Only hours after the matzah ball dropped at midnight on Rosh Hashanah, news came that the Detroit Tigers had parted ways with Jewish manager Brad Ausmus. Oy, what a way to start 5778.
Ausmus couldn’t have been more of a mentsh; telling the press: “Quite frankly, I told him [Tiger GM Al Avila] I fully understood. And I told him if he had walked in and offered me a contract, I probably wouldn’t have come back because I think this team, this organization, is starting over. They need a new voice.”
Hey, why can’t our politicians do that?
Ausmus finished out the season’s remaining nine games with grace and dignity when he easily could’ve requested the Tigers have someone tefillin for him. (Did you catch that? Tefillin for him? … I’m shamelessly chuckling.)
Though Ausmus’ mother, of blessed memory, was Jewish, he wasn’t raised in the faith. However, he’s never shied away from his heritage, which is why it comes as no surprise he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
In a special to the Jewish News on June 8, Ausmus told writer Justin White, “I had a young Jewish boy tell me I was his favorite player because I was Jewish and he was Jewish … From then on, I kind of embraced it. If this gives kids a reason to smile or a reason to watch baseball … then great.”
He shared that exact sentiment in a 2009 edition of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. When reflecting on being Jewish, he said, “It has been a sense of pride. If you can have a positive impact on a kid, I’m all for it.”
Oy, I’m kvelling! How about you?
Further evidence that Ausmus has embraced his Jewish heritage came when he managed the Israeli team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it past the qualifying round; some blaming the team’s losses on the fact that the players didn’t wait the traditional one hour after eating lunch before playing.
However, earlier this year, Israel qualified for the 2017 World Baseball Classic and actually beat Cuba! It’s true! Obviously, they made adjustments with their eating schedule — that and it’s my understanding the team improved dramatically because they finally banned the players’ mothers from traveling with the team.
Meanwhile, it’s funny, but I don’t recall our community making a fuss over Ausmus being Jewish when he played catcher for us in the 1990s. But (channeling my Jackie Mason impersonation) when he became a manager? Now, now he’s a Jew! He controls the team! That’s it, he’s not just a manager — he’s a controller in the baseball business!
Whether a fan of his or not, one thing is undeniable; Brad Ausmus is a class act and we should cherish the fact we lived in an era when a Jew managed our beloved Tigers. And while Ausmus’ milestone doesn’t rise to the level of the legend that is the Hank Greenberg story, just the same, having had a nice Jewish boy like Bradley Ausmus run our team was truly a “mitt”-zvah. (Second shameless chuckle.)
So, zei gezunt, Bradley Ausmus. We’ll miss you … especially that adorable punim of yours.
Oh, by the way — fear not. Our Tigers roster still has a a bissel of Judaism left — second baseman Ian Kinsler. In the previously mentioned June 8 Jewish News, Kinsler, whose father is Jewish, said that growing up, “We celebrated Chanukah and Passover.” Hey, Ian, make us all proud next year and hide the afikoman under second base! Tradition! Tradition!
Alan Muskovitz is a writer, voice-over/acting talent, speaker, emcee and a regular guest host on the Mitch Albom Show on WJR AM 760. Visit his website at laughwithbigal.com and “Like” Al on Facebook.