Friday, September 28, 2007

Flashback: Our Man Elli's Israeli Field of Dreams

As Major League Baseball heads toward the playoffs, it's back to baseball here this morning and the latest twist in wake of Our Man Elli in Israel's Breslinesque report on the blunders and misadventures of the Israel Baseball League's first season.

Let's see where we left off: The powerful Chicago Tribune swats away our charges of plagiarism as if we're some pesky fly and a naive young hometown journalist helps IBL's founder spin his side of the story. Our Man Elli is talking to lawyers (and we're talking to journo colleagues) about the former, and he's taking the high road in the latter, telling us this morning: "I’m not going to debate Larry Baras ont he subject. He's entitled to give his side of the story. I'll let the article speak for itself. No one, including Larry, has denied any part of it."

We were ready to give a play-by-play refutation of the Boston Jewish Journal article, but why bother? Spin is spin does. Instead, let's look back at another one of Elli Wohlgelernter's past articles on the IBL, this one posted on the Israel 21c website back in November 2006, well in advance of Opening Day in Israel (book publishers, take note):

An Israeli field of dreams

By Elli Wohlgelernter
November 13, 2006

More than 60 self-styled athletic studs hoping to play professional baseball in Israel came out on November 10 to participate in the first such tryouts ever held in Israel. The job of Dan Duquette, who ran the tryouts, was to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Larry Baras, who came up with the idea, was simply ecstatic just that so many showed up.

The players were equally enthused. Most of the hopefuls were either American born, who had moved to Israel as children, native Israelis who learned the game from their American fathers and played on Israeli teams; or Americans who had moved here at a later age, after having played in the U.S. All of them were looking for one more chance at the game they loved.

Most of them did not have a realistic shot at making the cut, and they knew it before they arrived at the Sportek athletic facility in Petah Tikva. But the very idea of professional baseball tryouts being held in Israel offered everyone a chance to dream, and it was a prospect too good to miss.

"I always loved the game of baseball," explained 45-year-old Ari Alexenberg, whose was raised in Israel, where his family lives, but who now lives in the United States. "When I grew up in Israel it didn't exist, and when I moved to the States, as an Orthodox Jew, all the games were played on Shabbat, so I couldn't play. So I didn't really play my first organized game of baseball until I was 23 years old.

"I quickly moved up, and had a lot of ability-- played semi-pro ball-- but I realized that it would take many years of honing my skills to actually keep moving. I was married, so I moved on. The irony is, the game passed my by because I lived in Israel and because I was an Orthodox Jew. But the fact that now there is an opportunity to play in Israel, at the age of 45, was too good of an opportunity to pass up."

The tryouts were run very professionally by Duquette (left), which is no surprise: as one-time director of player development for the Montreal Expos, he drafted future stars such as Marquis Grissom, Charles Johnson and Rondell White. Later, as general manager for the Expos, he acquired elite pitcher Pedro Martínez in a brilliant one-sided trade , and as general manager of the Boston Red Sox, Duquette's shrewd deals - nabbing Martinez again from the Expos, trading for pitcher Derek Lowe and catcher Jason Varitek, and signing free agents Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon - is credited with building the Red Sox into what ultimately led to the team's 2004 championship.

Duquette is under no illusions that he will find a diamond in the rough on this day. He understands that there has been very little opportunity for Israeli kids to learn and play the game, and so the local pool of talent for the new league is negligible.

"Until we can build up the infrastructure here in Israel - and by that I mean the coaches and the facilities - we're going to have to import players from the Australian league, and the minor leagues in the States," Duquette said. "We're going to give the Israelis as much chance as we can to make it, but until we build up the baseball in Israel, we're going to be importing a lot of our players."

Building up baseball in Israel is indeed part of the long-range plan. One goal that's only a dream so far is fielding an Israeli team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, an international tournament of 16 national teams. Participants on the Israeli team could include Jewish players from the Major Leagues, such as Brad Ausmus, Gabe Kapler, Jason Marquis, Shawn Green, and Kevin Youkilis.

But where will the Israeli players come from? Duquette hopes to open a baseball academy, modeled after the successful one he runs in Massachusetts. Other plans call for youth baseball clinics - one held this past summer drew 165 participants - as well as programs to develop women's softball.

IBL officials are hoping that increased participation in baseball by younger Israelis will lead to more locals playing in the new league, as well as provide a fan base for the league. Opening Day is scheduled for June 24, 2007.

The trick to having a successful venture, obviously, will be attracting fans, perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Israel Baseball League in its first season. Baras, a businessman from Boston who is the brains behind the whole initiative, is well aware of that challenge. As he sat in the dugout watching a simulated game among the prospective players, glowing over the numbers that came to try out, Baras described the environment he envisions where whole families can come and have a good time.

"Because we really want to encourage attendance by native Israelis, there will be a lot of entertainment on the field, before and after the games, and in-between innings," he said. "There will be barbecue stations throughout the stands, so there will be a gastronomic feast. And incidentally, there will be a baseball game going on. So we are striking a balance between getting the best players we can possibly get, while putting a real focus on family entertainment and food."

Baras has been working non-stop for 16 months trying to get Israeli baseball off the ground, and has had wide support from across the Jewish community spectrum as well as the baseball fraternity in America. "I get a real impression that people appreciate our efforts and motivation," he says, flashing his ever-present upbeat smile. "I expect to make every mistake one can possibly make during the first year. I guess that success will be defined by making it through the first year with people having enjoyed it and wanting to come back."

Dan Rothem (right) is a 30-year-old Israeli-born pitcher who played at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, the first native Israeli to receive a scholarship to play college ball in the U.S. He understands the mentality of the average Israeli who knows nothing about the game, and the challenges Baras and Duquette face trying to sell baseball to natives.

"It will be difficult. The nature of the game is so different, baseball is so static, while the other games have a clock in them, they're so dynamic. That will be the biggest hurdle in drawing people's attention, in trying to explain the game to them and point out where the real action is - the duel between the pitcher and the hitter - and to get them to see the explosiveness of the game. It's possible, but that will be the biggest challenge: for us to get people hooked on the game."

Rothem was said to be the one Israeli player guaranteed to make the league's roster. And even though he's 30 and has no chance to make the Major Leagues, he has a goal. "If they put together a team for the World Baseball Classic in 2009," he said, "and if I can make that team, that would be a dream come true."

It's a dream Baras and Duquette are having as well.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


The Chicago Tribune is standing strong against our charge that their Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg (far left) plagiarized a story from Our Man Elli In Israel, despite the evidence we laid out. The powerful newspaper's public editor Timothy McNulty (left) was kind enough to respond to our complaints and allegations for the second time this afternoon-- and oy, what a response!

After tiptoeing around the matter yesterday, we challenged him to take a stand-- and Mr. McNulty rebutted our rebuttal with a strong denial of any wrongdoing in the case of Greenberg paraphrasing a story about former Israel Baseball League manager Ken Holtzman that was posted here weeks earlier, written-- and including verbatim translations from the Hebrew-- by Our Man Elli:
First, to be clear, your charge is baseless.

Mr. Holtzman spoke to Walla!, which has a Hebrew-language news page with sports.

Mr. Wohlgelernter quoted those remarks in a story in the English language edition of Haaretz and properly attributed them to Walla!

Mr. Greenberg also properly attributed the quotes to Walla! when he wrote his story, at the suggestion of his editor, and based on a telephone interview with league commissioner Dan Kurtzer, a conversation with a league advisory committee member and an e-mail exchange with Holtzman.

The work is Mr. Greenberg's, the stories are different.

As I understand it, you are essentially claiming that Greenberg should have given Wohlgelernter credit for translating the Holtzman quotes back into the original English.

I also understand that you will make of this what you will. I see that within 24 hours of my getting back to you promptly, you have added two mocking posts without waiting for a reply.

Tim McNulty

In an interview on July 20 with the Israeli Web portal Walla!, Petah Tikva manager and former Major Leaguer Ken Holtzman let loose with a sweeping broadside against the Israel Baseball League, sparing no one.

He criticized the baseball fields: “They would reach the level of high schools in our country”; the teams: “Chosen at random, and in a strange manner”; the Israeli players: “There are no good Israeli players”; the other players: “According to what I can see, none of the players can reach even semi-pro baseball in the United States… the really good player would never come here”; and the Israeli fan: “There is no chance that baseball will succeed in Israel. People here relate to baseball the way people in America relate to soccer. They see it as something very boring, and it will never catch on… you can't make a big impression because there is no culture of baseball, and the facilities are the worse possible."

A season of frustration all came pouring out, and against league organizers as well.

They wanted to make the league work very very quickly,” Holtzman said. “...But they opened the league a year too soon...They should have waited.”
He was much more forthcoming in a July 20 interview with the Israeli Web portal Walla!, in which he lambasted the league and its management for what he described as a series of shortcomings.

The playing fields, he was quoted as saying, "would reach the level of high schools in our country." The teams were "chosen at random and in a strange manner." As for the players, Holtzman said, "none can reach even semipro baseball in the United States."

"There is no chance that baseball will succeed in Israel," Holtzman went on. "People here relate to baseball the way people in America relate to soccer. They see it as something very boring, and it will never catch on. You can't make a big impression because there is no culture of baseball, and the facilities are the worst possible."

Holtzman also heaped criticism on league organizers, whom he accused of rushing into the first year of play without proper preparation on the ground.

"They opened the league a year too soon," he said. "They should have waited."
What do you think?

Elli's Exposé: Israel Baseball boss begins the spin

It's been a month since we published exclusively Our Man Elli In Israel's exposé of the first season of Israel Baseball League, and the repercussions are still reverberating around the world. We've got plagiarism charges against The Chicago Tribune (their man in Israel ripped off Elli's reportage and the paper's public editor patted us on the head and refuses to acknowledge the thievery), many Jews are up in arms that someone would dare criticize the attempt at bringing home runs to the Holy Land, and now, league founder Larry Baras, who's at the center if the criticism (and has been accused of being the Max Bialystock of baseball) is using his hometown paper to strike back-- and spin the story that Elli Wohlgelernter unleashed upon the world.

The hometown paper is The Jewish Advocate of Boston where Baras lives and works. Reporter Rachel Axelbank allows Baras to address the issues raised in Our Man Eli's article-- without acknowledging that it was Elli Wohlgelernter who alone researched and wrote the story in which the charges were levelled.

Nor does Rachel hold Baras to task for his answers and challenge the spin:
“On one hand, it has been tremendous to get the thousands of e-mails and all the good wishes that I’ve received,” (Baras) added. “But it’s been tainted a bit by my witnessing the ability of people to find something wrong even with the concept of baseball in Israel.”

Baras may be correct, but the criticisms put forth in the recent articles are not ones to be dismissed quickly. Complaints of ill-constructed – and thus dangerous – playing fields, no ice for muscle therapy, severe equipment shortages and paycheck delays are hardly the kind of frivolous kvetching heard from American pros.

While Baras did not comment specifically on the problems, the reasons for them or potential solutions, he did speak to the difficulty of conducting the league’s business...

“In Israel, last summer was the summer of the Lebanon War. The previous summer was the summer of disengagement. The previous three were about the Intifada. For so many people, this summer was the summer of baseball.”
Rachel writes of her "surprise" at the revealed underbelly of the league and admits she was "charmed" by a game she attended in Tel Aviv-- but then adds that the game she attended included the infamous Ryan Crotin incident (seen in the clip above)-- which was followed by Crotin's public complaints.

We'll leave it to Elli to address the spin.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chicago Tribune dodges our plagiarism complaint

Here we go again!

A year and half ago, we tried to get the New York Times to admit they'd made a mistake when one of their reporters placed producers for A Current Affair at a movie premiere-- six months after the show had been canceled! Of course, the polite assistant to the managing editor split hairs and limboed around a correction, stating with an apparent straight face that "the first part of this sentence is written in the conditional tense... the second part goes on to describe what happened..."

Now, after the blatant plagiarism of Our Man Elli in Israel's August 28th Ken Holtzman story by Chicago Tribune reporter Joel Greenberg, we're getting the same soft shoe shuffle from the stately midwestern journos of the Second City. It began when we emailed every Tribune editor whose address we could find on the paper's staff email page (and we salute them for having that page):
Dear Madames and Sirs,

On September 16th, one Joel Greenberg, your reporter in Israel, filed a story in the Chicago Tribune that lifted directly from a story, written by Israeli Broadcasting Authority correspondent Elli Wohlgelernter, that had been posted on our website a month earlier.

Here are two links that will lead to the story in question: (1) and (2).

We would like a correction and/or an acknowledgment of the plagiarism.

Thank you.
The starched shirts are always very polite. We got a reply within hours. But oy, what a reply:
My name is Tim McNulty and I am the public editor at the Chicago Tribune.

In your message, you said that you posted a story on July 20 and attributed it to the Israeli Web portal Walla!

On September 17 (not the 16th), we ran a story and attributed it to the Israeli Web portal Walla!

If both stories were properly attributed to the original source, I don't understand your claim.


Tim McNulty
We replied in kind:
Dear Mr. McNulty,

Thank you for your swift reply.

The article by Mr. Greenberg which was dated Sept 16 on (1) was lifted from Elli Wohlgelernter's article that first appeared on on August 28 (2).

Mr. Wohlgelernter translated the quotes from Hebrew, and a comparison of the two articles shows that Mr. Greenberg simply collapsed Mr. Wohlgelernter's story into his own story more than two weeks later.

See a comparison here: (3).

Other journalists, attorneys and watchdog sites agree that this is a case where attribution should have been given to Mr. Wohlgelernter, as his story had caused great controversy for more than two weeks before Mr. Greenberg copied it.

We would appreciate a clarification or correction.
The Chicago-based media watchdog Jim Romenesko has pointedly ignored our complaint (now that his site is spomsored by a j-school, he sneers at the word "tabloid"), but others are paying heed and watching developments closely.

As are we.

We'll keep you posted.

(NOTE: The Public Editor "acts as mediator between the paper and the public.")

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why is Romenesko ignoring our plagiarism story?

“There is an enormous change taking place in this country in journalism. And it is online… And they are really going to cut into daily journalism... We have a vibrant, new way of communicating in America. We haven't come to terms with it… But there are a lot of people doing very, very good stuff."
--Seymour Hersh in The Jewish Weekly, as copied on the Romenesko media site

The website called Romenesko, formerly “,” is popular among professionals like ourselves for its daily links to news, commentary, and insider information about journalism and media and has become popular among professionals in the industry. So you’d figure that a story that contains evidence that a reporter for the Chicago Tribune plagiarized a story frst published on a small mediacentric website would be a natural for posting and the requisite debate that would follow – at least as important as an item this morning about an NPR lady saying that people will pay to download porn but not NY Times columnists).

It was eight days ago that we first posted—and sent Romenesko a link to— the shocking claim that Chicago Tribune reporter Joel Greenberg had lifted a story written by Our Man Elli in Israel and reprinted it without attribution.

And for eight days now, as the story has developed and deepened, Romenesko has continued to ignore the story.

In the past, "Mr. Link Man" Jim Romenesko has taken our tips and run them without attribution, and has responded to our emails with digs at our “tabloid” title— as if the experienced, respected and learned journalists in the Tabloid Baby cooperative were somehow less worthy than shamed institutions or The New York Times. But in this case, we can’t help but wonder if something else is amiss. Though he and his column were bought up by the Florida-based Poynter Journalism Insititute, Romenesko, described as a tough, straight-talking obsessive in the Drudge mold, is based in a suburb of Chicago-- home of the Tribune.

Could Romenesko be protecting his hometown favorite? Does a guy who authored a book called Death Log, whose tabloid Obscure Store & Reading Room site has been linked on since 1999, so fancy himself a member of the establishment that he’ll only mediate disputes among his powerful corporate patrons? Or is Romenesko, a creature of the Internet, like Dylan’s Mr. Jones? Romenesko ought to re-read Sy Hersh's quote that he posted yesterday. There’s something happening here, and we’d like to know what it is.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Exclusive Interview! Our Man Elli may sue over Chicago Tribune plagiarism of his baseball story

"I am pursuing all legal means at my disposal."

That's the lead in the latest explosive controversy to erupt in wake of the Israel Baseball League exposé penned by Our Man Elli in Israel and first published here.

In the days after we reported that a respected correspondent for a powerful daily newspaper plagiarized the sidebar to the story, we wait to see what the mainstream news establishment does about it-- and we offer this exclusive interview with Elli Wohlgelernter, author of the original story about IBL team manager Ken Holtzman that was appropriated, lifted and plagiarized by Joel Greenberg of The Chicago Tribune.

See the evidence here.

And read on for the story behind the story, in this morning's exclusive interview with Our Man Elli in Israel:

Elli, how did you come to write this story?

As everyone who knows me knows, I love baseball. I live and breathe it every day. The thought of having professional baseball in Israel was exhilarating, both in the pre-season buildup and once it started. I went to as many games as I could, and got to know people in and around the league. But what I started to see was a sub-text with the players. They were experiencing a totally different reality from the fans! I thought it would make a good story, and started to keep notes on everything. There were many story lines going on, but what I kept seeing was a supposedly professional league that was being run very in a very unprofessional manner. And the players were suffering. Sure, a lot of them wouldn’t be professionals otherwise and were happy just to be playing professional baseball, but the real players-- the kids who wanted to make a career out of baseball-- they were being held back by the unprofessionalism of it all. I thought it would make a good story.

What motivated you?

I’ve been a professional journalist for more than 30 years. What motivated me is what always motivates me: I wanted to write an interesting, fair, factual story. And that's what I believe I did. Believe me, I only scratched the surface with what was I put out for publication-- the story that appeared on Tabloid Baby. What appeared in the Jewish weeklies was a cut-down version that left out a lot of the details in the original. But even that only told part of the story. The story of all 120 players, how they came to play in this start-up league-- that’s a movie unto itself. They’re just a terrific, terrific bunch of guys. Back in the summer of 1983, I covered the Utica (NY) Blue Sox, a Single-A team, and I thought I’d never have that kind of experience again. This wasn't quite the same-- back then, I lived with the team, rode the bus with them-- but it was pretty close.

What was the feedback from that article?

From professionals in the business, it was very positive, recognition that it was a good story, well-told—a story that revealed what happens when a dream comes up against reality. The heart of the article was how the league, first and foremost, ignored the players—in fact hurt the players--certainly the ones who were trying to forge a future career out of the league-- ignored the native Israelis, and made stupid and sloppy decisions over and over again.

The fallout?

Well. (sighs) I knew there would be some backlash, but I never expected to see what transpired. Many people were really agitated over this story. They saw it in all kinds of ways that cut into a deep emotional hold that this whole idea of baseball in Israel had on people. Many Jews accused me of being a traitor to all things Israeli and Jewish, that I was no different than the many writers among the media who propagate virulent anti-Israeli propaganda that masquerades as journalism. It was taken personally and emotionally, and continued to reverberate day after day, in comments made on many, many web sites and in letters to editors.

(NOTE: Here’s an example: "…You can find the crap in every event. This is such a positive one. Why would you look to find the negative and seek fame leeching on this? How can you call yourself a journalist? You are a dirt digger, crap scraper. That ought to be your business card: Dirt Digger, Crap Scraper, Leech.")

It really stunned me.

For weeks, you stood alone and took the heat.

I’ve been called names before, but this was a unique. I mean, I though that line about the business card was pretty funny, but the whole idea is absurd! Is there any indication that after 30 years in the business I'm a journalist who would write an article to bash Israel? I understand that these are fans talking, and the fans-- the American-Israelis who attended-- had a great time. But the players experienced a different reality. And one of them was almost killed because of the lack of professionalism among the league organizers. I understand that for the fans, it was an escape from the harsh reality of our lives here in Israel, and anything negative about that fantasy world was more than they wanted to hear-- even if every word of what I wrote was true. And no one has disputed a single fact of my story.

As he walked away,
he said, "It was a good story."
I said, "I know."

Did you consider this to be YOUR story?

No one else researched and wrote it. That makes it my story. Most everyone else sugar-coated the experience. I told what the players went through. I worked hard, cultivated sources, obtained internal email memos, hung out at the ballparks, visited the dorms, interviewed dozens of players, managers, coaches, league officials, vendors, reporters. In short, I busted my ass to get a fair, accurate, and honest story of what happened. I wrote 4,500 words on this, and could have written more. No one else did. In the business, it’s what we call an “exclusive.”

You wrote a sidebar story. What was special about it?

The sidebar focused on Kenny Holtzman, the manager of the Petah Tikva Pioneers. He’s an ex-major leaguer who was brought in to help sell the league. His words to David Rosenthal, a reporter for Walla, were explosive, a damning critique against the league. They were big enough that I pulled them out of the main story and highlighted them separately. Kenny said what was on the minds of many of the players. Coming from him, it made sense journalistically to separate it into a sidebar.

It wasn’t your interview. How could you claim it to be yours?

I never said the interview was mine. I mentioned Rosenthal a few times in the story and always gave him credit. He, in fact, was the only reporter who did any kind of serious coverage of the league at all, from before the season even began. And I wrote that in my story. What was mine was the translation of what he wrote. Holtzman spoke in English. I asked Rosenthal for the tapes, but he never recorded it. He only took notes. The article was published in Hebrew. So I translated back into English what had originally been spoken in English. I sent it to Rosenthal for verification, and he said it was accurate. Joel Greenberg lifted that translation, word-for-word.

Who is Joel Greenberg? (left)

He’s a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, formerly of the New York Times. His claim to fame is that he went to jail in 1983 as a conscientious objector, for refusing to carry out reserve duty during the first Lebanon war.

Do you know him personally?

I've played softball with him, and we're in the same business, but I can't say we’re friends.

How did you feel when you read his article on the Chicago Tribune website?

I felt that he had ripped me off. That he’d obviously had read my story in Haaretz here in Israel and only then decided to do a story because he's a reporter for a newspaper in Chicago, the city where Ken Holtzman first rose to fame as a rookie with the Chicago Cubs. It's obvious that's where it came from. Why else would he wait six full weeks to write about Holtzman leaving the Israel Baseball League?

Have you spoken with Greenberg since?

I ran into him in the street on Yom Kippur night, and he started to say something about wanting to call me about my story. I asked why was there no shout out, no hat tip, no credit of any kind for his ripping off my story. He said it wasn't the time to discuss it--which was true enough. Yom Kippur is hardly the day for expressing animosity.

Did he say anything else?

As he walked away, he said, "It was a good story." I said, "I know."

Joel Greenberg is a big shot, a well-respected mainstream journalist. Why would he stoop so low as to steal a story?

You'd have to ask him.

Do you plan to take any action?

I am pursuing all legal means at my disposal.

What do you have to say to Joel Greenberg?

“Be honest. You're a journalist."

What do you have to say to the world?

Keep reading Tabloid Baby for more updates!

One more question. How’s the book proposal coming?

I'm pursuing negotiations with publishers to tell the whole story. There’s so much that was left out due to space limitations.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We were plagiarized by the Chicago Tribune!

We took a lot of stick a few weeks ago after our exclusive publication of Our Man Elli in Israel's exposé of the Israel Baseball League, a day before the story was set to be published in Jewish weeklies across America and the globe. It was a case of crossed signals and time zones, but it warranted some navel-gazing and chin-stroking at place like Jim Romenesko's j-school newsmedia site (you know, the one that ignores us except when the tables are turned).

But now we've got something that grinds our gears-- and we challenge the mainstream news media to play fair with the issue!

On Monday, we posted a story and alerted Romenesko, after some schmuck (left) at the powerful Chicago Tribune lifted, ripped off and plagiarized Elli Wohlgelernter's sidebar story that we also ran exclusively on August 28th. Joel Greenberg (left) took Elli's translation of the interview with former Major Leaguer and IBL team manager Ken Holtzman, copied it for a September 16th Trib article and claimed it as his own.

What follows is the pudding in which you will find the proof:

In an interview on July 20 with the Israeli Web portal Walla!, Petah Tikva manager and former Major Leaguer Ken Holtzman let loose with a sweeping broadside against the Israel Baseball League, sparing no one.

He criticized the baseball fields: “They would reach the level of high schools in our country”; the teams: “Chosen at random, and in a strange manner”; the Israeli players: “There are no good Israeli players”; the other players: “According to what I can see, none of the players can reach even semi-pro baseball in the United States… the really good player would never come here”; and the Israeli fan: “There is no chance that baseball will succeed in Israel. People here relate to baseball the way people in America relate to soccer. They see it as something very boring, and it will never catch on… you can't make a big impression because there is no culture of baseball, and the facilities are the worse possible."

A season of frustration all came pouring out, and against league organizers as well.

They wanted to make the league work very very quickly,” Holtzman said. “...But they opened the league a year too soon...They should have waited.”
He was much more forthcoming in a July 20 interview with the Israeli Web portal Walla!, in which he lambasted the league and its management for what he described as a series of shortcomings.

The playing fields, he was quoted as saying, "would reach the level of high schools in our country." The teams were "chosen at random and in a strange manner." As for the players, Holtzman said, "none can reach even semipro baseball in the United States."

"There is no chance that baseball will succeed in Israel," Holtzman went on. "People here relate to baseball the way people in America relate to soccer. They see it as something very boring, and it will never catch on. You can't make a big impression because there is no culture of baseball, and the facilities are the worst possible."

Holtzman also heaped criticism on league organizers, whom he accused of rushing into the first year of play without proper preparation on the ground.

"They opened the league a year too soon," he said. "They should have waited."
And by the way, this line from Holtzman's article:
The abrupt departure was one of several glitches in the first season of the Israel Baseball League, which, while generally a success, was plagued by substandard playing fields, payment delays, shortages of some equipment and a lack of impact among native Israelis--
is a recap of Elli's main article. And though that doesn't constitute plagiarism, he sure as shit should have given Our Man credit!

We would have let all this go. But that was before-- thanks to the power of the Tribune corporation-- the Holtzman story is being replayed, repeated and rewritten-- and attributed to the plagiarist Joel Greenberg in places as far flung as AOL Sports, Sports Business Daily, The Sports King and the blogger Shysterball.

Well we say, Screw that! We've given you the evidence. A little work will reveal the extent of the wordthievery. It's time to do your jobs and call em as you see em, media umps!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The long shadow of Our Man Elli

Our Man Elli in Israel caused an international storm last month when, days after the final out of the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League, we first pubished his exposé detailing the mishaps and near-fatal mistakes that included substandard playing and living conditions for the athletes, and failures in marketing the league to Hebrew-speaking Israelis. Perhaps overshadowed amid the controversy was his sidebar piece on the midseason resignation of team manager Ken Holtzman, who had it up-to-there.

Well, maybe we shouldn't say "overshadowed." The Chicago Tribune has run an article, which according to one reader, "takes (Elli's) article and rewrites it with a new quote" and summarizes, without attribution, Elli's bombshell about "several glitches in the first season of the Israel Baseball League, which, while generally a success, was plagued by substandard playing fields, payment delays, shortages of some equipment and a lack of impact among native Israelis."

And they all got mad at us? Hey, Romenesko, here's another one for you to ignore...

In a related story, the following email is circulating among Israel baseball supporters:
This year the expression "Days of Awe" has multiple meanings especially regarding the state of baseball in Israel in general and Tel Aviv in particular. The city of Tel Aviv has decided to take down the only baseball field in Tel Aviv built by the IBL and funded by donations of North Americans who wanted to promote baseball in Israel. While the Mayor of Tel Aviv is making efforts to reverse this decision, he is faced with considerable opposition within the city bureaucracy. We must strengthen his hand if we are to win this battle.

If baseball in Israel is something close to your heart, please help us convince the city of Tel Aviv to reverse their decision. Time is of the essence and the field could be taken down even before Yom Kippur. So please send the letters immediately.

1. Write a letter and fax it (the city of Tel Aviv does not have a public email) to Mayor Ron Huldai. Fax: (011-972) 3 5216597 email copy to (so we can monitor the response).

2. Send this email to all your friends, relatives and acquaintances in North America and Israel to do the same.

Gmar Hatima Tova,

Haim Katz
President Israel Association of Baseball
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Curve Ball! Our Man Elli gets into a new fight

Lest anyone think Our Man Elli in Israel is a one-trick sportswriting muckraker, he’s already set to take new punches in a new arena. While new leads, developments and hate mail pour in, in the aftermath of last week's historic exposé of the first season foibles of the Israel Baseball League, Elli’s taking on all comers in a new story about the pugilistic wonders of the Holy Land.

Elli writes about two up-and-coming pugs who will duke it out with challengers Friday night at the Blue Horizon arena in Philadelphia (that’s a long way from the Western Wall). Junior welterweight Elad Shmouel is 17-1 with eight knockouts, and ranked 225 in the world out of 1,126 junior welterweights. Heavyweight Ran Nakash is 8-0 with five knockouts, and ranked 400 in a world of 1,101 heavyweights.

And this time around, if you think we’re going to piss off half the Jewish journalists in the world by posting the article first (see this week’s Hebrew hullabaloo here), you're meshuga. Go to Israel 21C here for the article. They’ll post it by Friday.

(Meanwhile, the initial hatred of Elli Wohlgelernter because of his audacity to criticize the IBL after its maiden season has mellowed into a grudging respect for his abilities and evenhandness. Our Man Elli’s credentials as a life-long sportswriter were cemented when he became the sports editor for the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, so you can't argue with that.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bounced paychecks! Elli's Israel ball scandal widens

In the words of a great Yogi, “It ain’t over til it’s over,” and in the case of Our Man Elli in Israel’s exposé on the Israel Baseball League’s tumultuous first season, the revelations and shockers just keep on coming.

While worldwide debate rages over the fallout from Elli’s article, and whether Elli is a “killjoy,” dream killer or just a putz who should have been happy to have any kind of baseball in the Promised Land, the latest issue is whether the players who left their home countries to play a season in Israel wil get paid for the effort.

Behind the scenes, there have been many grumble from players. One IBL star player who asked to remain anonymous writes:

”I saved every check that I got this summer from the league, my entire salary, and deposited them the day after I got back from the States. Well, a week later, the checks didn't cash because the league had insufficient funds, so every purchase that I have made since then has needed to come from a loan account which I now need to pay back, plus interest, plus overdraft fees. Can you fucking believe this? The league sent out an email with some bullshit excuse about why they don't have the money.

“Frankly, I don't care why they don't have it. That's not my problem. What is my problem is that I worked for a whole summer and have yet to get paid.”

The player said the league explained the fashla, "something to the effect that an old check from a vendor was wrongfully cashed and wiped out their account. Don't believe that for a second. Haven't they ever heard of accountants who keep track of their business bank accounts? I’m pretty sure that if a HUGE check wasn't cashed for several months someone would know about it. If not, this league is doomed.”

But one high-profile player did go on the record with his complaint.

All-Star infielder Nate Fish, the pride of the Tel Aviv Lightning, writes:

"My last paycheck from the league bounced, which pretty much sucks considering I'm effectively jobless and without a home in NYC right now."

Is this a case of Bialystock and baseball? Elli promises much more to come, as his investigation of the Israel Baseball League continues-- and all this should only add to the importance and drama of the best-selling book that the article will inspire.

And meanwhile, despite the controversy, the reaction to Elli’s article can be summed up by this fan who commented on the article as it appeared in Haaretz:

“Baseball in Israel was a joy to behold. However, all of the criticisms aired in this article are correct. The playing fields were not only poorly constructed, but they were dangerous. At Baptist Village, the children in the summer camp had to be kept far from the fence, because a well-hit ball could have flown over the fence and hurt a child. At Sportek, the fence was covered with spikes making it dangerous for a player to run into it. It is not enough to simply have bases and a pitcher`s mound to play professional ball on a field. The field has to be graded and leveled, it has to have apprioriate grass or artificial turf, and the running track has to be soft enough for cleats to engage the ground. Luckily, there was only one serious injury. BTW, Mr. Cruz could have a legit. lawsuit against the league for negligence resulting in the end of his baseball career. I saw him after his release from hospital, and he probably will have coordination problems for a long time to come.”

(Catch up with all our exclusive postings of Elli Wohlgelernter's Pulitzer-bound coverage of the Israel Baseball League here.)

Los Angeles awakens to Our Man Elli's scoop

The cover story.

Journo world in uproar over our Elli exclusive!

Our Man Elli in Israel not only broke major news with his exposé on the first season of the Israel Baseball League, but in breaking the story here on, he-- and we-- have established something of a landmark in Internet journalism, as our exclusive now "illustrates the complex issues of deadlines, exclusivity, paying and non-paying clients, and whether newspapers and Web sites are separate entities."

Journalist Alan D. Abbey has the article on the Romenesko media news dumpsite this morning.

And that's a story in itself. We at Tabloid Baby have been one of Jim Romenesko's greatest supporters for a decade. But Jim (left), whose page is part of the hoity-toity Poynter journalism institute site, has proven himself to be a journalistic snob by refusing over the years to link to any Tabloid Baby stories, no matter their importance. In fact, he's sent us at least one nasty email, because we have the word "Tabloid" in our name. Romenesko obviously doesn't see our shared connection as media watchdogs, and to the pure roots of journalism that one can't learn in an ivy-covered "j- school."

And he lost out because of it. We'd sent him a link to Elli's story-- a week ago. He ignored it. Now he has the story a week late and a dollar short. Schmuck.

Who's on First? Online/Print Publishing Dilemma

A story that recently made the rounds of Jewish (and non-Jewish) media on the Internet and in print illustrates the complex issues of deadlines, exclusivity, paying and non-paying clients, and whether newspapers and Web sites are separate entities.

The lengthy Aug. 31 Jewish Week article by Elli Wohlgelernter (disclosure: Wohlgelernter is a former colleague and personal friend) concerns the recently completed inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League. It details a number of problems that occurred, including a potentially dangerous incident when a player was struck by a ball, a manager's mid-season departure, sub-standard playing and living conditions for the athletes, and lack of success in marketing the league to Hebrew-speaking Israelis. It also points out how English-speaking "Anglo-Israelis" embraced the project, and how most players enjoyed their experience, despite "bush league" conditions.

The way this story wound itself around the Web, and ruffled feathers of editors, is even more interesting. Wohlgelernter sold the story to four U.S. Jewish newspapers, including the LA Jewish Journal and NY Jewish Week. He worked a "local angle" into as many slightly differing versions as possible, by quoting Jewish and non-Jewish players from the newspapers' home towns.

He was clear up front, and told each paper they would not get an "exclusive." He also gave the story to the blog Tabloid Baby, because of his longstanding relationship with the blog's creator, Burt Kearns (one of the founding producers of the tabloid television business in the 1980s).

Due to an apparent miscommunication based on time zone differences (Wohlgelernter is in Israel, which is seven hours ahead of N.Y. and 10 hours ahead of Calif., where Tabloid Baby is based), the story first appeared on Tabloid Baby (TB) before running on any of the paying clients' sites.

In the way of the web, TB's posting began drawing fiery comments from Israel Baseball League supporters. Even Luke Ford (a rather controversial figure in blogging and Jewish media) linked to it. Ford is well known in L.A., where he once covered the porn industry.

A staff reporter and blogger for the L.A. Jewish Journal commented on the story and linked both to Ford and to TB. This happened before the Journal ran the story. In effect, the Jewish Journal's own blogger scooped the paper.

Later, TB published a PDF of the front page of the New Jersey Jewish News, another paying client, before NJJN posted the story online.

Rob Eshman, editor of the L.A. Jewish Journal and, was miffed, and told Wohlgelernter about it. Wohlgelernter brought the matter to my attention and asked me these questions -- which I am passing on to you, dear readers:

1. Is there a difference between a paying and non-paying customer for a freelance writer? Wohlgelernter says, for one thing, that TB's exposure of his story and previous mentions of his life in Israel have helped his career -- and therefore, have real financial value.

"In my mind," Wohlgelernter said, "there was no issue here whether Tabloid Baby was paying or not. Had he paid for it, Eshman would still have been miffed -- it made no difference. The honest mistake was that I had embargoed the story for TB until the papers that were running it in print had put their respective papers to bed. Kearns got mixed up with the time zones and thought the 5 p.m. embargo time was for the day before."

2. Should he have held off giving the story to TB until all the other paying clients had printed or posted it -- or both?

3. Is there any difference between print and the Web? Should the L.A. paper have waited to publish the story in print before posting online? The "classic" answer is yes -- why should people pay for a newspaper if they can read the articles online for free? However, does that "Web 1.0 answer" remain valid? The L.A. Jewish Journal might have benefitted more from Web traffic had it posted the story online first, since it might then have attracted links from TB, Luke Ford, and others.

"This does raise all sorts of questions, and I don't have the answers," Wohlgelernter said. "I was selling the story to weekly print newspapers, and even there there is a difference in their printing schedule. Should I have discussed and made a deal with all of them regarding online posting schedules? It never occurred to me. But maybe that's something to consider when selling a story to more than one outlet."

4. Does a newspaper which did not pay for an exclusive article have the right to complain when it gets "scooped"? TB's scoop was intended to be minutes ahead of the others -- not a full day, as occurred.

Many papers, not just small Jewish weeklies, are struggling with Web/print issues. This incident also poses the question of free v. paid for writers, as well. These issues will persist long after the last grass stains are washed from the knees of Israel Baseball League uniforms.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Exclusive! Our Man Elli & the IBL: An editor speaks

Esteemed, award-winning newspaper editor Andrew Silow-Carroll ran Elli Wohlgelernter's explosive article on the first season of the Israel Baseball League as the cover story in the New Jersey Jewish News. Amid the international debate over Our Man Elli's revelations, Silow-Carroll (left) sent Elli this note:

I think it was a good, tough, ultimately constructive story that lays out a nice road map for anybody trying to launch a start-up in Israel-– and I think it leaves readers with a sense of a responsive management willing to learn from its mistakes... Your article was closer to a good Wall Street Journal piece that lays out the drama and gives space for all sides to put it into perspective. Kol hakavod*, and thanks.
(*Kol hakavod (kohl hah-kah-vohd; Literally: "All of the respect"): All right, way to go, or a job well done.)

Looking back at Our Man Elli's dreams for Israel

Elli Wohlgelernter, Tabloid Baby's Man in Israel, is at the center of a worldwide storm over his muckraking report on the near-fatal flaws of the Israel Baseball League's first season. And it was while gathering the latest crop of reaction that one of our staffers reminded us that Elli is no Yossi-come-lately to the Israel Baseball League story. As a print and television reporter, he'd been covering the countdown to the IBL for a year before Opening Day, wrote a curtain raiser for the New York Times in June and, back in March, penned an eager preview of the IBL.

Look again at an essay that reflects all the hopes and idealism of a kid who saw his first baseball game at Yankee Stadium in 1962:

Sliding Home

It's a long season, and you gotta trust it. I've tried them all,
I really have. And the only shul that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out,
is the shul of baseball.

- with apologies to Annie Savoy
"What do you miss most?"

That's the question immigrants to Israel get asked more than any other. Sometimes it elicits serious answers, sometimes personal ones. Of course everyone misses their family and friends left behind, that's a given. And sometimes what we miss most is a simple food we crave, or some product that is impossible to find in Israel, but which would make our daily lives easier.

Me, I always give the same answer.


Sure, I miss my family and friends, and pizza here is never going to be as good as it is in New York. And though I may not see my family and friends as much as I'd like, phone calls and emails keep us well connected.

But baseball is different. Baseball, for serious fans, takes on a relationship more akin to that of a husband and wife. Spouses communicate every day, even from a distance, even if only for a few minutes. The definition of that relationship - a relationship based on passion - demands no less.

So too in baseball. Baseball, like marriage, is nothing without intimacy. Sure, I can read what my favorite Yankees did over the last two weeks, how many games they won or lost, and see highlights on the Internet. But that is just passive knowledge and information, crucial though it is, and videos only highlight how far away I am. It never satisfies the emotional need, never quenches the thirst of passion. For that you need a constant, daily narrative that you can see, hear and smell.

Now we'll have it.

On June 24, the first-ever professional baseball game in Israel will be played at Kibbutz Gezer, between the Petah Tikva Pioneers and the Modi'in Miracle. The six-team league also includes the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Netanya Tigers, Ra'anana Express and Tel Aviv Lightning. Each club will play 45 regular-season games, a schedule comparable to that of the low minor leagues.

The games will be played at three sites: Tel Aviv and Netanya teams will play at Sportek in Tel Aviv. Ra'anana and Petah Tikvah will share a field at the Yarkon Sports Complex, while Kibbutz Gezer will host the Modi'in and Bet Shemesh teams.

Eighty players have already been signed, from eight countries including the Dominican Republic, Australia, Venezuela, and the United States. A trio of retired Jewish major leaguers will manage three of the teams - former pitcher Ken Holtzman, outfielder Art Shamsky and baseball's first designated hitter, Ron Blomberg. The league's first commissioner is Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel, and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is on the board of advisors.

Even with that pedigree the detractors are already lining up to scoff, confident in their criticism that declares the venture - the brainstorm of one Larry Baras, Boston businessman and visionary extraordinaire - this century's version of Fulton's Folly. How can it succeed, they laugh, in a country already saturated with soccer and basketball? Who's gonna care enough to come to a game, besides a few dozen Anglos? And how can a home run compete with the excitement of a goal or a basket for an Israeli?

For those who follow baseball, who understand baseball, such doubters are to be pitied. While it is easy to understand their lack of faith in a Baras, or a Dan Duquette - the man in charge of player development - it is difficult to fathom their lack of faith in the very game itself.

That baseball was never, heretofore, an integral part of the fabric of Israeli culture is hardly a reflection on the sport itself. Baseball will succeed here, first and foremost, because it's the greatest game in the world. But it will also succeed because Israelis, like Americans, are great sports fans, as passionate about athletics as they are about everything that has meaning in their lives. In due time, Israelis too will come to understand the game, the rich nuances and subtleties that make it so interesting to millions of Americans.

Yes, of course building baseball in Israel is a long-term project. Duquette understands that better than anyone. Having once been in charge of player development for the Montreal Expos, Duquette took on a similar challenge going up against Canada's national religion, hockey. And from the ground up, he built an infrastructure and a system that was able to discover, recruit, and further develop Canadian baseball players.

It took a while, but then it happened: On March 8, 2006, Team Canada beat the powerhouse Team USA, 8-6, in the World Baseball Classic. Canadian baseball was on the map. To say that Israelis are less athletically inclined, incapable of playing and eventually competing on that level, is an insult, and simply foolish. A dozen Israelis have already been signed to the league, a number that is sure to grow as the country is more exposed to the sport.

One other thing: Everyone understands that ballplayers on the major league level are supremely talented, and a joy to watch. True enough. But for those who think minor league baseball is not that good, not the real thing, know this: those players underneath the Major Leagues at the AAA, AA, and A level are no less talented then the big boys. There is, in fact, only one difference between those in Single-A and those in the Major Leagues: consistency.

I spent the summer of 1983 covering minor league baseball, the Utica Blue Sox, in the New York-Penn League. They weren't just a single-A team, they were an independent team, which meant that no other ballclub had wanted any of the players. Castoffs, you say? Let me tell you, they weren't just good, they were great. I saw guys make plays that today would be on SportsCenter every night. The raw talent was breathtaking.

And now that's coming here. Baseball in Israel. I will get to see professional players up close, watch them show off that incredible talent, and follow their stories for 10 weeks, right here in my backyard. I'll still follow the Yankees, of course, but now I can follow a local team as well - the Blue Sox again, this time in Bet Shemesh. And my immigration will have become complete.

Israel Baseball League founder ignores Elli's exposé

Our Man Elli in Israel's no-holds-barred report on the potentially-fatal failures of the just-completed first season of the Israel Baseball League has reverberated around the world. As it is reposted and published in various forms online and in newspapers, there has been outrage from diehard fans of baseball and Israel-- and praise from observers like this Tabloid Baby commenter:

"Elli has just 'scratched the surface' of the problems with the IBL. The IBL is intended as a profit making enterprise and the positive spin is also designed to attract investors. Many of the issues have nothing to do with 'typical start-up' problems but have to do with a lack of experience, common sense, and professionalism of management-- regardless of good intentions."

So what impact has the expose had on the ones who ran the league long-distance from the east coast of the United States? Elli's article and sidebar debuted on this site on Tuesday. This weekend, league founder Larry Baras sent out an urgent post to supporters, investors and subscribers.

"A Message from the Founder Larry Baras" doesn't refute a single word in Elli Wohlgelernter's exposé. In fact, Mr. Baras' message makes no reference at all to the story that laid out the mistakes and was full of warnings for the future:
A Message from Larry Baras
Greetings once again.

It is so hard to believe that the first season is now in the books. We have already held our first tryouts for next season and have already selected five new players to join us next year. We hit the ground running upon our return from Israel and look forward to improving upon what we accomplished this past year.

This missive is meant to be a note of thanks to those who contributed so much to the launch of the IBL. But I find myself re-writing it over and over again, trying to find the right words, hoping not to omit anybody. It is proving to be impossible. How do you sufficiently show appreciation to people who worked doggedly day after day, week after week, at little or no pay, to make this all happen? You just can’t.

This union of two distinct concepts – Baseball and Israel – is one that has been resonating for over a year now. I have been trying to make sense of it all, and now that I have personally witnessed a whole season unfold, interacting with fans and meeting with players, I think I finally have gotten it.

Last summer in Israel, it was the Summer of the Lebanese War. The summer before that was the Summer of the Disengagement. In the three summers before that, it was the Summer of the Intifada.

For the baseball fraternity, it has also been a period of turmoil, dominated by Barry Bonds’ quest for home run supremacy under the cloud of steroid abuse. The game has become as much a business as it is a sport in many ways, with ticket prices often serving as a barrier to entry for the most avid fans.

What Baseball in Israel became was a return to innocence and idealism for both Israel and for Baseball. If you were lucky enough to go to a game, especially at the magical Gezer Field in Kibbutz Gezer, what you experienced was a throwback to earlier times for both baseball and Israel. Parents were there with their kids, explaining the game or sharing the nuances. Once a week, I noticed two men well into their twilight years, sitting together and watching the games, clearly reminiscing about times and players past. They probably hadn’t seen a ballgame in 40 years. You saw kids gawking at their new role models -- sports heroes resplendent in their uniforms, displaying physical prowess the likes of which dreams are made.

There is a popular phrase in Hebrew that has become the refrain for many different tunes. Hineh Ma Tov Uma Naim, Shevet Achim Gam Yachad. How good and sweet it is, brothers sitting together. That wistful phrase became personified at the baseball field in Israel. Grandparents and grandchildren, Americans and Israelis, religious and secular, men and women…it didn’t really matter. Everyone was there as one community, regaling in the splendor of baseball being played in Israel.

Thanks to everyone -- those who worked tirelessly, those who played the games, those who watched, those who cheered from afar. You made this summer the Summer of Baseball in Israel. It was good and it was sweet.
Stay tuned for more exclusive coverage of the Israel Baseball League fallout here. And send your comments to the founder Larry Baras at