Mensches Beat Cuba!

I am flabbergasted.

They did it again!

The Mensches have taken four wins straight during the tournament, thus far, after winning three in a row in the qualifying matches last September.

Team Israel, a 200 to 1 underdog to actually win the World Baseball Classic (WBC), beat 8th-ranked Cuba yesterday after taking the Netherlands last Wednesday (4 – 2) and generally whooping ass.

Team Israel Manager, Jerry Weinstein.

The guys play under manager Jerry Weinstein who has an endearing, toothpick-chewing, Pepe the Frog quality.

{Frankly, the man scares me.}

Coming into the qualifying rounds, Israel ranked a lowly 41st among WBC participating teams but went undefeated and beat Great Britain twice to qualify for tournament play. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the opportunity to beat Great Britain a third time.

If Brazil had not crushed Pakistan (10 – 0) in the preliminaries then we would have seen Team Israel versus Team Pakistan in the semifinals.

Sadly, it was not to be.

Pakistan is the only Muslim country with representation at the WBC. Unless we are pleasantly surprised, do not expect to see any other Arab or Muslim country so much as apply for the qualifying rounds for 2021. The Middle East is a baseball-benighted land and we are all the poorer for it.

The sad truth, of course, is that only Jewish Americans truly understand the game of baseball on its purest, Kabbalistic level.

Famous Jewish actor and comic Billy Crystal insists that as a child sitting in the old Yankee Stadium he saw Mickey Mantle hit a baseball so hard and high that it went up into the clouds… and simply never returned… or, at least, that is my recollection of his recollection from the Ken Burns miniseries Baseball.

I have little doubt, however, that Mantle’s baseball – lo, these many decades later – is still circling the Earth and gravity will eventually erode its orbit and deliver it to precisely the spot where the House that Ruth Built once stood.

{Will wonders never cease?}

Gocheok Skydome, Seoul.

Since coming into Seoul’s futuristic Gochoek Skydome in Round 1 of the tournament, Israel has been unstoppable against clubs considered far better than the mensches on the benches.

They have not lost a single game.

This is pretty amazing for an outfit that was not even expected to make the tournament when they showed up in Brooklyn’s MCU Park last September for the qualifying matches.

“The Jew Crew”

Part of what I love about all of this (win or no win) is that Team Israel truly is an underdog. Many of the guys – who sometimes wear t-shirts reading “Jew Crew” – have big league experience, but unlike other teams none of them are currently playing in the bigs.

The United States, ranked number 2 behind last year’s winner, the Dominican Republic, has World Series veteran, and All-Star player, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants behind the plate.

None of them, however, aside from Team Israel, have the cosmic assistance of the “mensch on the bench”… and that makes all the difference.

Furthermore, anyone who knows anything about baseball and American Jews knows that, as Forrest Gump might put it, we go together like peas and carrots.

Throughout the twentieth-century baseball represented one of the key methods wherein first-generation Jewish boys assimilated into American culture by involving themselves in street-lot baseball games from the Bronx to the Golden Gate.

Without baseball – and its attendant character-building baseball brawls – the Jewish-American experience would have been something very different.

This will come in handy because, as Elli Wohlgelernter quips in the Jerusalem Post,

“They will have a tough battle in the next round, when they face Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq simultaneously.”
First posted at Israel Thrives.

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