Thursday, December 16, 2004
8 Days of Jewish Baseball
Number 19; Right Fielder
Boston Red Sox
Yes, I know that Gabe is now a member of the Yomiuri Giants (think the Japanese equivalent of the Yankees-- more money and more pennants than anyone else in their league). But gosh darn it, he was a member of the 2004 WORLD CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX, so he will always be one of them in our hearts. And I really wanted to start and end on the Red Sox. So sue me (or, as is more likely with you readers, So email me with long rants about how a player who's no longer with the MLB should be included in this thing).
Gabe Kapler. Variously referred to as Babe Kapler, the Hebrew Hammer, the World's Most Perfectly Sculpted Jew, SuperJew, and the Enforcer. He was a great utilityman for the Red Sox, playing when they needed him to play and never complaining about bench time. He was widely considered one of the smartest and most articulate players on the 2004 'Idiots' team, and he was alone in the eyes of female (and probably a few male) members of Red Sox Nation as the most awesomely built man on the field.
In this age of steroid abuse, you know it would come up for a guy who is so obviously well-cut as Kapler is. There are a few very good arguments against it in his case. Besides the fact that he very convincingly states that he does not and never has used steroids, Kapler has long been known for his bodybuilding hobby. Also, unlike Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi, Kapler has the same build now that he had when he was in the minors, and his head size/shape has not changed. I think it's safe to say that Kapler takes pride in his build (rightly so!) and got it by honest means.
Before being signed by the Red Sox in 2003, Kapler had played for the Tigers, Rangers, and Rockies. He played center field for the Rangers and in 2001 had only 1 error in 352 total chances and hit .267. In 2002 he hit .311 for the Rockies, but pretty much everyone improves their hitting when they have Coors as their homefield. In 2003 he hit .291 for the Red Sox and said, "Hitting in a lineup like this, its easy to see good pitches. Success breeds confidence. This has been an incredible experience all the way through."
Let us never forget his performance in the famous (infamous?) 2004 Red Sox/Yankee, Varitek/ARod brawl, in which he was attacked by WOTS*. This was clearly an insane thing for WOTS to do, because he may not be small but he's no Gabe Kapler. Kapler swung around and beat the bloody snot out of the Yankee. A truly beautiful day in baseball and in Red Sox history.
Kapler has admitted that while he is not a very strict practicing Jew (he did not sit out either Yom Kippur that Shawn Green sat out, although he was quoted both times as saying that he thought what Green was doing was commendable) he is very proud of his Jewish heritage. He puts more weight on the cultural aspect of his Judaism than the religious aspect of it: "That's where I identify the most: heritage, blood, history. I'm so proud to be who I am. I'm so proud of where I come from. I feel very strongly about being a strong Jew, not necessarily from a religious aspect." His mother apparently works at a Jewish pre-school.
As a prominent Jewish baseball player, Kapler has been a point of pride for the Jewish community. When he was in Colorado he said, "I've gotten my fair share of them [Bar Mitzvah invitations from fans]. During a game when I was in Detroit, I actually had an invitation to come over to this guy's house for Shabbat. He was yelling over the dugout, 'Gabe, we're Jewish and we'd like you to come over Friday night for Shabbat!' I respectfully turned down the invitation."
He was loved in Boston for all of these reasons, and Red Sox fans will miss him. Good luck in Japan, Gabe. You're always welcome back in Boston.
And, because it's the last day, Bonus Jew!
GM Boston Red Sox
He's young-- 28, and he'll turn 29 on Dec. 29. He's smart-- he graduated from Yale and was interning with the Orioles when he was 18. He's very good at his job-- hello, this is the guy who traded Nomar for Cabby and Mientkie, the guy who got us Schilling and Foulke, the guy who snagged us Dave Roberts, and oh yeah, the guy we won a FREAKING WORLD SERIES with. He's cute-- very, very cute. He plays guitar. He's Jewish.
I ask you. Could it possibly get any better than that?
That's the end of the 8 Days of Jewish Baseball. Hope you all enjoyed it thoroughly, because next year you're getting 8 Days of Jewish Football! Just kidding. I'm not even sure there are 8 Jewish football players in the NFL right now.
* WOTS = Worchester's Own Tanyon Sturtze. Kid who grew up in Worchester a Sox fan and ended up on the Yankees, wholeheartedly embracing them and their Yankee ways. The shame of Worchester, really. No ever-loyal Brad Ausmus here.