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May 23, 2012

Shawn Green to play for Israel in World Baseball Classic

http://www.jewishjournal.com/sports/article/shawn_green_to_play_for_israel_in_world_baseball_classic_20120523

Shawn Green (2007). Photo by Wknight94/Wikipedia

Shawn Green (2007). Photo by Wknight94/Wikipedia

Shawn Green enjoyed quite the professional baseball career: In 13 seasons, he clubbed 328 home runs, drove in 1,070 runs, batted .283, was a two-time All-Star and retired in 2007 holding or sharing seven Major League records. The former Dodger also twice refused to play on Yom Kippur.

He isn’t finished yet. Green now will come out of retirement to play for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) qualifiers in November, according to team manager Brad Ausmus. Green is eligible because Diaspora Jews can play for Israel.

“It would be an honor,” Green said in 2011, referring to playing for Israel. “If it fit into my life situation, I’d love to do it.”

Ausmus, a former All-Star catcher for the Dodgers, said Gabe Kapler has also committed to play. He’s hoping Ryan Braun, Kevin Youkilis and Ian Kinsler will join the lineup.

The WBC is a quadrennial international baseball tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation and created by Major League Baseball, its players union and other professional baseball leagues and players unions around the world. Japan won the first two, in 2005 and 2009.

Israel is in a qualifying group with France, South Africa and Spain, and will play its games in Jupiter, Fla. Sixteen countries will compete in the qualifying round, and the top four teams will advance to the WBC.

“I know that baseball is in its infancy in Israel,” Ausmus told Sports Illustrated. “To me that is a kind of way to bridge the gap between American Jews and Israelis.”

Green will turn 40 on Nov. 10, and it remains to be seen how well he will perform after five years away from the game. He certainly has the bona fides. He hit 40 or more home runs three times, including 49 in 2001. He collected at least 100 RBIs four times, scored at least 100 runs four times and led the league in doubles, extra-base hits and total bases.

Perhaps his most memorable game was May 23, 2002, at Milwaukee, when he hit four home runs, had 19 total bases (breaking a record that had stood since 1954), six hits, five runs scored and five extra-base hits.

His other memorable moments came in 2001, when, for the first time in 415 games, he wasn’t in the lineup because he observed Yom Kippur. Three years later, with the Dodgers in a pennant race with the rival Giants, Green again announced he would not play on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

Green’s actions place him with the likes of Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax and, to a lesser extent, Al Rosen. Greenberg attended Yom Kippur services in a Detroit synagogue in 1935. Koufax famously refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series. Rosen played for Cleveland in 1954 and had said he would observe Yom Kippur and not play during the World Series. However, Cleveland lost the series before the holy day.

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