Al Rosen
Baseball player Al Rosen, a 29-year-old blond man, is pictured in the white uniform of the Cleveland Indians, kneeling with a baseball bat, circa 1953.
Al Rosen, circa 1953
Third baseman
Born: (1924-02-29)February 29, 1924
Spartanburg, South Carolina, U.S.
Died: March 13, 2015(2015-03-13) (aged 91)
Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 10, 1947, for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
September 30, 1956, for the Cleveland Indians
MLB statistics
Batting average.285
Home runs192
Runs batted in717
Career highlights and awards

Albert Leonard Rosen (February 29, 1924 – March 13, 2015), nicknamed "Flip" and "the Hebrew Hammer", was an American baseball third baseman and right-handed slugger for the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball for ten seasons in the 1940s and 1950s.

After serving for four years in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Rosen played his entire ten-year career (19471956) with the Cleveland Indians in the American League (AL). A stand-out on both offense and defense, he drove in 100 or more runs five consecutive years, was a four-time All-Star, twice led the league in home runs and twice in runs batted in (RBIs), and was an AL Most Valuable Player. Rosen was a .285 career hitter, with 192 home runs and 717 RBIs in 1,044 games. He was selected for the All-Star Game from 1952 to 1955. Rosen appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1955.

Following two decades as a stockbroker after retirement from baseball, Rosen returned to the game as a top front office executive in the late 1970s, serving the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants variously as president, CEO, and general manager. Regarded as a GM who still thought like a player, he became the only former MVP to also earn baseball's Executive of the Year award.[1]

Early life

Rosen was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina,[2] to Louis and Rose (née Levin) Rosen. His father left the family shortly thereafter, and Rosen's mother and grandmother moved the family to Miami, Florida, when he was 18 months old.[3][4]

Rosen suffered from asthma as a child, which prompted his family to move further south. While growing up, his two favorite baseball players were Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg. He attended Riverside Elementary School, Ada Merritt Junior High School, and then Miami Senior High School for a year before attending Florida Military Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, on a boxing scholarship.[4] After graduating from Florida Military Academy, Rosen enrolled in the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.[4] He left the university after a semester to play minor league baseball in North Carolina.[4]

Rosen enlisted in 1942, and spent four years in the U.S. Navy fighting in the Pacific during World War II, delaying his professional baseball career. He navigated an assault boat in the Battle of Okinawa.[3] He left the Navy as a lieutenant the following year, returning to baseball.[3]

Minor league career

Rosen played for the 1946 Pittsfield Electrics, where he was initially given a back-up role. Upon leading the Canadian–American League in home runs (16) and RBIs (86), while batting .323, however, he was bestowed his idol Hank Greenberg's nickname, "the Hebrew Hammer".[3] Rosen played for the Oklahoma City Indians of the Texas League in 1947, and had one of the finest individual seasons in league history. He led all hitters in average (.349), hits (186), doubles (47), extra-base hits (83), RBIs (141), total bases (330), slugging percentage (.619), and on-base percentage (.437). He won the Texas League Player of the Year Award.[3] Rosen played for the New York Yankees' Kansas City Blues farm team in 1948. He was loaned to the Blues for the duration of the team's American Association season as part of a deal that sent reliever Charley Wensloff from the Yankees to the Indians.[5] Rosen was named Rookie of the Year in the American Association for his play with the Blues.

Major League Baseball career

Rosen made his first appearance in the major leagues in 1947 at age 23. In 1948, Rosen played most of the year in minor leagues with the Kansas City Blues, before joining the Indians in September. He played in the 1948 World Series as a reserve behind regular third baseman Ken Keltner despite only playing five games during the season after the Indians requested his inclusion on the World Series roster.[6] When Keltner was traded in 1950, Rosen took over as the Indians' third baseman, leading the American League in home runs with 37, hitting more than any previous American League rookie.[7] It stood as the AL rookie record until Mark McGwire surpassed it in 1987.[8] He homered in four straight games in June, a feat unmatched by an Indians rookie until Jason Kipnis in 2011.[9][10] Rosen averaged a league-best homer every 15.0 at bats, and led the league as well in HBP (10). He batted .287 and had 116 runs batted in, while finishing fifth in the league with 100 walks and a .543 slugging percentage. His 100 walks remained a team rookie record for a right-handed batter, through 2014.[11] He also remained the most recent AL rookie to record at least 100 walks until Aaron Judge in 2017. Despite his home run title, he finished 17th in the American League MVP Award voting.

In 1951 Rosen led the league in games played, and was fifth in the league in RBIs (102), extra-base hits (55), and walks (85). He batted .265, with 24 home runs. Rosen hit four grand slams, a team season record that was not broken until Travis Hafner hit five in 2006.[12]

Rosen led the American League with 105 RBIs and 297 total bases in 1952. He also was third in the league in runs (101) and slugging percentage (.524), fifth in hits (171) and doubles (32), sixth in home runs (28), and seventh in batting average (.302). On April 29, he matched the then team record of three home runs in one game,[11] which was surpassed only when Rocky Colavito tied the Major League single-game record with four home runs on June 10, 1959. Rosen came in tenth in the American League MVP Award voting.

In 1953, Rosen led the American League in home runs (43), runs batted in (145), runs (115), slugging percentage (.613), and total bases (367). He also came in second in OBP, and third in hits (201), and tied for eighth in stolen bases. He also had a 20-game hitting streak.[11] Defensively, he had the best range factor of all third basemen in the league (3.32), and led it in assists (338) and double plays (38). His RBI total is still the most for an Indians third baseman, through 2017, and is fourth most for any Indian in a season.[13]

He batted .336, and missed winning the batting title – and with it the Triple Crown – on the last day of the season, by just over one percentage point. He was elected American League MVP by a unanimous vote, the first to be elected unanimously since the original "Hebrew Hammer", Hank Greenberg.[14]

In the 2001 edition of the New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James named Rosen's 1953 season the greatest ever by a third baseman.[15] It is ranked 164th overall,[16] and 48th best by a position player[17] by as of Rosen's passing.

In 1954 he hit an even .300, led the league in sacrifice flies with 11, was fourth in SLG (.506), and fifth in home runs (24), RBI (102), and OBP (.404). He also hit consecutive home runs in the All-Star game despite a broken finger, earning him the game MVP. His five RBI in the game matched the record set by Ted Williams five years earlier, which still stood through the 2011 season.[18]

Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel said of him: "That young feller, that feller's a ball player. He'll give you the works every time. Gets all the hits, gives you the hard tag in the field. That feller's a real competitor, you bet your sweet curse life."[19] Cleveland won the pennant, but lost the World Series. In spite of Rosen's 5th straight year with 100 or more RBIs Cleveland cut his $42,500 ($482,200 today) salary to $37,500 ($426,500 today) for 1955.

In 1955 Rosen finished in the top ten in the league in at-bats per home run, walks, and sacrifice flies. By 1956, back problems and leg injuries caught up with Rosen and he retired at age 32 at the end of the season.[20]

After baseball

After retiring in 1956 Rosen pursued a career as a stockbroker,[21] an occupation he held for the next 22 years.[22]

In 1973, Rosen left investments for Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where he worked for five years.

Baseball executive

In 1978, Rosen became president and CEO of the New York Yankees.[22] They won the 1978 World Series, but Rosen quit on July 19, 1979. Tommy John thought he left because owner George Steinbrenner had replaced Bob Lemon, a friend of Rosen's, with Billy Martin as the team manager a month before.[23] The two had made a pact to stick together against Steinbrenner (rather than have a Rosen serve as a go-between for feuds) by the mid-summer of 1978, but the combination of Martin's resignation later that year and subsequent return made it impossible for Rosen to continue; the final straw was when Rosen wanted a game to start earlier to accommodate a national telecast, but Steinbrenner sided with Martin, who wanted it to start on time.[24] Rosen served as a supervisor of credit operations at Bally's in Atlantic City before a loan going sour led to him resigning.

Rosen then served as team president and general manager of the Houston Astros (1980–1985).[25] Rosen was hired two weeks after the 1980 season ended for the Astros by owner John McMullen, who in a controversial decision had fired Tal Smith despite forming a core that won the National League West title. From 1981 to 1985, the Astros went 386–372 with one playoff appearance [1981 NLDS] before a mutual agreement was reached by both as Rosen departed in September 1985.

He was hired as president and general manager by Bob Lurie of the San Francisco Giants a week after he left the Astros, where he would serve until 1992. Notably, one of his first actions was to remove the television and stereo systems from Candlestick Park as a means to have the players totally focused on baseball.[26] Roger Craig was retained as manager after taking over for Jim Davenport in September, complete with Rosen allowing Craig full control. Through acquisitions (such as Rick Reuschel) and promoting draft picks such as Will Clark, Rosen and his maneuvering brought San Francisco from last place in 1985 to the NL West title in 1987 and the National League pennant in 1989, earning him the National League Executive of the Year honors.[27][28] Regarded as a GM who still thought like a player, he became the only MVP in history to also earn the top executive award.[1] The Giants went 589–475 with Rosen as general manager. An announcement of the sale of the team by Lurie in June 1992 (which was bought by Peter Magowan in January 1993 after a scuttled sale to Florida investors) precluded the departure of Rosen, who resigned in late November 1992. He was replaced by Bob Quinn. Quinn fired Craig as manager the following month. To replace him, Quinn named Dusty Baker as manager; Rosen had hired him to serve as first base coach of the Giants in 1988 after telling him he would be better suited for the role rather than assistant general manager.[29]

In 1979, Rosen appeared with Spec Richardson (general manager of the San Francisco Giants) in a television commercial entitled "Baseball Executives" for Miller Lite, as one of the commercials in the legendary "Great Taste, Less Filling" advertising campaign. The idea was two major league high-level baseball executives are discussing a big trade in a formal, stuffy members only club, only to reveal that they are actually trading baseball cards much like a couple of children, ending on a throw-down of a bunch of baseball cards on the polished wooden table. The commercial ran heavily during the summer of 1979 along with every game of the World Series that year.

Personal life

Rosen's wife of 19 years, the former Teresa Ann Blumberg, died on May 3, 1971. He remarried to second wife, Rita (née Kallman) several years later. He had three sons, and a stepson and stepdaughter. Rosen occasionally consulted for baseball teams, including a stint with the Yankees as special assistant to the general manager in 2001 and 2002. He was featured in the 2010 movie narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.[3]

Rosen died on March 13, 2015, in Rancho Mirage, California.[30][31]

Jewish heritage

Rosen was Jewish.[32] He was tough, an amateur boxer, and had a reputation for standing up to anyone who dared insult his ancestry. While some reports have him commenting that, as a minor leaguer, he wished his name were something less obviously Jewish, he is later known to have remarked that he wished it were more Jewish—something like Rosenstein.[33][34] When Ed Sullivan, himself a Catholic with a Jewish wife, suggested that Rosen might be Catholic, pointing to his habit of drawing a "cross" in the dirt with his bat, Rosen said the mark was an "x" and told Sullivan he wished his name were more Jewish so he wouldn't be mistaken for Catholic.[3][33]

Once a White Sox opponent called him a "Jew bastard". Sox pitcher Saul Rogovin, also Jewish, remembered an angry Rosen striding belligerently to the dugout and challenging the "son of a bitch" to a fight. The player backed down.[35]

Rosen challenged another opposing player who had "slurred [his] religion" to fight him under the stands. And during a game, when Red Sox bench player Matt Batts taunted Rosen with anti-Semitic names, Rosen called time and left his position on the field to confront Batts.[34] Hank Greenberg recalled that Rosen "want[ed] to go into the stands and murder" fans who hurled anti-Semitic insults at him.

A 2010 documentary, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, highlighted Rosen, who in it is frank about how he dealt with anti-Semitism: "There's a time that you let it be known that enough is enough. ... You flatten [them]."[36]

During his career, Rosen refused to play on the High Holy Days, as would baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, arguably the most famous American Jewish baseball player. In a 1976 Esquire magazine article, sportswriter Harry Stein published an "All Time All-Star Argument Starter", consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Rosen was the third baseman on Stein's Jewish team.[37]

Through 2014, he was fifth in career home runs (behind Sid Gordon), seventh in RBIs (behind Ryan Braun), and tenth in hits (behind Mike Lieberthal) among all-time Jewish major league baseball players.[38]


See also


  1. ^ a b Sports Illustrated obit [1] Archived March 23, 2017, at the Wayback Machine"Best remembered for winning the American League's Most Valuable Player award in 1953 as Cleveland's third baseman, Rosen shined brightly but only briefly as a player and would later reach similar levels of accomplishment as a general manager, becoming the only former MVP to also earn the Executive of the Year award."
  2. ^ Horvitz, Peter S.; Horvitz, Joachim (September 20, 2017). The Big Book of Jewish Baseball. SP Books. ISBN 9781561719730. Archived from the original on March 20, 2022. Retrieved September 20, 2017 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Berger, Ralph. "SABR Baseball Biography Project: Al Rosen". The Society for American Baseball Research. Archived from the original on December 17, 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d Manny Navarro, "Baseball lifer Al Rosen had close ties to UM Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine", The Miami Herald (March 16, 2015). Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  5. ^ "Indians Option Rosen". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press (AP). April 14, 1948. p. 14. Retrieved September 30, 2016. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 20, 2022. Retrieved March 20, 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ "Rosen and 24 Other Indians Are Ruled Eligible To Compete In World Series". The Plain Dealer. September 29, 1948. p. 26.
  7. ^ Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Figures, 2008 Edition, p.346, David Nemec and Scott Flatow, A Signet Book, Penguin Group, New York; ISBN 978-0-451-22363-0
  8. ^ "Baseball Today". Associated Press Archive. August 10, 2008. Archived from the original on July 8, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  9. ^ Hoynes, Paul (August 4, 2011). "Jason Kipnis on a HR roll: Cleveland Indians daily briefing". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  10. ^ Paul Hoynes, cleveland com (August 4, 2011). "Jason Kipnis on a HR roll: Cleveland Indians daily briefing". cleveland. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012.
  11. ^ a b c "Cleveland Indians Records/History". Archived from the original on July 1, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  12. ^ "Hafner hits record fifth grand slam". Reading Eagle. July 8, 2006. Archived from the original on March 20, 2022. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  13. ^ "Cleveland Indians Top 50 Single-Season Batting Leaders -". Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  14. ^ Warsinskey, Tim (September 26, 2013). "Cleveland Indians infielder Al Rosen's quest for baseball's 1953 Triple Crown went down to the wire 60 years ago Friday". Cleveland Plain Dealer ( Archived from the original on October 18, 2016. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  15. ^ "Is Alex Bregman Having the Best Season Ever by a Jewish Baseball Player? - Tablet Magazine".
  16. ^ Single-Season Leaders & Records for Wins Above Replacement Archived April 18, 2021, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ [2] Archived May 3, 2021, at the Wayback Machine Single-Season Leaders & Records for WAR Position Players
  18. ^ Schlueter, Roger (July 11, 2011). "Fascinating facts about the All-Star Game". Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  19. ^ "Sport: Top of the League". Time. July 5, 1954. Archived from the original on September 5, 2009. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  20. ^ "Al Rosen Facts from". The Baseball Archived from the original on December 21, 2010. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  21. ^ "Al Rosen – Exploded on the scene in the AL". Archived from the original on November 4, 2020. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  22. ^ a b Sandomir, Richard (May 7, 2010). "Chronicling Steinbrenner and His Turbulent Tenure". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  23. ^ John, Tommy; Valenti, Dan (1991). TJ: My Twenty-Six Years in Baseball. New York: Bantam. p. 202. ISBN 0-553-07184-X.
  24. ^ "Al Rosen – Society for American Baseball Research".
  25. ^ "Former Astros president and general manager Al Rosen dies". Chron. March 14, 2015. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016.
  26. ^ "Former Giants G.M. Al Rosen, who revived franchise in mid-80s, dies at 91". March 14, 2015.
  27. ^ "Al Rosen profile at". Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  28. ^ "Former Giants GM al Rosen dies at 91". March 15, 2015.
  29. ^ "Quinn In, so Craig's Out : Baseball: The new Giant owners name their new general manager and fire the manager after seven years". Los Angeles Times. December 2, 1992.
  30. ^ "Rosen, 1953 MVP and four-time All-Star, dies at 91". Archived from the original on September 21, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  31. ^ "Former MVP, Yankee exec Al Rosen dies at 91". New York Daily News. March 15, 2015. Archived from the original on June 30, 2020. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  32. ^ "Big League Jews". Jewish Sports Review. 12 (137): 20. January–February 2020.
  33. ^ a b Maoz, Jason (April 6, 2005). "The Vanishing Jewish Baseball Player". The Jewish Press. Archived from the original on April 3, 2019. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  34. ^ a b Rosen, R.D. (September 25, 2012). "Mortal Gods". Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  35. ^ Dorinson, Joseph (July 2004). "JEWS and BASEBALL" (PDF). You could look it up. Vol. 5, no. 1. New York: The Society for American Baseball Research, Casey Stengel Chapter. pp. 10–12. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 8, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  36. ^ Dick Friedman (November 25, 2002). "Faith In The Game: a new film illuminates the Jewish contribution to the national pastime". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on September 21, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  37. ^ Stein, Harry (July 1, 1976). "All-Time All-Star Argument Starter". Esquire.
  38. ^ "Career Batting Leaders through 2014". Career Leaders. Jewish Major Leaguers. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  39. ^ Kahn, Roger (2003). October Men: Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, and the Yankees' Miraculous Finish in 1978. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0151006288. Archived from the original on May 14, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2015.

Further reading