Max Fried, and two other Jews make history in the World Series

On November 3rd, during potentially clinching game six of the World Series, the Atlanta Braves blew out the Houston Astros in a 7-0 victory, winning the championship while in enemy territory. With only 88 regular season wins, the Braves were the underdogs in every playoff matchup, however, they came out victorious each time. The Braves were up 3-2 in the series, and the win marked the first time since 1995 that they won the championship. They had made 16 postseason appearances since then without managing to win, an unfortunate streak that is now an MLB record. The game six win was also historic as Braves’ star pitcher Max Fried became the first Jew to win a clinching championship game since Ken Holtzman in 1973.

Fried was the first round pick by the San Diego Padres after attending Harvard-Westlake High School in the 2012 draft. He became the fifth highest Jewish draft pick in MLB history. Coming into game six, Fried had started in four playoff games, posting a 5.40 ERA. He had 23 impressive strikeouts while only giving up three walks and three home runs.

In game six, the Braves took an early lead and went up 3-0 in the third inning, and over the course of the game scored 4 more runs. Despite an injury scare in the bottom of the second, Fried went on to have a fantastic game holding the offensively dangerous Astros to four hits, without surrendering a single run or walk. He also became the seventh pitcher of all time to have pitched 6 scoreless innings without giving up a single walk in a potential World Series clinching game. He’s also atop that group with six strikeouts.

During the game, a routine play occurred, but it was one that caught the attention of Jewish viewers. In the bottom of the second inning, Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman hit Max Fried’s pitch out to an awaiting Joc Pederson in right field, obtaining the teams second out of the inning. Normally, this would have been a simple fly-out, but Bregman, Fried, and Pederson all being Jewish, made this play the most Jewish play to ever occur in the Major Leagues.

This season, the MLB had an impressive eight Jewish players suit up for opening day, and play throughout the season. Fried and Bregman are two that also made history earlier in the series as the first Jewish pitcher to pitch to a Jewish batter. The historic at bat occurred during game 2 of the series on October 27th. In addition to Fried and Bregman, the other six active Jewish players that played in the 2020-2021 season were: Joc Pederson who played for the Chicago Cubs but was traded to the Braves mid-season, Dean Kremer for the Baltimore Orioles, Kevin Pillar for the New York Mets, Rowdy Tellez for the Toronto Blue Jays, Ryan Sherriff for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Richard Bleier for the Miami Marlins.

Pederson also played for Team Israel in the 2012 World Baseball Classic. Kremer made history as the first Israeli to ever pitch in the MLB, and he played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He also Pitched for team USA in the 2013 Maccabiah Games. Sheriff describes his time as a stint reliever for team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic as “the greatest experience [he’s] ever had in his life.” Both of his grandparents are Holocaust survivors. Bleier pitched for team Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds.

There are an increasing number of Jewish baseball players and Jewish superstars that are having an incredible impact on the game. Max Fried specifically, after his performance during game six, will forever be sealed into history. When asked about his religiosity, Fried responded “I grew up fairly observant. We went to synagogue on High Holidays, and I had my Bar Mitzvah. So all that good stuff.” Fried has also been to Israel and recounted the time he spent traveling the country, paying visits to the Western Wall and Holocaust museum.

Max Fried has said that his number, 32, is in honor of former Jewish baseball star Sandy Koufax. Koufax played 12 seasons in the MLB from 1955-1966, nine of those seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He won the National League MVP award in 1963, Sports illustrated sportsperson of the year in 1965, and the Cy Young Award in 1963, 1965, and 1966. Koufax was expected to pitch game one of the World Series in 1965 against the Minnesota twins, but that day, October 6th 1965, was also Yom Kippur. It was a big deal that Koufax was going to miss it, but his coach at the time had commented, “I won’t let Sandy pitch on Yom Kippur under any circumstances. I can’t let the boy do that to himself.” Koufax missed several other important games throughout his career that fell out on Passover and Rosh Hashana.

While Koufax served as inspiration for Max Fried, Fried and many others today share the spotlight as they dazzle the world, showing everyone what Jews are capable of; Hopefully inspiring a whole new generation of Jewish baseball players.

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  1. Howard Mednick

    Note that Rowdy Tellez started with the Blue Jays but was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers early in the season.

    • Joshua Halickman


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