafner hits record fifth grand slam". Reading Eagle. July 8, 2006. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- Warsinskey, Tim (September 26, 2013). "Cleveland Indians infielder Al Rosen's quest for baseball's 1953 Triple Crown went down to the wire 60 years ago Friday". Cleveland Plain Dealer (cleveland.com). Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- Baseball-reference.com  Single-Season Leaders & Records for Wins Above Replacement
- Baseball-reference.com  Single-Season Leaders & Records for WAR Position Players
- Schlueter, Roger (July 11, 2011). "Fascinating facts about the All-Star Game". MLB.com. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- "Sport: Top of the League". TIME. July 5, 1954. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
- "Al Rosen Facts from". The Baseball Page.com. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
- "Al Rosen – Exploded on the scene in the AL". Historicbaseball.com. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
- Sandomir, Richard (May 7, 2010). "Chronicling Steinbrenner and His Turbulent Tenure". The New York Times (New York, New York). Retrieved November 4, 2012.
- "Al Rosen profile at". BaseballLibrary.com. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
- "Rosen, 1953 MVP and four-time All-Star, dies at 91". mlb.com. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
- Maoz, Jason (April 6, 2005). "The Vanishing Jewish Baseball Player". The Jewish Press. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- Rosen, R.D. (September 25, 2012). "Mortal Gods". sbnation.com. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- Dorinson, Joseph (July 2004). "JEWS and BASEBALL" (PDF). You could look it up 5 (1) (New York, New York: The Society for American Baseball Research, Casey Stengel Chapter). pp. 10–12. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- Dick Friedman (November 25, 2002). "Faith In The Game: a new film illuminates the Jewish contribution to the national pastime". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- "Career Batting Leaders through 2014". Career Leaders. Jewish Major Leaguers. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
- The Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations. Books.google.com. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
- "1954 All-Star Game Box Score by Baseball Almanac". Baseball-almanac.com. July 13, 1954. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
|Sporting News Major League Baseball Executive of the Year