Brad Ausmus led a long and respectable career as a Major League catcher. He ranks among MLB's all-time leaders for games played, hits and RBIs. Among Jewish ballplayers.
“I wasn’t raised with the Jewish religion, so in that sense I don’t really have much feeling toward it,” Ausmus told me when he joined the Dodgers in 2009, his 17th season. “But, however, in the last 10 or so years, I have had quite a few young Jewish boys who will tell me that I am their favorite player or they love watching me play or they feel like baseball is a good fit for them because it worked for me or it worked for Shawn Green or other Jewish players at the Major League level. It has been a sense of pride. If you can have a positive impact on a kid, I’m all for it.”
After retiring from the game, Ausmus spent last year managing Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. And now he's returning to MLB as the newly hired manager of the Detroit Tigers.
Replacing the legendary Jim Leyland will be no small task. But wearing the jersey of Hank Greenberg might prove a more challenging task.
But Jewish baseball managers have remained a rarity. The Forward explains:
In fact, before now there had only been five Jewish skippers in the entire history of the major leagues: Lipman Pike, who in 1874 hit .355 as the player/manager of the Hartford Dark Blues; Lou Boudreau, who led the Cleveland Indians to their last World Series championship in 1948, and later managed the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Athletics and Chicago Cubs; Norm Sherry, who managed the California Angels during the second half of the 1976 season and the first half of 1977; Seattle Mariners/Arizona Diamondbacks/Oakland Athletics skipper Bob Melvin (whose A’s lost to the Tigers in this year’s ALDS); and Jeff Newman, who served as the Oakland A’s interim manager for 10 games in 1986. Ausmus is now number six.
Beyond the Team Israel experience, Ausmus has never managed a club. But part of his role with the Dodgers in 2009 and 2010 was as a veteran leader, a guy who rarely played -- 57 total games -- but served as a mentor to younger players.
He also has the fortune of taking over a stacked squad that was a pair of well-time Red Sox grand slams from appearing in the World Series last month.