Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Yankles? New team takes new swing at bringing professional baseball to Israel!

Remember the Israel Baseball League? How could you forget? Tabloid Baby's comprehensive coverage of the disastrous 2007 season and the tragicomic failed attempts to carry on led to our editor and Our Man Elli in Israel being submitted for a Pulitzer Prize-- being cut off at the pass by gatekeeper Sig Gissler-- and given a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Now, a new group of sportsminded US businessmen with stars-- and shekels-- in their eyes-- are ready to give it another go. Our Man Elli leads us to the article in YNetNews, noting that it "mistakes Martin Indyk for Dan Kurtzer":

NY Yankees make aliyah

Co-Owner of legendary American baseball team
promotes initiative to establish
professional baseball league in Israel
Itamar Eichner

American businessmen, including one of the owners of legendary baseball team The New York Yankees – which is worth approximately $1.5 billion – are promoting an initiative to establish a professional baseball league in Israel.

The businessmen visited Israel and held meetings with Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development Silvan Shalom and Jerusalem's Mayor Nir Barkat, in which they asked for their assistance.

As part of the initiative, the businessmen proposed to build a baseball stadium near Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium, which will serve as Israel's central baseball hub.

Following the meeting, Barkat promised to promote the project and help find a proper location for the construction of the stadium.

Minister Shalom offered the businessmen governmental aid, if they were to build stadiums in the country's northern and southern regions.

"The entrepreneurs are aware
that baseball is not
very popular in Israel,

but believe it can
gain a following.

Officials were also examining the possibility of building a stadium in Netanya, which brands itself as Israel's sports hub.

One of the men involved in the project is billionaire Jeffrey Rosen, who owns Israeli basketball team Maccabi Haifa.

The businessmen have also approached Israeli diplomats, and asked them to help coordinate meetings with Israeli officials that can help promote the project.

The entrepreneurs are aware of the fact that baseball is not very popular in Israel, but believe that with time it can gain a following. At first, they plan on catering to American expatriates living in Israel, who continue to follow the popular American sport.

Past attempts to import the sport have proved unsuccessful. In 2007, the first professional Israeli baseball league was established, and one of its managers was former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.

Six teams participated in the league's first season, but the second season was cancelled after the league suffered financial loses. Despite the failure of previous initiatives, the American entrepreneurs, who enjoy the support of The NY Yankees, want to have another go at it, and believe this time they will hit a home run.

Cick here to read Tabloid Baby's entire coverage of the Israeli baseball fiasco.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Israel Baseball League crashes Beatlesfest!

Among the Beatles memorabilia vendors at the marketplace of the NY Metro Fest for Beatles Fans in Secaucus, New Jersey was Art Shamsky, member of the 1969 miracle Mets and Manager of The Year of the sole year of the lamented Israel Baseball League, the coverage of which, led by Our Man Elli In Israel, led to a much-publicized Pulitzer Prize nomination that was rejected out of hand by that schmuck Sig Gissler. the Beatles played Shea Stadium and Art was signing baseballs and copies of his book, The Magnificent Seasons.

(Last year's New York Metro Beatles Fest odd man out booksigner was Butch Patrick, known to you as Eddie Munster.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Holy Land Hardball's tribute to Our Man Elli

Holy Land Hardball, the documentary about the optimistic, hopeful start of the Israel Baseball League in 2007, got its first nationwide U.S. audience last night, thanks to an airing on the MLB Network and proved to be a great, feelgood work of art about a group of men who became young again by carrying out an innocent, naive dream in a foreign land. Yet to those who know how the story played out, the film proved to be a poignant, even anger-making document as the cheerful, seemingly guileless businessmen behind the scenes were revealed to be charlatans, liars, scamsters and worse.

Experiencing Holy Land Hardball without the real-life epilogue of deceit and failure that followed would be like watching a lump-in-the-throat doco about Mark McGwire's chase of baseball's home run record later tonight, with no knowledge of his overdue shameful, tearful steroid admission on the very same MLB Network earlier this evening.

Yet for us, there was a high point to Holy Land Hardball, and that was the quick tribute given to Our Man Elli in Israel early in the film. As disgraced IBL founder Larry Baras is profiled affectionately as a bagel-making bumpkin blustering his way through the baseball business, there is a brief moment when he is shown being interviewed by Our Man Elli.

There he is, Elli Wohlgelernter, the journalist who would expose the moral and financial corruption of the IBL days after the final pitch, shown interviewing Baras months before the first pitch, Elli towering over the self-styled baseball exec, the no-frills professional, holding a large, makeshift hand microphone, wearing a tie, kippah in place, unmistakeably an Israeli, unquestionably a Jew, asking Baras:

"And how fearful are you
that you could end up
being called 'a colossal failure'?"

Baras does not answer.

The filmmakers, baseball historians that they are, were sitting in their editing room doing post production on the film at the same time that Our Man Elli's reportage was spooling out from this site and other publications, day after day, month after month. They saw that Larry Baras was being called many other things beyond "colossal failure." They realized that Elli was onto something from the start, and knew that history would prove him right.

So they gave him that tribute.

Nice job, boys. We're only sorry it took us this long to see it!

Click here to read the complete year-long coverage of the rise and fall of the Israel Baseball League and much more of Our Man Elli's reportage at Tabloid Baby's special Baseball in Israel archive site.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Israel Baseball League doco on television

Our Man Elli in Israel offers a programming note: Holy Land Hardball, the documentary feature about the startup of the Israel Baseball League in 2007, can be seen on television tomorrow evening on the MLB Network.

Our Man Elli's got a cameo in the doco, so we'll be sure to tune in and go for a screen grab, although the world now knows that the story of the Israel Baseball League was not told until the day after the final out of the first and only season, and led to a solid year of Elli Wohlgelernter's independent, exclusive, groundbreaking coverage of seamy deals, athlete-endangering nincompoopery and arrogance that exposed the dream introduced in Holy Land Hardball as an international scandal and nightmare, and won Elli and Tabloid Baby, where his coverage appeared exclusively, a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Holy Land Hardball, a film by Brett Rapkin and Erik Kesten, makes its national television premiere this weekend, airing on the MLB Network Sunday, Jan. 10, at 10 p.m.

Click here to read Our Man Elli and Tabloid Baby's complete coverage of the Israel Baseball League successes and scandals at our Baseball In Israel archive site.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tabloid Baby makes Baseball Hall of Fame

Our Man Elli in Israel has discovered a fact that Pulitzer Prize gatekeeper Sig Gissler might have found interesting before unceremoniously rejecting our nomination: Tabloid Baby has earned a place in The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown!

Our groundbreaking, exclusive, historic coverage of the benighted single season and wacky aftermath of the Israel Baseball League was cited as a major source in The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2007-2008, discussed at length in the hallowed Baseball Hall of Fame, and immortalized in print in the recent book edited by William M. Simons.

Gaining special attention was Elli Wohlgelernter's bombshell exposé of the IBL, an article that first appeared on this site exclusively days after the season ended as Can't Anyone Here Run This Game, and causing an international sports firestorm the likes of which would not be seen until the Tiger Woods scandal.

Read all of Tabloid Baby's Israel Baseball League coverage at our Baseball in Israel site.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ferrara first death of Israel Baseball League

Our Man Elli in Israel has resurfaced to bring us sad news: what appears to be the first death among the veterans of the Israel Baseball League. Team manager Tony Ferrara was 84.

"Tony took over for Ken Holtzman when he was fired from Petah Tikva Pioneers," Elli recalls. "Real, real nice guy, players loved him, low-key, and a baseball man through and through.

"Tony may not have been Jewish, but he was the epitome of a mensch."

Tony Ferrara played four seasons with St. Louis Cardinals affiliates before injury ended his dream, but went on to work as a batting practice pitcher, bullpen catcher and scout for Major League teams including the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s.

He also coached college and in the minors-- and acted in and was technical adviser on The Natural.

He was a longtime friend of Mickey Mantle and even wore Mantle's number 7 in his most recent job as bench coach for the Newark Bears.

There was an impromptu memorial service for Ferrara yesterday at the Babe Ruth bat at Yankee Stadium. One of The Mick's sons was there, along with Ron Darling, Art Shamsky, Ed Kranepool, Miracle Met and IBL manager Art Shamsky and legendary Yankee publicist and IBL official Marty Appel.

Click here to see our complete coverage of the ill-fated Israel baseball League on our Israel Baseball League archive site.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Holy Land Hardball: Watch the movie about the Israel Baseball League for free online

One of the many highlights of our solid year covering the foibles of the fledgling, floundering and flummoxed Israel Baseball League was the release of the film Holy Land Hardball. The entertaining and exciting doco about the league's startup was called "socko!" by Variety and, Our Man Elli in Israel has emerged to inform us, is available for viewing online through Thursday on the SnagFilms website.

Click here to watch Holy Land Hardball.

And click here to see our complete Pulitzer Prize nominated coverage (oy, Sig Gissler, you putz!) of the Israel Baseball League.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Update: Israel Baseball League's controversial "interim president" and twittering, money-seeking huckster David Solomont files Chapter 11

    David Solomont has filed for bankruptcy protection.

    Solomont is the well-known and controversial Boston area investor who took over as frontman for the Israel Baseball League from disgraced Boston bagel baron Larry Baras amid the financial disarray that followed its disastrous first season, intimated that he would rescue and restart the league with his own personal fortune and connections, then promised an eleventh-hour 20-game second season that was eventually downgraded to a five-game show weekend that never took place but was never officially canceled. When last heard from in these parts last December, Solomont was still attempting to raise money from US-based Zionists and Jews for a 2009 Israeli Baseball season that had already been blocked by Israeli government sports officials.

    Solomont filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to papers filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Boston.

    Solomont, who was a pioneer in announcing his business intentions and daily activities on Twitter, reportedly was a founder of the Massachusetts Software Council and a founder of CommonAngels, a top angel investment firm based in Lexington, Massachusetts.

    Solomont listed his assets as being between $1 million and $10 million. His wife, Joan Solomont, is listed as a fellow debtor.

    An attorney for Solomont refused to comment on the case.

    Solomont has faced legal troubles in the past. In 2004 he was accused in civil cases of diverting money from a startup he presided over to a holding company he ran. The outcome of those allegations is still unclear.

    Solomont's Israel baseball shenanigans and the entire exploits of the Israel Baseball league were documented here in coverage led by Our Man Elli in Israel. The entirety of our Pultizer Prize-nominated coverage can be found at our Baseball in Israel archive site.

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    Jerusalem Post: "Baseball in Israel is on deck for a second at-bat"

    The Friday Feature:
    Baseball in Israel is on deck for a second at-bat
    Jan. 23, 2009

    Israel may have lost its one and only baseball league after a disappointing single season in 2007, but the dream of diamonds in the desert is getting another chance.

    This week it was announced that Maccabi Haifa Heat owner Jeffrey Rosen and New York Yankees minority owner and minor league baseball mogul Marvin Goldklang have reached an agreement with the Israel Association of Baseball to perform due diligence on a possible return of professional baseball to Israel.

    "When we saw the old IBL in 2007, the concept struck a chord in a lot of us who would love to see baseball in Israel," Goldklang, who resigned from the IBL board along with a host of notable names after its only season, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

    "I had an interest in the concept dating back to that time, before that time, it's something that I think has been at the back of my mind as something I d love to see in Israel for quite some time, well before the IBL."

    The new agreement gives Goldklang, Rosen and several as-of-yet-unnamed partners exclusive rights to investigate making Israeli baseball an economic and practical reality.

    They will cooperate with IAB to build the foundation for a successful professional baseball operation in Israel, rather than just plop down a league.

    Accordingly, a new pro league is not expected for at least another year, and probably two.

    The new partners stressed patience, keen on avoiding the mistakes made by now-defunct Israel Baseball League.

    Goldklang, who also owns four minor league baseball teams, says that following the dissolution of the IBL, the IAB began contacting those experienced in pro baseball in the US about whether they had an interest in moving forward.

    "Our response to them," he says, "was that it would be something in which we might have interest, but only if we could approach it the way we felt it should have been approached by the old league-to do some serious due diligence before opening our doors.

    "One of the assets that we have is we have people on the ground, we have an office in Haifa, staff in Israel working with the Heat," said Andrew Wilson, Director of Marketing for Rosen's company, Triangle Financial.

    "Jeff was one of the original investors in the IBL, and he is a huge fan of baseball. And a huge fan of Israel. So a match like this is his dream. Unfortunately a lot of the investors got burned with the IBL. There was a lack of funding, a lack of staff, of advertising and not enough communication between anybody behind the scenes.

    "The IBL did virtually no preparation in Israel prior to the 2007 season. Marv, Jeff and their group will create a real business plan based on solid research and acceptable business practices," said Haim Katz, president of the Israel Association of Baseball.

    "I don't want to speculate as to when we will see a new league. The appearance of the league will depend upon some solid number crunching as well as well planned creative ideas. To simply build it all at once will not be enough to succeed and is pointless. It will take a lot of work and dedication to execute a successful plan. We believe these are the people who can pull it off."

    The agreement, which creates a de facto partnership between Goldklang, Rosen and their partners, is going to have two main focuses: marketing, and facilities.

    Goldklang said they would test the potential effects approaches which have proven so successful at the minor league level in the States.

    "The essence is to work on creating an atmosphere in the ballpark that can be enjoyable even to non-baseball fans," he said.

    Some of these marketing tactics, he said, might include increased picnic areas like in US minor league parks, entertaining PA announcers who don't simply announce the name of the batter and promotional events, all with the aim of promoting interaction with fans and creating the type of atmosphere that would hope attract more native Israeli fans.

    "It's not like the States, where the games sell out all the time," said Wilson. "You have to connect with the fans. One of the things we do in Haifa is constant emailing, putting out releases, thanking the fans, marketing with posters all over the city - we're community-based."

    Wilson said he and Rosen hoped to eventually have live streaming video of Israeli baseball games, as does Maccabi Haifa now.

    "We had 15,000 separate visitors to our site to watch the game against Maccabi Tel Aviv. It's not easy to get a lot of fans at the game," Wilson said. "You can't just expect thousands of people to show up, it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of marketing-that's what we learned with Maccabi Haifa, we're very happy with crowds that we're drawing."

    "Unlike the prior league, we do have the necessary funding in place to take ourselves through the first phase of our effort," Goldklang says.

    "I think we have assembled a group of partners, including people who are prominent names in Major League Baseball. If you look at us as a group, the management of this operation is likely to be different than anything that has been tried before."

    One of the key issues will be finding places for teams to play.

    "There is no facility in Israel that could be fairly called a ballpark," Goldklang asserts. There are baseball fields that are fine for youth programs, but when it comes to putting professional players on the field, and making the game work at the professional level, you need a lot more than what the old league had to work with."

    Wilson said they hope to develop two or three real ballparks, by either building new complexes or expanding existing facilities such as Gezer or the Baptist Village.

    The target is for an eventual eight markets including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ra'anana, Beit Shemesh, Modi'in, Haifa, Netanya and the Sha'ar HaNegev region.

    Goldklang said the Sha'ar Hanegev region was especially interesting because it included about a quarter of a million people living only 20-25 minutes from Ashkelon who don't have an abundance of recreational options.

    There won't be a season in 2009. To try and throw something together quickly, Goldklang maintains, would just bring upon the same problems that caused the earlier effort to fold. The target is one to two years, with some "presence" in 2009 to establish a marketing and fan connection.

    "This is a very serious endeavor," Goldklang says. "If I didn't think it was a better than 50% chance we could do this, these are the type of people that wouldn't be getting involved. We're not in the business of wasting our time."

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Israeli Baseball: Oy, boy! Here we go again!

    This just in-- something to knock Gaza off the front page:


    Tel Aviv, January 20, 2009 – The Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) has announced that it has entered into exclusive negotiations with a group of prominent North American sportsmen who are planning the development of a new professional baseball league in Israel.

    The group, which will operate under an American company formed for the purpose of developing the professional baseball initiative, is headed by Marv Goldklang, a part owner of the New York Yankees and principal owner of four minor league professional baseball teams in the United States, Jeff Rosen, owner of the Maccabi Haifa Heat Professional Basketball Club of the Israeli Premier League and Chairman of Triangle Financial Services, and other prominent individuals involved in Major League Baseball and other sports endeavors.

    The initial agreement, in the form of an exclusive option covering not less than one, nor more than two years, would permit the group to conduct due diligence regarding both marketing and facility objectives to determine the long-term economic viability of a professional baseball league. As part of the arrangement, the group also would provide financial and other support for the Israeli and international amateur baseball programs operated by the IAB.

    The IAB operates under the authority of the Israel Ministry of Science, Culture Sport, which supports this new initiative to establish a viable professional baseball league in the country.

    “The IAB is very excited about working with Marv Goldklang and his partners,” said Haim Katz, IAB Chairman. “Marv has over 25 years of experience with Major League-affiliated professional baseball leagues, and with independent professional leagues as well. We feel the concepts that he promotes in sports, including unique entertainment features designed to appeal even to non-baseball fans, can revolutionize not only baseball in Israel, but other sports as well. Jeff Rosen, a prominent American businessman, is committed to promoting sports in Israel and has a proven record of success by taking the Maccabi Heat basketball team in just one year from the doldrums of the lower league to prime time recognition in the Israel premier basketball league.”

    Professional baseball was attempted during the summer of 2007 by an organization known as the Israel Baseball League (IBL), with six teams sharing three fields and completing a 46 game schedule. The IBL was not a financial success, and was unable continue its baseball operations.

    “The IAB has learned many lessons from its experience with the IBL and our decision to move forward with this new group was not taken lightly,” said Katz. “We feel this group is composed of high caliber, professional, experienced and very reputable individuals. They are not spending other people’s money but investing their own at this point and performing all the necessary groundwork required to protect their potential investment and develop a viable structure for professional baseball in Israel. We have no doubt that there is no better group to carry out this task and we look forward to building baseball in Israel with them.”

    The North American group hopes to establish a fully staffed professional baseball league in the next one or two years, depending on the results of its efforts during the initial agreement which, as noted, would include development of strategies designed to create additional and improved baseball facilities appropriate for the game at the professional level.

    Baseball has long been called America’s “National Pastime,” and is now played in more than 110 nations, according to the International Baseball Federation. It has been an Olympic sport and will hold the second World Baseball Classic this year, with 16 nations competing.

    About the IAB

    The IAB is a non-profit organization (amutah) duly registered as such with the Israeli Authorities, with the purpose of promoting baseball in Israel. It is recognized as the governing body of baseball in Israel by all the official Israeli sports bodies, including the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport; the Israel Sports Gambling Commission; the Israeli Olympic Committee; Otzma; and by International Baseball Association (IBAF) and the Confederation of European of Baseball (CEB).

    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    Exclusive! Boston businessman continues raising funds for 2009 Israel Baseball League season that sources say won't be allowed to take place

    Yes, we went cold turkey on coverage of the scandal of the Israel Baseball League after a solid year of intense, exclusive, controversial and Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporting. And in light of that Pulitzer nod, we’ll be checking in occasionally with updates provided by the tenacious and world-beating reporter Elli Wohlgelernter—known here as Our Man Elli In Israel-- who carried this story singlehandedly and reported recently that there will be no professional baseball in Israel until 2010 at the earliest.

    Our Man Elli’s reportage apparently stirred up a reaction from the Boston-based businessman who's now heading the putative league-- and apparently still drumming up money from American investors for the battered IBL. He sends along this latest, exclusive report:

    It appears it ain’t over for the non-existent Israel Baseball League, which continues to squeeze the American Jewish community for money and solicit unsuspecting American Jews and Zionists for an Israeli baseball season that’s already been blocked by Israeli officials.

    I obtained an email sent by David Solomont, who took the reins of the IBL from embattled Boston bagel baron Larry Baras (and was immediately tagged with the sobriquet “El Presidente of the Dominican Republic of The Middle East Baseball League”) stating his intention to play professional baseball in "the summer of 2009 and have a winter season Nov to Jan 2009/2010”:

    From: David Solomont
    To: ***** ****************

    Cc: ****…

    Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 7:39:24 PM

    Subject: Re: Baseball In Israel

    Unfortunately, there is no baseball next week.
    We expect to kick off the 2009 season in late June and play the summer of 2009 and have a winter season Nov to Jan 2009/2010.

    David Solomont

    (617) ***-****

    As I
    reported on December 3rd, sources tell me that one thing is for sure: the Israel Association of Baseball, which governs the sport in the nation, will not negotiate with David Solomont.

    The controversial Boston businessman and de facto head of the IBL is persona non grata, ever since he announced a twenty-game 2008 IBL season ... make that seven-game… er, six-game... would you believe a five-game "festivus" that never took place?

    Even so, the front man for disgraced IBL founder and former president Larry Baras continues raising cash for a pro baseball league in Israel in 2009.

    Every source close to the Israel sports establishment tells me that Solomont may have a chance kicking off a 2009 season in Santo Domingo starring Chico Escuela, but has little chance of running a season in the Holy Land.

    There will be no sequel to the rousing documentary Holy Land Hardball, because the Israel Association of Baseball is not, and will not, negotiate any deal with the league that survived a single season in 2007.

    Solomont is also urging potential investors to sign up on the IBL website for news. When we last looked, there hadn't been a new posting since the infamous July 24th, 2008 announcement that stated explicit plans for:

    "…a week-long baseball festival starting on August 17th that will pit an IBL All-Star team against a team made up of premier Israeli players.

    “Details of the baseball festival, which will run from August 17th through August 21st, will be announced on this site in the upcoming days.

    “Players have already begun to arrive in Israel for the event, which will also feature clinics during the week in Hashmonaim and Bet Shemesh. Photograph sessions will be available before and after every game with your favorite IBL star. Tickets will be sold at the door with all proceeds to benefit JNF's Project Baseball."

    As of today, December 20th, there is no update on the now-legendary Festivus.

    And speaking of Larry Baras-- remember my report of December 3rd, I asked:

    “Why is the JNF in bed with the IBL? “And how much money is stuffed inside the mattress of that bed?”

    Now, it turns out they've pulled up the sheets to snuggle even closer:

    Larry Baras is now on the board of the New England branch of the JNF.

    Stay tuned…

    (And catch up on all our coverage of the Israeli Baseball saga here, at our Baseball in Israel website.)

    Saturday, December 6, 2008

    Bi-Sex & Baseball! At last! An Israeli baseball story that won't drive away our regular readers!

    Yes, we promised we wouldn't drive away our regular readers with lots of Israel baseball stories, but we have another one that we're pretty sure fits into Tabloid Baby territory, Israel baseball or not, while only making the Israel baseball story deeper and more intriguing. And it's only a coincidence the item's arrived on the heels of our newsmaking exclusive!

    This one comes from our pals at The New York Post's Page Six, who report that Art Shamsky, the former Miracle Met and the Israel Baseball League's manager of the year (its only year), has been hit with a sordid, seamy, smarmy sex suit!

    Art's ex-wife Kim has filed a lawsuit claiming the Mets legend gave her a sexually transmitted disease after repeatedly cheating on her with both men and women.

    That's women... and men!

    Kim says in the Manhattan Supreme Court papers that during their 13-year marriage the famed outfielder and first baseman "engaged in acts of adultery with both men and women," without her knowledge. His romps included "acts of 'unprotected' sexual and deviate sexual intercourse" that left her with human papilloma virus (HPV). Medical experts say HPV can cause problems such as genital warts and cervical cancer.

    The suit claims Art continued to have sex with her although he "knew that an individual or individuals with whom he had engaged in sexual relations had contracted HPV or that he had contracted HPV."

    Kim says she suffered "serious physiological and emotional injury."

    She wants $11 million in damages.

    Art's lawyer says the lawsuit as "frivolous" and insists that Art Shamsky is free of sexual disease.

    Pat Crispo says: "This is the act of a very angry ex-wife who has maligned him in the press. He will be vindicated in the courts."

    Art Shamsky is 67. He was with the Mets from 1968 to 1971 and batted .300 during the team's 1969 world championship season. He was named the IBL's manager of the year for leading the champion Modi'in Miracle. The Shamskys married in 1994 and divorced last May.

    Any validity to Kim's claims? Remember: anyone can make up any charges in a lawsuit... and lots of frivolous claims fly in divorce battles, and there's no better way to embarrass a n old jock than to say he's gay. Our IBL sources tell us that during the IBL season, Kim sent letters to Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, slamming her estranged husband. She is, says one, "some piece of work"...

    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Remember professional baseball in Israel? Well, fughedabout it for 2009! And maybe 2010!

    Remember the Israel Baseball League?

    Remember how we spent an entire year covering the fallout from the inspirational, fun, yet disastrous 2007 inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League, and followed every lawsuit, liar, layabout and lunkhead as they schemed, blathered, promised, fought, sued, threatened, begged and bullshat until by the same time 365 days later, we had to throw our hands up and walk away?

    We ended our intense coverage on that first anniversary, but not before starting up a special Baseball in Israel companion site-- and not without regret, as we wrote:

    "...The story grew on its own... with all its intrigue, deceit, betrayals and bizarre and unintentionally comedic twists. And the characters-- including a bagel baron, a champion competitive eater, a fast food defector, a ballplaying attorney, an overgrown Peter Pan, a mysterious Dominican, a toymaker, a billionaire, a US ambassador, a neglected wife, a controversial web mogul-- only made the saga richer.

    "In the past twelve months and more than 300 posts, this site-- a tabloidcentric site of pop culture and media criticism and satire, became the meeting place and sounding board for ballplayers and sports fans around the world-- not mention a place where anonymity allowed key players in the story to float rumours and leads.

    "All credit goes to Elli Wohlgelernter..."

    We also said we’d report back when there was something worthwhile to report. So Elli Wohlgelernter, the top Jerusalem-based journalist known in these parts as Our Man Elli In Israel-- the man whose reportage, hard work and expertise our comprehensive coverage was built upon-- has this report:

    Professional Baseball in Israel rained out for 2009


    Special to

    JERUSALEM - Forget about professional baseball in Israel in 2009.

    Sources tell me that the current economic meltdown is making it difficult to jumpstart a professional league of any kind in Israel in the foreseeable future.

    "The economic climate is not the most conducive for these kinds of ventures,” says a figure close to the Israel Association of Baseball (Israel’s governing body for baseball and the only group authorized to run a pro league here). “But hopefully by 2010 there will be some kind of pro league here.”

    The source adds that the IBA “hopes we’ll have something concrete to say this month, but it ain’t over till its over”—which seems to imply there are some serious negotiations being conducted.

    Other sources tell me that one thing is for sure - the IAB is not negotiating with David Solomont. The controversial Boston businessman, who installed himself as the de facto head of the Israel Baseball League is persona non grata ever since he announced a twenty-game 2008 IBL season ... make that seven-game… er, six-game... would you believe a five-game "festivus" that never took place?

    Even so, the frontman for disgraced IBL founder and former president Larry Baras continues to try and raise cash for a pro baseball league in Israel.

    His “Twitter” page-- his preferred means of announcement-- states:

    Getting ready for a hectic week with 3 deals to close! 12:28 PM Nov 28th from web

    "working on several transactions -- Electric Vehicle Propulsion Systems is "hot". Of course, baseball is right up there as well:) 11:46 AM Nov 18th from web

    "Working on Electric Vehicle Propulsion Systems, Solar Powered iphone Charger/Carrying Case, and Baseball! 8:26 AM Oct 13th"

    The problem is that Solomont’s public displays are hindering others from moving forward.

    Another insider who doesn’t want his name used:

    "Solomont is going around telling people that all he has to do to get a license from the IAB is to pay debts of the IBL, and that the IAB's reluctance to deal with him is simply a matter of money, and not of trustworthiness. That's been complicating anyone else's efforts to get serious traction on an alternative approach."

    That complaint is exactly what was written here on the Tabloid Baby site on August 22nd:

    As long as the people leading the alleged IBL (Larry Baras, David Solomont Martin Berger and the gang) hang around, it will be tougher to get anyone else interested in taking a new approach. Even if the IAB puts the IBL out of our misery by deciding it will no longer deal with its "executives," any other group stepping forward will have to deal with the baggage.”

    Sources also tell me that "Solomont reportedly has been claiming that he has the ability to raise $ 5million. I'm not sure anyone believes him, but the Jewish National Fund apparently has maintained contact with him."

    We’ve asked it before and we'll ask it again:

    Why is the JNF in bed with the IBL?

    And how much money is stuffed inside the mattress of that bed?

    Stay tuned…

    It’s good to be back on the hunt. Not that I ever left.



    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    The Daily Freeman: "Israeli baseball would have been great"

    The Daily Freeman
    Kingston, NY
    September 7, 2008

    Israeli baseball would have been great

    By: Stan Fischler, Freeman columnist

    Rehovot, Israel - Baseball's home stretch once again has us in its vice-like grip and if this seems redundant, it is.

    But there's major league irony involved for me, visiting family -son, two grandchildren, and daughter-in-law - here in the Holy Land.

    The irony simply is that late summer 2008, also was supposed to be Year 2 of the Israel Baseball League's home stretch as well.

    Alas, the key word here is SUPPOSED.

    SORRY, but I can't find any stories about last year's competitors such as the Netanya Tigers and Beit Shemesh Blue Sox.

    In fact, the only diamond story in today's Jerusalem Post isn't about baseball. It simply reads: "The Israel Softball Association is offering an umpires course in Eilat, Oct. 15-17."

    So, what happened to Israel's nobel pro baseball seedling one year after it was due to bloom gloriously into a grand pennant race?

    The Field of Dreams, in the end, was more dream and less field. Matzoh-ball soup, minus the matzoh ball.

    NOT MANY people here, where soccer and basketball remain the sporting kings, are upset although Jerusalem Post reporter Elli Wohlgelernter certainly has taken the demise to heart.

    "The idea was so novel," says Wohlgelernter, "the vision so grand, the imagination so captured and emotions so impassioned that few believed it would ever happen. And, then, amazingly, it did. And then, sadly, it died."

    But not before there was a 2007 championship series won by Beit Shemesh and IBL Commissioner Dan Kurtzer delivered a trophy to the Blue Sox.

    From then on the spit(ball) hit the fans.

    PLAYERS CASHED their salaries but the checks bounced higher than the horsehide. On top of that, more than 20 companies, vendors and individuals were owned dough as well as the television station which broadcast games.

    Among the embarrassed parties were names familiar to American ball fans.

    One was New York Yankees President Randy Levine, not to mention Bombers' physician Dr. Stuart Hershon, members of the IBL advisory board.

    "The dream," adds Wohlgelernter, "was falling apart."

    NOT ONLY did reporter Elli follow the crash, he detailed the plunge with an expose last year. It featured previously untold stories of a near players strike, late paychecks, and substandard playing conditions.

    Demands were made for financial transparency and the targets included league founder Larry Baras and others who had avidly solicited American investors.

    Exactly a year ago a four-hour showdown meeting was held in Manhattan. Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel, led the charge for fiscal clarity.

    "Not only was his name on the line," says Wohlgelernter, "but also his word. He has personally guaranteed the players that each and every one would be paid in full."

    THE MEETING, sadly, did not produce what it promised but it sure made some lawyers happy.

    Less that a week later, one investor filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging, among other things, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.

    By last November, a frustrated Kurtzer and nine other IBL board members resigned. Undaunted, Martin Berger, IBL president/COO, put on a happy face, claiming that his league would open again in 2008.

    But a balk was called on him. In fact, some IBL players tried to organize their own new league for the new season. One investor was to be Arizona Diamondbacks general partner Jeffrey Royer.

    It was a good try but nothing materialized.

    THE NEW league never happened and the IBL, despite claims threats through early summer that it would be back, was cut down between the court room and phony boardroom promises.

    Thus, the IBL's 2008 home stretch drive has come and gone, yet the memory - and hope - linger on.

    Boston businessman Gary Woolf - his father, Bob Woolf, once was one of the country's top player agents - and fellow Beantowner David Solomon, claim to have paid off IBL debts and hope to revive Israeli pro baseball next summer.

    Those, such as IBL board member Seth Cogan, have their doubts. "I'll believe it when I see it," says Cogan.

    I'll be back next summer and nothing would please me more than to see the IBL back on its feet, and fiscally responsible.

    In the meantime, anyone interested in umpiring some softball should show up in Eilat next month.

    To them I say, "Mazel Tov!"

    Author-columnist-commentator Stan "The Maven" Fischler resides in Boiceville and New York City. His column appears each week in the Sunday Freeman.

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    After a year, we end our coverage of Israel baseball

    One year ago today, Tabloid Baby entered into a bold experiment that would take our readers into the heart of an unfolding story that on the surface was far afield from our usual tabloid universe, but which from the start had contained all the elements of the best, most engrossing tabloid stories of our time.

    From the day one year ago that we inadvertently jumped the gun and became the first to publish Elli Wohlgelernter's muckraking expose of the Israel Baseball League's first season, we saw that there was much more to this story than a well-intended attempt to spread the good word of baseball to a foreign land.

    And the story grew on its own from there, with all its intrigue, deceit, betrayals and bizarre and unintentionally comedic twists. And the characters-- including a bagel baron, a champion competitive eater, a fast food defector, a ballplaying attorney, an overgrown Peter Pan, a mysterious Dominican, a toymaker, a billionaire, a US ambassador, a neglected wife, a controversial web mogul-- only made the saga richer.

    In the past twelve months and more than 300 posts, this site-- a tabloidcentric site of pop culture and media criticism and satire, became the meeting place and sounding board for ballplayers and sports fans around the world-- not mention a place where anonymity allowed key players in the story to float rumours and leads.

    All credit goes to Elli Wohlgelernter.

    Known to our readers as Our Man Elli in Israel, this dogged, learned Jerusalem-based journalist worked the story alone, amid much criticism and constant attack, and he did it for no pay and for no other reason than the satisfaction of nailing a great story first. Elli was a legend in the States long before he jumped on this story. And the lessons he gave to every mainstream sports journalist in this saga should have editors jumping to hire him.

    As for the "mainstream": To its discredit, the mainstream sports media largely ignored the story unless personal or financial considerations moved an editor or columnist to copy one of our posts or float a story from a source. Their lack of action on and interest in this international sports scandal proves any point we might want to make better than we could hope.

    But now it's up to them to pick up the ball, follow our leads, and see where they go. After all, this story ends with a question mark. Why did the IBL's much-heralded second season devolve to a "show fest," and ultimately to a no-show?

    What was the scheme?

    Your move.

    We gave it a year. We drove our regular readers to distraction and lost thousands of fans. But maybe we gained a few. You can find all the coverage on our Baseball in Israel archive site. If there are arrests, or major developments, we'll certainly call attention to them, but as for our weekly and daily coverage of baseball in Israel-- game called.

    Game Called. Upon the field of life
    the darkness gathers far and wide,
    the dream is done, the score is spun
    that stands forever in the guide.
    Nor victory, nor yet defeat
    is chalked against the players name.
    But down the roll, the final scroll,
    shows only how he played the game.

    Here's how it started, and where it ends:
    28 August 2007
    07:00 AM

    World Exclusive! Special Report! Can't anyone here run this game? Elli Wohlgelernter on the scandalous debut of the Israel Baseball League

    Readers of Tabloid Baby know him as Our Man Elli in Israel, our longtime pal and veteran print and broadcast journalist who, more than a decade ago left his native New York City and Yankees for life in Jerusalem, Israel (and subject of the documentary film project, Sex & Baseball. Many others know him as Elli Wohlgelernter, television reporter for the Israeli Broadcasting Authority and freelance print journalist whose reports on life in the Big Bagel have appeared in newspapers from The Jerusalem Post to The New York Times.

    Now, in this exclusive report, Elli Wohlgelernter reports on the wild first season of the much-anticipated Israel Baseball League, which led off an eight-week, 45-game season in June:

    The Oys of Summer

    How Israel's season in the sun
    turned into a season in Hell


    BAPTIST VILLAGE, Israel - The Israel Baseball League started out with high hopes, an almost mystical dream that resonated deeply with Jews across the United States: a professional baseball league in Israel!

    But the result, say many, were more errors than hits: players threatening to strike when paychecks were late; a manager hired to help give face to the fledgling league leaving in the middle of the season, after trashing the league to the media; and a player almost killed by a batting practice line drive, an accident that might have been prevented with proper equipment.

    The IBL was created two years ago by Boston businessman Larry Baras, who cultivated glowing press and fan interest in the United States. Baras assembled a distinguished team of advisers, executives, financial backers and former players, to help launch what in essence was a start-up company in a foreign country.

    The stated idea was to generate enthusiasm and fan interest by promising, among other things, a range of marketing gimmicks borrowed from minor league ballparks in the states: karaoke night, speed dating night, sack racing, sumo wrestling competitions, and even ballpark weddings. To further build anticipation, the league’s Web site prominently displayed a countdown clock giving days, minutes, and hours until opening day.

    But while the marketing may have worked among the Jews in the U.S. and the English-speaking “Anglo community” here, the league barely registered with Israelis, who were largely ignored in the marketing plans-- and insulted to boot.

    David Rosenthal, a sports reporter for Walla!, the biggest Israeli Web portal, posted a story four days before opening day, critical of the way the six-team league was being sold exclusively to an overseas audience. “Excuse me, what about us?” read the headline.

    Still, for those Anglo fans who did come out, it was a joy, whether hearing Hatikva sung before each game-- without taking off their hats-- eating kosher hot dogs, getting close to the players, or hearing a call for afternoon prayers being announced in the middle of the fifth inning.


    But what they didn't know was what was going on in the dugout. Many of the players-- 120 recruited from around the world-- had previously played some professional baseball, a half-dozen even at the Triple-A level, a rung below the Major Leagues. As such, they were expecting a more professional environment, and were greatly disappointed: the housing accommodations were called a hostel, an army barrack, even a homeless shelter; air conditioning wasn’t working in a half-dozen rooms the first week, in the midst of a brutal heat wave; there was no arrangement for laundry service; and the food was so bad, players said, that they eventually lost an average of seven to 10 pounds, or more.

    “I’ve lost almost 17 pounds since I’ve been here,” said Scott Jarmakowicz, a catcher for the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. “Over half my paycheck, at least half, has gone to food. It’s not sustainable eating the same schnitzel and boiled eggs three times a day. I’m a catcher, and it takes its toll. I’m sure I would have lost some weight, but not 17 pounds.”

    But that wasn’t even the main gripe. Players just wanted to play baseball, and were expecting the necessities that accompany any sport. But when they arrived at their dorm facilities at Kfar Hayarok just north of Tel Aviv, there was no ice to soothe sore muscles, nor a weight room facility, absolute staples for athletes in any sport.

    The league made provisions for ice to be bought, until an ice machine was obtained a couple of weeks into the season; and arrangements were made for players to use nearby gyms. Most of the players were willing to look past the peripheral deficiencies in order to play baseball, a love they all shared, and a dream they all nourished. But here, too, they were working under a severe handicap.

    Bones of contention

    Arriving only three days before the season began, the players had no time for pre-season workouts; and then there were the fields themselves. The best facility was Baptist Village in Petah Tikva, a beautiful diamond that hosts baseball and softball for the Maccabiah Games.

    But the other two fields were bones of contention among the players: One was at Gezer, where the outfield grass sloped upward; there was no warning track in left and center fields; the outfield fence wasn’t padded; and there was a light pole on the field in right. Moreover, the right field foul line was 280 feet, making it feel like a little league pasture, and skewing players’ statistics.

    The third field was Sportek in Tel Aviv, which was not even built when the season started. This situation left two fields for six teams and a schedule out of whack: teams had too many days off, managers were unable to set up a proper pitching rotation, and no team completed its full 45-game schedule-- four teams played 41 games, and two played 40. Moreover, neither Gezer nor Sportek had lights, which meant games had to start at 5 p.m., an inconvenient time for working fans.

    When Sportek finally opened July 10, 16 days into the eight-week season-– and with a right-field line even shorter than Gezer's-- it still wasn’t ready, with potentially dangerous field conditions.

    “There are rocks, glass, and pieces of rusty metal we pulled out of the ground,” said Jarmakowicz. “You can slide on a rock anywhere, but most fields aren’t gong to have three bars sticking out of it. And these are hard fences, you can really get hurt.”

    Commissioner Dan Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, concurred. “We need to improve the fields. We used them [Gezer and Sportek], but they are not really at a professional level.”

    Near-fatal disaster

    At first the ballparks also did not have proper equipment, from little things like pitchers’ resin bags, to important items like screens at the bases during batting practice, to crucial equipment like batting cages, which protect those not on the field from getting hurt during pre-game batting practice. This lack of protection almost resulted in a fatal disaster.

    On July 11 at Gezer, Reynaldo Cruz, a 24-year-old star outfielder from the Dominican Republic playing for the Petah Tikva Pioneers, committed a cardinal sin and turned his back on batting practice. Standing near his dugout situated very close to the field, he was struck in the back of the head by a line drive off the bat of Modi’in’s Adalberto Paulino.

    Cruz was knocked cold for a couple of minutes and lay on the ground shaking, which gave the surrounding players a fright.

    There was a 20-minute wait for an ambulance to arrive before Cruz was taken to Assaf Harofeh hospital, where he stayed for two weeks, was released, and went back in complaining of dizzy spells.

    Cruz’s season was done, but he was alive.

    “Gezer is a particular problem-- we probably should have anticipated more safety requirements at Gezer,” said Kurtzer. “Secondly, the players themselves have been too lax all season, not wearing batting helmets, and not paying attention on the field during practice. So the horse escapes, the barn door gets closed. We did institute some better safety procedures at Gezer.”

    The forfeit

    The players were also vociferous in their criticism of the umpiring. In one famous incident that was subsequently posted on YouTube (above), one of the league’s best players, Ryan Crotin, argued an umpire’s call, got thrown out of the game, refused to leave the batter’s box, and his team was declared to have lost on forfeit.

    “There [have] been a couple of problems with the umpires here,” said one player on his independent blog. “They don't know some of the rules. They don't know correct umpire positioning. They have inconsistent strike zones at times. They have a bad habit of ejecting players for no specific reason. And most importantly, some of them have trouble taking control of the game.”

    Because of all this happening the first three weeks of the season, the league worked hard at spin control. In a July 13 letter from Martin Berger, president and COO of the IBL, the players were told that everything was fine.

    “Things over here continue to be strong,” Berger wrote from the U.S. “We are meeting with investors every day and we have a meeting with Major League Baseball Affiliates this week. The buzz is fantastic.”


    Three days later was payday, and miscommunication between the league and players resulted in smaller paychecks than were expected. Players-– led by those from the Dominican Republic, who were much more in need of the money to send to their families back home-- threatened to strike, 22 days into the brand new league.

    In rushed the league’s commissioner, who scrambled up to Kfar Yarok to stem the rebellion. Around noon, a meeting was held on an outdoor basketball court with the player’s improvised union, led by 45-year-old Alan Gardner, centerfielder for the Blue Sox and a practicing New York lawyer.

    “It was funny because the IBL was close to striking-- it was surreal,” said a player in attendance. “Some of the players took video of the makeshift meeting because we all thought it was so funny.”

    Not to the league it wasn’t. Kurtzer-– a savvy veteran of tough Middle East political negotiations-- told the players that there had been a misunderstanding, but that he would not negotiate under threat - and, according to players who were there, that he would cancel the league if they struck, a threat Kurtzer denied.

    “I didn’t say that,” Kurtzer said. “I said, ‘I’ll talk to you all day, and we’ll fix the problem, but I’m not going to be here with you saying if you’re not happy you’re going out on strike.’ I said, ‘If you want to go out on strike that’s your choice, I can’t stop you.’ ”

    Kurtzer explained the mix-up, saying: “The problem at the beginning of the season was that they didn’t understand that we overpaid them the first time, and therefore we adjusted it the second, and our communications broke down. In other words, after two weeks there were supposed to get a week’s pay, and then have that week delay, as in most businesses. After two weeks we paid them for two weeks, so after the second two weeks, we paid them for one week, and we were gong to start the delay, and they said ‘hey, wait a minute, we worked two weeks, and threatened a strike. It was explained to them, and they understood it.”

    At a subsequent payday, money was again late. The players, having heard rumors about the league’s financial difficulties, were upset that the league was not more forthcoming.

    “I believe that they knew seven or 10 days ahead of time that it was going to be late,” said Jamarkowicz. “Don’t just have us show up, keep telling us you’re going to pay us, and then when we get there, when you knew 90 percent chance that it wasn’t going to come through, tell us, ‘Hey, we’re really trying to get you paid, it could be up to a week late. We’re gonna push it back. We’re gonna try and give you 100, 200 shekels to try to get you by, just work with us.’ I’m more than willing to work with anybody 100 percent. I understand financial backing, new league, things are going to happen. I’m OK with that. But be up front with me, be honest with me, don’t BS me around.”

    No balls

    Meanwhile, the threatened strike was headed off, and baseball continued. But not all the teams were doing well. The Petah Tikva team, managed by former Jewish Major Leaguer Ken Holtzman, was losing a lot of games, and was destined for last place early on. The losing, and the problems encountered all season, finally got to Holtzman, and he publicly criticized the league, the teams, the players, the fields, and the Israeli fans. (see sidebar)

    The league, understandably, was outraged over his words and his going public. It was the black eye the league had been working to avoid all season. Two weeks later, the league and Holtzman reached an agreement for him to leave.

    But the league was in trouble, financially most of all. At one point there were no more baseballs, partly a result of players handing out too many souvenirs in the spirit of promoting the league. The IBL had to order more, and the players were ordered not to give away any baseballs to fans, under threat of a 50 shekel fine.

    “I know how hard it is to say no and I am very aware of how persistent and sometimes over-zealous our fans can be,” Berger wrote the players on July 31. “But we cannot throw balls into the stands anymore. I just brought over 3500 more baseballs. This is it for the rest of the season. If we run out, we stop playing.”

    The players were upset.

    “Do you have any idea how hard it is to say no to a seven-year-old boy asking for a ball?” wrote Jesse Michel on his blog. “What should I tell him, ‘No son, the league has threatened to fine me if I give you one?’ Right.”

    Fans in the dark

    All of the various issues plaguing the league were unknown to the public during the season, the result both of an absence of news reporting, and a major effort at spin control by the league.

    With the notable exception of Rosenthal writing all season on Walla!, the Israeli press-- Hebrew and English-- was mainly uninterested. The stories that were printed were written by the league’s amateur reporters, who consistently led with the wrong news day after day: a story on a no-hitter led with the news that the game was the quickest of the year, while the story on the All-Star game began with the home run-hitting contest, to cite two examples.

    The league was happy with the free, non-controversial publicity, and tried to control any negative publicity by censuring players blogging on their Web site, as well as influencing independent bloggers to remove negative postings.

    So the fans kept in the dark on the dugout intrigue supported their teams blindly. By far the teams with the most fan support were Bet Shemesh, followed by Modi’in, two cities with large Anglo communities. One fan from Bet Shemesh celebrated his 45 birthday by baking a cake and traveling to Tel Aviv to hand out slices to his beloved Blue Sox.

    “It brought back innocence,” Alan Krasma said of his summer experience, while dishing out the desert. “If you look at the last two summers, we had Gush Katif two summers ago, we had the Lebanon war last summer. This summer was just really relaxed. I was able to come with each of my kids to the game, we met a few of the players, and we really got to know them. It was like coming to watch a bunch of friends play.”

    Too little, too late

    But while Americans supported the sport-- the league’s attendance ranged from an average of 73 for Netanya to 418 for Bet Shemesh, though it was often a matter of guesswork-- there were few Israelis who attended. The promised marketing gimmicks never happened, and outreach to communities was too little, too late: teams visited their respective city’s malls to give out free tickets and paraphernalia in the seventh week of the eight-week season.

    “We did, I think, a superlative job for a new league marketing among Americans in America and among Anglos in Israel,” said Kurtzer. “And we did nothing with Israelis. Part of it had to do with organization. We talked about it a lot, and then we didn’t hire anybody to do it for a long time, and then there was a budget issue, we spent a lot of money on the television contract… This was our management fashla,” he said, using the Israeli slang for a screw-up. “That’s what it was."

    Not all Anglos felt the outreach. Rabbi Stewart Weiss, a lifelong fan of his hometown Cubs and a former Bleacher Bum, is director of an organization in Ra'anana helping new immigrants. He and his family attended several games to root for the IBL team named after his adopted city, the Ra'anana Express-- but heard little, if any, information about the team and league in Ra'anana itself.

    "They're called the Ra'anana Express, but they don't play here, there is no publicity about them in town, and you can't buy tickets locally," said Weiss. "There ought to be a concerted attempt to reach out to Ra'anana - a city of 75,000, one-third of whom are English-speaking immigrants. There has to be a stronger connection to the city in order to build team spirit and team support. Can you just name a team after a city without actually involving the city or its inhabitants?"

    No pay, no play

    The league did try one marketing drive aimed at Israelis-- they paid the Israeli sports channel to broadcast Sunday night games in Hebrew. But when payment stopped coming, so did the broadcasts.

    “It’s a shame this is what they are doing to us, after we put our heart and soul in it,” Yaron Talpaz, sports channel’s vice president for business development, told Walla! “We did not expect this kind of management from a league whose commissioner was the former U.S. ambassador to Israel.”

    Kurtzer said everyone would eventually be paid, including, he admitted, himself, and that it was a shame the sports channel chose not to broadcast the second half of the season, including the championship game.

    “Yes, we do owe them money, but I’m confident that they are gong to get paid. It’s a haval that we didn’t have the cash flow to pay them, it’s haval that they didn’t want to do it on faith that they are going to get paid, so, haval. Everyone’s going to get paid.”

    Kurtzer said that plans for next season are already under way, that he and league management knows what needs to be done, and that a replay of this season’s problems isn’t likely.

    “It will be different in the sense that you will have other complaints-- the food is always going to be a complaint-- but I’d say that 75 percent of the legitimate stuff that these guys complained about this year-- legitimate being because it was true-- we’ll fix it. And they’re gonna get paid on time, and we now know that you gotta get the laundry right, so all that stuff will be done right.

    The main problem, he said, was not enough hands on board.

    “We need more personnel, league personnel, just to handle issues. Very often players didn’t know to whom to turn, so you just need enough people – someone who is responsible for x, and responsible for y, and you know where to go. So those are the things we’ll work on.”

    The players themselves understood that. By the time the Blue Sox beat the Modi’in Miracle for the championship, the players had put all the problems behind them, and were sad to see the inaugural season end. The camaraderie was evident the night before the playoffs, when they held an award night and gave out “The Schnitzel Award” in a number of jocular categories.

    Almost to a man, all players asked said they would love to come back and play another season, if they don’t get offers to play anywhere else.

    “My personal experience has just been wonderful in every aspect of it,” said Eric Holtz, the 41-year-old player manager for the Blue Sox. “To be able to play and compete, having my wife and children here for three weeks and having them involved in one of the most exciting things of my life, has just been phenomenal. And being a Jew, you can’t come here and not feel some sense of spirituality. And I’m not a religious Jew.”

    Asked if he and the other players would come back next season, after all they went through, Holtz didn’t hesitate.

    “If they lived through the worst and survived,” he said, “then why wouldn’t they come back next year?"

    Elli Wohlgelernter contributed to Roger Kahn's semi-classic baseball book, Good Enough To Dream, and considers this story something of a bookend. Watch Tabloid Baby for more exclusive reports from Our Man Elli in Israel.

    And don't forget to read the sidebar on the mudslinging exit of manager Ken Holtzman.