clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

From the horse’s mouth: Happy Passover!

New, 15 comments

Taking a look at some prominent Jews in Phillies history

Detroit Tigers v Philadelphia Phillies
Mike Lieberthal will likely enjoy some matzah ball soup this week
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

At sundown tonight, the festival of Passover begins. For any gentiles confused about what that means, here’s a (very) brief summary: Jewish people spend eight days celebrating being freed from Egypt by not eating bread. If you want to know more, check out the movie adaptation of the story starring Charlton Heston.

If that movie feels old school for your tastes, you could always opt to watch the more modern telling of the story with Christian Bale.

I will warn you that those might not be the most comforting movies to watch right now. The story involves a series of plagues befalling a powerful nation, which seems especially chilling considering the current state of the world.

Famous Jews in Phillies history

The Phillies have had a few notable Jewish players over the years. Based on name alone, you might not expect Ruben Amaro, Jr. to be one of them, but the former outfielder and general manager’s mother was Jewish. Perhaps that’s why he gets along so well with everyone’s favorite Jewish sitcom family.

You might be wondering if the Phillies have ever had a Jewish All-Star on the team, and the answer is yes. Wall of Fame inductee Mike Lieberthal has a Jewish father and therefore is listed by the American Jewish Historical Society. You may be surprised to learn he ranks sixth all-time in home runs by a Jewish player.

Did you know the Phillies once had a Jewish manager? Of course I’m talking about Andy Cohen, who managed the team for one game in the 1960 season. (And he won that game!) I suppose I could also mention Gabe Kapler who also managed the team for a time. Now that I think about it, its possible that some of Kapler’s more questionable moves were just a way for him to express his faith. Much like the ancient Hebrews didn’t allow enough time for their bread to rise, Kapler sometimes didn’t allow his relievers enough time to warm up.

Phormer Phillie file: Michael Schwimer

As far as I can tell, the only Jewish player the Phillies have had since Lieberthal retired is reliever Michael Schwimer.

You may (or may not, he really wasn’t all that memorable) remember Schwimer from his stints with the team in 2011 and 2012. For a brief stretch in 2012, he pitched well, and it looked like the Phillies might have found a viable reliever. However, as the summer wore on, his effectiveness waned, and the Phillies optioned him to the minors.

This wouldn’t normally have been a problem, except Schwimer claimed he was injured, and said he was going to file a grievance against the team. Combined with a habit of tweeting out personnel moves ahead of the club, the Phillies quickly decided that Schwimer’s juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. They traded him to the Blue Jays for a prospect who never reached the majors. Schwimer never made it back to the big leagues.

Schwimer wasn’t the best reliever the Phillies have ever had, but he’s certainly had one of the most interesting post-baseball lives (non-Ugueth Urbina division). First, he created a company called Big League Advance which may have either been predatory, or working in young players’ best interests. (Or both?) He also ran a sports betting company that ultimately did not succeed.

Featured Phillies Baseball card

Here’s Lieberthal’s rookie card from the Topps 1991 set, celebrating his status as the team’s first round draft pick.

While I have written in the past about the curse (or plague, if you will) Lieberthal placed on the franchise, there’s no denying he was one of their most successful first round picks of the late 80’s/early 90’s.

Parting thought

If you are of the Jewish faith, then I wish you a festive Passover! Otherwise, please enjoy a festive night of streaming The Goldbergs or whatever other entertainment you choose to fill the void that baseball has left in our lives