In the history of baseball, there have been 245 Canadians to make an appearance in at least one game. The amount of Jewish ballplayers to appear in a game isn’t far behind the number of Canucks. But if you ever wondered how many Canadian players there were that also celebrated Hanukkah, you’d be surprised by the number.
The full list of Canadian Jewish ballplayers to play in an MLB game starts with Goody Rosen and ends with Adam Stern with no-one in between. The two men made their debut 68 years apart, but are the two and only players to share this distinction. Rosen was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1912 and Stern was born only a two-hour drive away in London, Ontario in 1980.
Rosen is the exemplar for young Jewish ballplayers born North of the Border. It is never easy to be the first to do something anywhere at any time, but for Rosen to be the first Canadian-Jew in the bigs during a time when Jewish players weren’t treated particularly well makes him even more of an inspiration. He never let hazing bring him down and enjoyed a successful career in large part to his thick-skinned personality.
Rosen started his professional career off with the Stroudsburg Poconos in 1932 before being promoted to the AAA Louisville Colonels. That’s where he caught the eye of manager Burleigh Grimes (Former Maple Leafs manager). Grimes, the ex-ace of the Brooklyn Robins, later managed the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937-38. That’s why, when and where Rosen played his first game in the MLB.
Rosen spent two stints in Brooklyn. His first tenure was from 1937-1939 and later 1944-1946, although he played most of the ’46 season with the New York Giants.
Rosen was a great glove man in centerfield. The aggressive outfielder had a terrific mitt along with a plus arm. At the dish, he was a career .291 hitter with a .364 on-base percentage. An ideal leadoff hitter.
For Rosen, who was a really good(y) ballplayer, being close to home was most important for him. Therefore, once his MLB career ended, he demanded to play his last season with the International Leagues’ Toronto Maple Leafs. He ended up getting his wish finishing his career off at Maple Leaf Stadium.
Rosen passed away in 1994, and up to that point, there was yet to be another ballplayer to accomplish the rare feat that he did. That was until 2005 when another scrappy outfielder got called up by the Boston Red Sox.
Stern’s career was not at all comparable to that of Rosen’s, but their skill sets were quite similar. Both men were hard-nosed ballplayers like most Canucks, each with plus tools in center. At the plate, they profiled as leadoff type contact hitters with a solid left-handed swing.
Stern’s career totals on the offensive side of the game included a .116/.156/.209 slash line with one career home run. Although he did not stack up well at the MLB level, he will forever be remembered for his stellar performance vs the USA in the World Baseball Classic. Stern got three knocks including an inside the park home run and a triple in the game. In the 8th inning with the United States threatening, Chase Utley hit a pitch to the farthest part of the park where Stern leaped to make a game-saving catch. Canada upset America, and it was in large part due to Stern’s brilliance. He may not have excelled as a pro, but he left his mark as a ballplayer in Canada that very day.
It took years for a Jewish Canadian player to return to the Major leagues after Rosen, but it may not take long for another one after Stern. Andy Yerzy, a catcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, is Jewish on his father’s side.
The former Toronto Mets backstop was a second-round pick in the 2016 June Amateur Draft. Yerzy has made drastic strides at the plate in the past year. He has tapped into his power at the pro level, hitting 13 bombs in 225 at-bats, adding another strong component to his hitting ability. Behind the dish, he is also steady and should stay there at a Big League level.
Yerzy has a real chance to be an impact player with the Arizona Diamondbacks for a long-term period.
When Yerzy makes his way through the minors and up to the show, young Canadians and young Jewish players will have another role model to look up to. No matter how his career turns out, he will be remembered for this very feat. Just like fans did of Rosen and Stern, they will do of Yerzy; cheer him on and remember him as one of only a few Canadian Jews.
(Photo Credits: Getty Images Photo / Jed Jacobsohn, Watson/New York Daily News, Great Lake Canadians, Baseball Canada)
Great article! Very interesting and insightful as always Jesse Levine. I am big fan of your articles as they always offer interesting facts!
Thank you very much!