Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cream cheese-filled Israel Baseball Bagelgate! Investigation shows IBL founder Larry Baras' greatest "invention" was invented by someone else!

“A filled bagel dough product has a hollow spherical shell filled with cream cheese. The dough is formed into an open ball, which is sealed after insertion of a scoop of cream cheese. The filled ball is steamed to skin outer and inner crusts, then baked to provide a dense crumb. The resulting product is freezable for long shelf-life.”
---Abstract from U.S. Patent #5514395,
“Filled bagel dough product and method,”
awarded to Alvin Burger of Miami, Florida

Larry Baras. Baseball, Baras. Baras, bagels. Bagels, Baras… Any thanks due Boston businessman for bringing the American dream of professional baseball to Israel in the Summer of 2007 have been overshadowed by shouts that he be spanked for messing up and leaving behind a million dollars in debts and an uncertain future like some kind of sporting Max Bialystock. But even after Our Man Elli in Israel's reporting brought down his house of baseball cards, one thing you couldn’t take away from the guy was the fact that he invented something no Jew would have imagined possible: a bagel with a schmear you could eat in the car without having the cream cheese schplutz out and schplat onto your lap.

The Unholey Bagel (such a name!), inspired by the jelly donut and first marketed in 1997 by Larry’s SJR Foods, inspired a dream of another kind: Natalie Blacher’s dream to market through Larry’s innovative blintzlike bagel around the world. To those ends, she says she invested $275,000 in the Unholey dream-- only to wind up suing Larry Baras-- now known as “Boston bagel baron Baras”-- in federal court for securities fraud complaining that he used her money on personal expenses and setting up his big deal league.

And now— oy, the pain!— mega giant conglomerate Kraft Foods comes out with its new substance-filled Bagel-er bagel-like sticks! And with it comes a real pickle: evidence that Larry Baras did not invent the cream cheese-filled bagel after all.

A story posted yesterday on the blogsite So Good (“an absurd look at the world of food”) contends:

“…The ‘Unholey Bagel’… was released by SJR foods in 1997. Larry Baras is credited as the inventor by some sources.

"However, A U.S. Patent for the idea of a cream cheese filled bagel was issued on May 7, 1996 to a man named Alvin Burger. It is unclear what Burger’s involvement with the ‘Unholey Bagel’ is, but he was working to patent the idea around the same time, after he lost the rights to a product he invented called the ‘Bagel Ball’ while he was the owner of Roasters & Toasters.

“Alvin Burger holds a U.S. patent not just for the idea of a bagel pre-filled with cream cheese, but for the boiling process, steaming process and forming process involved in making it. He is also credited with founding Al’s Famous Filled Bagels, and for creating Bagel sticks and New Orleans style bagel sticks.”

And looking back, our team finds a trail of factoids and obvious clues that some in the mainstream media and businessworld overlooked. For instance, The Boston Business Journal reported on January 24, 1997:

"One year ago, Larry Baras had a business epiphany.

"'I used to have to eat in the car. So one morning, I went to Dunkin' Donuts for a bagel and cream cheese.

"'As I was driving around, I opened the bag to find an unsliced bagel, a plastic knife that couldn't cut much of anything, a tube of cream cheese and a napkin. So I tried to cope and put the cream cheese on the bagel while I was driving. Eventually, the cream cheese ended up all over my suit and the car upholstery. And then I thought, "There's got to be a better way."

"From that point on, Baras was on a culinary mission: Make the world's first bagels with preinstalled cream cheese and sell them. Lots of them."

A USA Today article from March 5, 1997 that’s posted on Baras’ SJR Foods site reads in part:

"Can you teach an old bagel new tricks?

"Larry Baras thinks so.

"He has created the UnHoley Bagel, which not only has no hole but also comes pre-filled with cream cheese.

"The 44-year-old Boston-based financial planner frequently found himself eating one on the run, which usually meant grabbing a bagel and cream cheese at a convenience store. But he often ended up with more cheese on his tie and the steering wheel than on the bagel.

"`They call it a convenience food, but I knew there had to be a better way.'

"So Baras, riding a boom in the $2.6 million bagel business, worked with a local Boston-area bakery to develop a bagel that could be pumped full of cream cheese after baking."

But midway between those two publications, on February 28, 1997, The South Florida Business Journal came out with an article that made it clear Baras was no (Alexander Graham) Bell of the bagel— though his claim of a brand new thing apparently “rang a bell”:

“…If the Unholey Bagel rings a bell with Miamians, it's because the concept is strikingly familiar to that of the Bagel Ball-- a ball-shaped bagel with cream-cheese baked into the middle that has been served for years at Suniland's Roasters & Toasters restaurant.

"Alvin Burger, a former Roasters & Toasters owner who invented the Bagel Ball… who lost most of his rights to Bagel Ball royalties after litigation with a former business partner, has been busy since then inventing two similar products: a creamcheese-filled bagel 'stick,' and a normal-looking bagel with the cream cheese baked inside."

So Larry Baras didn’t even invent the cream cheese-filled bagel? It was actually invented in the same place where Natalie Blacher lived around the same time Baras claimed to have come up with the bagel brainstorm? Say it ain't so, Schmoe! What’s next? An admission that there won’t be a second season of the IBL?

Hey, how about a Broadway show?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Israel Baseball: Our readers go to bat

We’ve given up on figuring out the blogsites suddenly spurting out overly-optimistic and even blind-to-reality spinposts about the Israel Baseball League in and around the IBL’s own surprise resurgence of spin. It appears that sites like The Bleacher Report simply regurgitate press releases, while blogs like Japan’s My World of Baseball are merely six months behind the ball, definitely overlooked our most recent report from Our Man Elli in Israel or are no more than rubber bouncing boards of other people’s propaganda, as in this latest curveball in its talk of the World Baseball Classic:

"…In 2013 it has been announced that the World Baseball Classic will be expanded to 24 teams. This would accommodate teams in countries that baseball is growing such as Israel, which announced the opening day of its second season for June 22. If the Israeli Baseball league can survive their financial struggles they would be a team added along with probably two additional teams from Europe. Two teams in Europe would allow a first round matchup to be played there. "

If the Israeli Baseball League can survive their financial struggles?”


See what we're up against? As it turns out, four days away from the drop-dead deadline for someone to get plans for a professional baseball summer season locked down, the most sensible responses and suggestions about come from the readers of this site (the clearinghouse for Israel baseball news, and thanks to the reportage and hard work of Our Man Elli, the definitive, first source and site-of-record).

"Let's please note the good and bad
so we get a complete picture
of the league as it was."

Some readers took umbrage at our snide—and probably unjust-- dismissal of IBL players who’ve signed to other, better-respected pro leagues:

Anonymous said...

Come on now! Let's be real here. You make it sound like none of these guys have any talent, and the entire thing is a joke. LET'S GET SERIOUS AND GO DOWN THE LIST BEFORE YOU START RIPPING ON THE PLAYERS!

You don't mention Maximo Nelson who got 6 figures to play in Japan for their league champion!

Juan Feliciano was offered AAA contracts by three teams, and turned them down for more $$$ in Mexico.

The Yankees don't just throw away money (except on A-Rod), Reese and Rodriguez were signed because they can help the organization, and have the tools to succeed. Publicity Stunt my a$$!

By the way, have you looked at the rosters of the teams Feliciano and Rodriguez played on this winter in the Dominican? 10 major league players, and 16 at AAA. Is that a publicity stunt also?

The players struggling in the minors are playing for Independent league teams - the equal to AA -AAA in the afiliated minor leagues. These guys do get signed directly to major league rosters, and they are available to ANY major league team!

How many players do you think get invites to spring training? Everyone knows someone, and if everyone got a gift invitation, there would be 100 invites at every camp.

I say kudos to Dan Duquette - at least someone was doing their job!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the person above.
 There was lots of talent in the IBL. The problem was, its difficult to see talent when your players are food-poisoned, forced into summer camp living conditions, play in 90˚ heat with high humidity at mid-day, and play on fields that represent...well, nothing comes to mind to explain how bad it was playing in Gezer and Sportek.
 I'm sure that 'Tabloid Baby' doesn't have any baseball experience ever, so it's easy to criticize when his view of baseball is following Sportscenter, but the truth is that the starting lineups, and many of the pitchers, were all-conference at every level of college, and have played minor leagues, meaning that people with baseball knowledge saw these players as near the top of the game, enough to invest in them.

If you put random MLB players in the IBL, they would have similar season statistics, because most would detest the horrendous situation. The Players of the IBL deserve to be applauded for overcoming the shortcomings of the IBL Brass (and officials) to have provided an entertaining season.

Thanks guys, and thanks TabloidBaby for providing us with the updates (even if they are full of barely stomach-able cynicism) :-)

Anonymous said...

The IBL HAS provided others than are even mentioned in Duquette's note with the chance to continue in baseball. I noticed on the web that Ra'anana infielder Brendan Rubenstein has been signed to play in the Frontier League for this year. Give credit where credit is due, a fair number of the stronger players HAVE gotten the exposure to continue their quest to move up the baseball ladder because there was an IBL. The financial and moral problems of the league have been well documented and are all too real, but there was some good that was produced also. Let's please note the good and bad so we get a complete picture of the league as it was.

"For baseball to succeed in Israel,
you need good, solid baseball players
who can relate to the fan base
and can promote the game."

Others debated how a successor to the IBL would best serve their own interests, the interest of the sport, and the interest of the fans in Israel:

Seth said...

Everybody here is missing the point. Everyone wants to talk about how great the players were, and how amazing it is that they're getting exposure and new contracts in other professional baseball leagues. Mazel tov to them, whoopee.

The bottom line is: NOBODY IN ISRAEL CARES. For baseball to succeed in Israel, you don't need AAA players. You don't need players from 8 countries or whatever. You don't need 90-mph fastballs and knee-buckling curves.

What you DO need is good, solid baseball players who can relate to the fan base, and can promote the game. No kid from Tel Aviv can tell the difference between a single-A and a double-A quality player. He doesn't give a damn whether the pitch is going 92-mph or 82-mph, or probably even 72-mph. What he can do is tell the difference between someone who speaks his language (or makes an effort to communicate in some form or another) and a bunch of randoms who are trying to showcase their talents for leagues abroad.

As long as Duquette thinks the IBL "will be the league of choice for international players," this league is doomed. I hope Rosen realizes that he needs more Israelis and less foreigners. He needs more personality and less unpredictability. And most of all, he needs a freaking Marketing major to explain to him that Israel is not America, and that he should approach this league like a not-for-profit organization, at least for the first few years.

Best of luck. Sure hope somebody's reading this.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree with you more. You don't think that you need high level talent to succeed? Why has there been a 30% increase in enrollment in youth baseball since last season. You think that kids won't notice the 41 year old center fielder who keeps dropping the ball and can't run anymore, or the 3rd baseman who throws every other ball into the bleachers and bats .097, or the pitcher that walks 10 and strikes out 1.

Having international players is important. The game is international, and the Israeli players need to see that there are options and opportunities in other contries. How many Israeli kids know that they play baseball in Canada, Australia, Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, France... It's not just an American game. Did the kids cheer less loudly for the Dominicans, than the Americans? It's also a chance to meet players from a different culture, and get over the fear and distrust many of the children as well as the adults have of anything foreign.

Yeah, you do need good solid baseball players. Baseball games can take 4 hrs when you have pitchers who don't throw strikes, and hitters that can't hit a ball over a fence, and runners who trip over the bag, and 7 errors every game. Do you think any kid will stay and watch that?

I live in the US, and I sure know the difference between a good and a bad soccer team, and I hate soccer! I'd watch a National team, but sure as heck won't watch a DIII soccer game. Kids are a lot smarter than you think, and they watch ESPN even in Israel and have some understanding of the difference between good and bad baseball.

I'm not in total disagreement though. Having Israeli players is important, and there should be a minimum, which should be increased each year up to at least 50%, but more important is every team should have an Israeli assistant coach to really learn the game so they can teach the game properly when the season ends. We need players to help run clinics, and players who care enough to participate, and communicate with the children. We need Israeli coaches to take part in the clinics, as well as some of the local HS aged players. Most of all you need time and patience, because the game will catch on, just as basketball did, and soccer has in the US.

By the way, Our Man Elli’s description of Boston bagel baron Larry Baras as “The Wizard of Iz” in last week’s interview was shorthand for “The Wizard of Israel”-- a reference to “the Wizard of Oz,” who as generations know, was not really a wizard at all, just a man behind a curtain.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Our Man Elli: Israel baseball deadline near

This just in:

* The Israel Professional Baseball League has canceled
its scheduled February 24th tryouts in Florida.

* The IPBL has lined up playing fields and
player accommodations for a 2008 season.

* Governing body, The Israeli Association of Baseball,
has not decided if it will license the IPBL.

* March 1st is the "drop dead date" for a decision
that will allow professional baseball in Israel in 2008.

* The IAB's president says, “Tabloid Baby will not
determine when the process will be finished!”

We learned that and more when we debriefed Our Man Elli in Israel this afternoon:

Tabloid Baby: So. Bring us up to date.

Our Man Elli: No hello?

Hello. So, what's new with the Israel baseball? Will Robin’s boy Itai get to sit in the bleachers this summer?

I saw your item on the blog from the woman from Tel Aviv. It’s a nice site. The Internet brings the world together, doesn’t it?

What about all those IBL postings that showed up on various sites this past week—

And then the IBL puts out its first press release since the first week of January. Bizarre.

So who’s spinning it?

Everybody’s spinning. The spinning never ends. You know that better than anyone else.

What’s that supposed to mean?

It means I thought you wanted a status report.

Right. What’s new with baseball in Israel?



It’s on hold. We’re on hold. That's the official position. One source told me, and I quote, "We've heard that Jeff Rosen's group remains interested in proceeding for 2008 and is hoping the IAB”—that’s the Israel Association of Baseball—“relents in not requiring that 2007 obligations be settled as part of a licensing arrangement. I don't believe any final decisions have been made."

The IAB governs baseball in Israel and they want any new league to pay the debts left behind by the IBL.

Right. Another source said, quoting again, "I heard a rumour”—a rumour, mind you—

A fourth-hand rumour now.

“--a rumor that that IAB will sanction Jeff Rosen’s group."

That’s the Israel Professional Baseball League. The renegades.

I wouldn't say "renegades. "Upstarts," maybe. Anyway, I took the Rosen rumour to the IAB's president (Haim Katz) a couple of days ago, and I asked whether there would be baseball this summer, or whether he is planning on sanctioning the IPBL. And he wouldn’t give me a straight answer.

What did he say?

He hemmed. And then he hawed. I asked him when the IAB will decide if it will sanction the IPBL, and said, quote, "When the time is right, there will be an announcement. If there’s something to do, then we’ll say something. As of today we have not sanctioned anybody yet. There’s a whole process going on, and we’re continuing with this process. Nothing’s ripe enough to go public. We'll come out with a statement as soon as possible. As soon as we have some certainty as to what will be happening with baseball this summer, then we will come out with a statement. At this stage, I can’t come out with a statement as to what will be happening."

Hemming and hawing.

Right. There were a few more variations on that theme. My favorite was: "Tabloid Baby will not determine when the process will be finished."


He said that twice. And I’d never even mentioned Tabloid Baby. Which is a great compliment to your site. Tabloid Baby is recognized as the source for news on baseball in Israel.

Everyone thinks you’re Tabloid Baby.

That, unfortunately, is not a compliment.

Anything else with Katz?

I asked him about a rumor that Larry Baras and the IBL were going to sue the IAB if they didn't sanction them to play in the summer of ’08 because of the agreement they signed before last season. Katz said, "I know nothing of any lawsuit if we don’t sanction them."

I also asked about the IBL’s million dollar debt, including $420,000 in Israel, and whether the IAB would push the IPBL to pay off that debt before sanctioning them. No answer. But Katz did say that "The debts of the IBL are the IBL's, not the IAB's."

Bottom line. Any chance of a 2008 season?

It's February 21st. The summer draws near. It is nearly too late. But we will know for sure by the end of next week. March 1st. I do know that the IPBL has been working on the ground in Israel. They’ve found playing fields and housing for the players.

But if they get the sanction to play baseball, they can expect the supporters of the IBL to try and spread dirt about Rosen, as they’ve already done with comments on this site, like about the baby who who died after swallowing tiny magnets that fell out of toys made by a company once owned by Rosen.

Magnetix. We covered that back in November.

That's why this is the site of record.

The IPBL is set to hold tryouts at the end of this week. What do you know about that?

No one tells me anything, at least on the record. But I have found out that the tryouts scheduled for this Sunday have been canceled. One source says, quote, “It was too rushed.” As it now stands, they've pushed back the tryouts to April 6th. And truth be told, of all the details needed to get the league up and running, procuring players is the least problematic of them all. Players are to be found all over, even good ones.

But the IPBL did run into one hitch. Seems a lot of the IBL players from last summer want to return to Israel to play ball, but they don't want to try out.

That sounds fair, no?

Yeah. Frankly, for all what the players went through, there should be an automatic bye for all IBL alumni. Not that all of them were such great players, but when all is said and done, the players are the backbone, and those players deserve that gratuity.

Even the competitive eater Feingold, and "Mr. .097," Holtz.


You were off praying at the time when we posted the story about Henry Waxman and the possible Congressional hearings into the IBL.

Give me a break.


First of all, don't knock religion, you goy. I was praying for the truth about how much money Larry Baras took in, how much was paid off and where the difference went. As for the Waxman story, you guys in the home office have a good sense of humor.

We’re in his district.

Well we have something in common, then. We’re both represented by Jews.

We have sources, too.

Next question.

Back to those bloggers suddenly writing about the IBL, all of a sudden giving Baras the benefit of the doubt. What’s up with that?

Look, Larry Baras is a master spinmeister.

A bullshitter?

He's the Wizard of Iz. I gotta tell you, in the two years that I've been covering this story, what has surprised me most is that no matter what’s been said and written about Larry Baras, his ability to charm people and make them believe in him has overridden everything he's done, everything he's been accused of doing, every fact exposed about his operation, and every question about his business ethics and practices. He’s lied to people and there’s still been no accounting of any of the money he raised, and no accounting of where it was spent.

Even players who haven’t been paid parrot the line of, "It was a start-up league, people make mistakes, cut him some slack, I'm sure we'll get paid." The last pitch was thrown August 19th. It’s six months later, and not only the players but many, many others have not been paid. Yet the apologists continue to defend him. That, I find to be incredible.

The so-called “mainstream media” hasn’t exactly done its due diligence.

The media, like everyone else, got suckered in, waxing poetic about the dream of baseball in Israel for months and months before the IBL season began, and then dropping the story. Except That Putz Greenberg, who revisited it when he stole my translated story. But the media pack will be back in the spring, asking questions that have been answered here for the last six months. I already hear the strains of "Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?"

That’s because we’re singing it. “Do you, Mr. Chass? Do you, Mr. Greenberg?” Anything else?

One interesting story emerged today. Major League Baseball has announced the field for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. And it's the same 16-team field they had in 2005. In other words, Israel wasn't added on. And that raises the question of whether Larry Baras killed Israel's chances of making it into the WBC.

Wasn’t that one of the goals of the IBL?

That’s what he was talking about two years ago. But when MLB pulled out of the IBL in November, like the rest of The IBL 10, it pretty much put a kabosh on any possibility that Israel would field. How could Bud Selig take a chance of sullying his name, and that of the MLB, by tying in with the IBL?

Elli, before we hang up, we want to take this time to say this about all the work you’ve done.

Quite seriously, we just want to say-- Whoops. We cut off, just like the latest IBL press release.



Israel Baseball spin leads back to IBL website

We told you something was up. That rosy spin of the Israel Baseball League that’s suddenly been churning from blogsites around the world is now spinning furiously on the IBL website itself. After lying dormant for weeks (and still advertising player tryouts on December 23, 2007), the IBL site has unexpectedly been updated with a self-congratulatory press release that puts a history-revising spin on the league’s first season and gives a hardy pat on the back to director of baseball operations Dan Duquette:

IBL Player signings with Pro Clubs
02/20/2008 3:43 PM

IBL Players Signed by MLB and International Pro Leagues

The Israel Baseball League is pleased to announce that eight of its players who starred this past summer in the inaugural IBL season have now been given the opportunity to advance their baseball careers and pursue their dreams. Thanks in no small measure to the efforts of Dan Duquette, the IBL’s Director of Baseball Operations, these players came to the attention of professional teams across the globe and has led to signings and invitations by Major League teams and teams in other premier global professional leagues.

“One of our stated goals has been to become the 'Go To' league for the international player. It isn’t easy to establish credibility on the professional level, so it is extremely heartening to see the opportunities that have presented themselves to our players after just our first year of play," Mr. Duquette said."

Duquette is a former Major League Baseball front office exec who runs a sports camp in Massachusetts. He’s best known as a former general manager of the Boston Red Sox who was ridiculed for releasing pitcher Roger Clemens from his contract in 1996 in the “twilight” of a career that saw its greatest success in the decade to follow. But the recent steroid allegations against Clemens have put Duquette back in the spotlight, and recast him as something of a sage.

This IBL press release continues the rehabilitation of Duquette’s reputation, at a time when there’s speculation that he would soon join IBL commissioner Dan Kurtzer and its advisory board and skedaddle as far as possible from embattled fellow Bay Stater and Boston bagel baron Larry Baras. And though it's clearly intended to praise to Duquette for his efforts and keen instincts, a closer look at the players listed shows that the “spin” cycle is in motion. Two have been invited to try out for Duquette’s former employers the Red Sox; two were signed to the New York Yankees organization— a move that at time of the announcement was seen by many as a publicity stunt by IBL advisory board members connected to the club; two more are struggling in minor leagues; and another is in Mexico.

The question now is whether this apparently concerted IBL spin campaign is intended to salvage reputations or in hopes of actually moving forward with a new season sometime in the future.

Another question is whether the press release was dashed off during a document-shredding session, for it ends mid-sentence:

In addition to the eight players listed above, several Israeli players are planning to extend their baseball careers by playing college ball this coming season in the .


The complete press release from the Israel Baseball League website:

IBL Player signings with Pro Clubs
02/20/2008 3:43 PM

IBL Players Signed by MLB and International Pro Leagues

The Israel Baseball League is pleased to announce that eight of its players who starred this past summer in the inaugural IBL season have now been given the opportunity to advance their baseball careers and pursue their dreams. Thanks in no small measure to the efforts of Dan Duquette, the IBL’s Director of Baseball Operations, these players came to the attention of professional teams across the globe and has led to signings and invitations by Major League teams and teams in other premier global professional leagues.

“One of our stated goals has been to become the “Go To” league for the international player. It isn’t easy to establish credibility on the professional level, so it is extremely heartening to see the opportunities that have presented themselves to our players after just our first year of play,” Mr. Duquette said.

The eight players are:

Eladio Rodriguez, who was signed by the New York Yankees
Jason Rees, who also was signed by the New York Yankees
Maximo Nelson, who signed with the Japanese champions Chunichi Dragons
Juan Feliciano, who turned down AAA offers from the Nationals, Astros and Pirates to sign with the Sultanes de Monterrey of the Mexican League
Rafael Bergstrom, who signed and played with the Bridgeport Bluefish (Atlantic League)
Jason Benson, who signed and played with the Newark Bears (Atlantic League)
Josh Doane, who has been invited to spring training to try out for the Boston Red Sox
Noah Walker, who has also been invited to spring training to try out for the Boston Red Sox

The IBL had many objectives when it was launched. It particularly wanted to provide its players with a great experience while in while also showcasing their skills so that they could continue their career pursuits. Dan Duquette has been active during the off-season promoting the league’s players.

Feliciano, who starred this past season with the IBL champs Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, joined the Dominican League once the IBL season was over, becoming a key player as his team, the Aguilas Cibeanas, won the coveted Dominican League title. Nelson took advantage of the great season he had with the Modi’in Miracle to land a six-figure contract with the Chunichi Dragons, winner of the 2007 Japan Series.

In addition to the eight players listed above, several Israeli players are planning to extend their baseball careers by playing college ball this coming season in the .

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another day, another Israel Baseball blog post

Okay, you explain it to us. All of a sudden, "from out of nowhere," personal and homegrown blogsites from around the world are making mention of the Israel Baseball League and its troubles. As we've shown in past days, sites like Carry On, Citizens, The Bleacher Report, and My World of Baseball have checked in with various levels of spin and optimism about a league and dream that have been crushed under the weight of greed, mismanagement and debt.

Yet none is as straightforward as this selection from a post today on Around The Island-- "No, not a tropical island (wouldn't that be nice...). My kitchen island, where my life happens"--("musings from a WAH mother of 2, loving and working just outside of Tel Aviv"), a site from a NY expat named Robin:

"What's the deal with an Israeli baseball team? We had a professional league (the Israel Baseball League) for the first time last summer! I even took Itai to a game (think slightly better than high school baseball and much more relaxed) but there were some financial scandals and I don't know if they're going to return for a second season. He'll be terribly disappointed if they don't. (By the way, the (very small) crowd at the game was almost entirely American. It was a real taste of home.)"

Robin's take on the game shows how all the shenanigans affected the most important component of any baseball league: the kids in the bleachers, and almost makes us look beyond the question of why all these IBL posts are showing up with the frequency of faintings at Obama rallies and they reflect only partial-- or selective-- knowledge of the facts unearthed in the reportage of Our Man Elli in Israel-- all of which first appear on

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Who's spinning the IBL so late in the game?

Yes! Something is afoot when it comes to the Israel Baseball League. News can't travel that slowly, can it? Really, they’re can’t be that many Pollyannas with websites out there posting naïve wishes for success close to a month after we reported that the IBL has lost its license to play, through all these weeks of our reportage about the big meeting at which the bigwigs attempted to pull something out of the ashes, and the same week we find that some people are pushing for a Congressional investigation, however unlikely, to trace where the IBL money went.

But again, in the days after similar spinmeistered material showed up on sports sites including Carry On, Citizens and The Bleacher Report, we again awaken to another wishful, hopeful post, this time from a site, apparently based in Japan, called My World of Baseball, that says, a few weeks too late:

“Israel Baseball Faces Uphill Battle for Second Season.”

The post cites coverage from the International Herald Tribune and Miami Herald in November, stories that followed and copied Our Man Elli in Israel’s exclusive reportage, and observes that “while the league did finish its first season it did encounter financial difficulties, and concluded that “it appears the eyes of Larry Baras to promote baseball in Israel was larger than what his pocket book could handle.

"For the growth of baseball, it would be nice if the league could survive its second season, but economic realities and financial obligations may make that a challenge."

Say what? “Israel Baseball Faces Uphill Battle” seems to be the latest in an effort to cast Larry Baras and his IBL team in the most favorable unquestioning, light-- and to rewrite history before event coverage even reaches the archives. It’s too bizarre and self-serving to reprint in its entirety, so you can link to it here, and if you’ve got the stomach for it, use your email to set them straight.

Meanwhile the questions are: Why?, Why now? and Who?

(Be sure to visit Baseball in Israel, the archive site for all our coverage of professional baseball in Israel.)

Monday, February 18, 2008


The chairman of the US Congressional hearing into steroid use by Major League pitching superstar Roger Clemens may be turning his committee’s attention to Boston businessman Larry Baras and how he channeled funds raised in the United States that were earmarked for the Israel Baseball League but remain unaccounted for.

Tabloid Baby has learned exclusively that Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California’s 30th District, the target of criticism for using the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to focus on Clemens— and who reportedly expressed regret for doing so— is being urged to continue on the baseball trail to investigate how Baras and his team spent as much as $3 million in funds from US investors for a 2007 IBL season that ended in shambles, with more than a million dollars in debts and no accounting of how money was spent.

“Waxman’s taking heat for a hearing that didn’t answer any questions and only hurt Clemens’ reputation even more,” says our source. “But some people are saying an investigation into the IBL is a great way to save face. The fact that Baras won’t say what he did with the money, that he spent it in the Middle East, and that American investors are crying foul makes this a major issue-- and a Homeland Security issue if you want to stretch it. Is this money in a shoebox or was it spread across the Gaza Strip?

“Waxman’s a major supporter of Israel, and don’t forget that the commissioner (of the IBL) is a former ambassador to Israel. And look, Waxman and Congress couldn’t find the nine billion dollars that went missing in Iraq. Maybe they can find a million dollars between here and Israel.”

Waxman, indeed, has been a lifelong supporter of Israel in and out of Congress, and is known as the “Dean” of the 27 Jewish House members.

Our sources say the idea to put Baras and the IBL under the spotlight came up during the Clemens hearing when Clemens referred to current IBL director of baseball operations Dan Duquette. Duquette was general manager of the Boston Red Sox in 1996, and before the steroid and HGH allegations came up, had come under more than a decade’s ridicule for doing so.

"We'll leave his name out of it," Clemens said with a sneer—though sportswriters and baseball fans everywhere knew he meant Duquette when he continued: “He made what I feel was a smart-aleck remark that I was in the 'twilight of my career.’ And in that 1996 season when I was in the twilight of my career, I tied my own single-season record of 20 strikeouts. I led the league in strikeouts that year. I was in the top 10 in innings pitched and ERA. If I was in the twilight of my career, I doubt the Toronto Blue Jays would have made me the highest-paid pitcher in baseball the following year."

The Duquette swipe has been repeated in the media this past week, and according to our source, led to the call to Waxman.

"Waxman and Congress
couldn’t find

nine billion dollars
that went missing in Iraq.

Maybe they can find
a million dollars

between here and Israel.”

“There’s no way around the fact that the so-called dream of professional baseball in Israel is an offshore, American-financed operation,” says our source. “Money was raised. It supposedly was funneled into the Middle East. But the people in the Middle East who were supposed to be paid, weren’t. And Baras won’t open up the books. This is a no-brainer for Waxman. All he has to do is follow the money.”

Baras is already facing accusation of federal securities fraud in a lawsuit from an investor in his company, SJR Foods, who claims her investment in a product called the “Unholey Bagel” was used by Baras for personal expenses and IBL start-up.

No lawsuits have been filed in connection with the IBL debts, which the New York Times estimated at over $1 million.

Ironically, the idea that Waxman would look into the IBL was floated on this site in January—as a joke, when we asked Our Man Elli in Israel:

“Any truth to the rumour that after they’re done taking testimony on steroids from Roger Clemens, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is planning to take testimony on fraud from Larry Baras?”

Elli’s response? “Good night.”

(Do you think Congress should use its valuable time to look into the IBL? You can reach Rep. Henry Waxman in Washington at 202.225.3976, or at his Los Angeles office at 323.651.1040, 818.878.7400 or 310.652.3095. What, no 800 number?)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Another IBL apologist-- or is something afoot?

Despite all that’s gone down with Larry Baras and his Israel Baseball League these past six months, and all the wonders of the Internet that allow news to be posted and travel across the world and beyond in seconds, we sometimes wake up, find a Google alert of another IBL story out there, open it and get the feeling that we’re still in the era of the Pony Express.

Recent posts from sites like Carry On Citizens and this morning's The Bleacher Report show evidence that Our Man Elli in Israel’s pioneering reportage travels slowly— or on the brighter side of the coin, that some writer-sportfans can still maintain their childlike enthusiasm and imagine that even in the sports business world, the glass just might be half-full:

But then we remember that The Bleacher Report wrote whitewashed praise of the IBL as late as December 28th-- and find that the author of this Bleacher report, "scribe" Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, is not only a Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University who filled in as an assistant coach on the IBL's Ra'anana Express (for which his son Danny was a pitcher)-- but an IBL advisory board member.

And then we have to wonder what they're up to now:

Israel Baseball League:
Will There Be a Second Season?

by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman (Scribe)

Last summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the Israel Baseball League's inaugural season.

A self-styled developmental league, the IBL consisted of six teams, playing a 48-game schedule, with players who were mainly graduates of college baseball programs in the US, along with a number of players from the US and other countries, mainly Dominicans, who had already played minor league or independent league ball, and about 15 of Israel's top players.

The last three weeks of the season, I served as an assistant coach of the Ra'anana Express team, coached by Shaun Smith, an Australian with a terrific baseball mind.

We are all anxiously waiting to see if the IBL can iron out its financial problems and get a second season up and running.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Indiana author offers advice on Israeli baseball

Blogsite Carry On, Citizens (not sure what the name refers to, though Carry On... Up The Khyber is one of Tabloid Baby's Top 50 Movies of All Time) from Indianapolis sports personality Jeff Stanger, author of baseball-related novel Trolley Dodgers, is the latest media source to pick up on our exclusive coverage of the fall of the Israel Baseball League. Stanger makes a few points about how the league could gave stayed alive, suggests he should have been hired...

...and, after we sent a comment reminding him where credit was due, added a Tabloid Baby mention:

Israel Baseball League Folds

(Thanks to for the background info on this story!)

Sadly, it looks like there will be no second season for the Israel Baseball League. The Israel Association of Baseball canceled the league’s contract, effectively ending any hope of a second season. The idea was great, but the execution was lousy. The league had poor marketing (targeting American Jews and English speaking Israelis instead of native born Israelis), poor execution (bad fields, bad facilities), and a fundamental misunderstanding of grass roots marketing (look at the list of front office execs).

Starting a new baseball league in the States requires savvy marketing and shrewd businessmen. Doing it in another country requires a completely different mindset. It literally screams “Hire a successful NONPROFIT marketer/fund raiser.” The IBL (yes, Duquette and Baras, I’m calling you out) should have hired someone with nonprofit, grassroots marketing experience to run the league. Someone who has been successful in raising money for social services in a tough U.S. economy. Someone who understands web 2.0 marketing.

Someone who can sell the drama on radio & TV. Someone who is already known to baseball fans from his baseball novel(s). Someone who has board level experience with grass roots baseball organizations. Someone who has both a passion for baseball and Israel. Yep, too bad the IBL didn’t get that guy…

Carry on, Citizens!

Why is no one suing over Israel Baseball debts?

With word that Larry Baras and his Israel Baseball League took the El Al flight back to the State, leaving behind more than a million dollars in debt from their 2007 maiden season of the Israel Baseball League, the big question these days is why none of the vendors, players, businesses or other entities has filed suit against the Boston bagel baron or the IBl organization.

One person who has sued is Natalie Blacher. She's the woman who invested in Baras' "Unholey Bagel" invention, and claims in a federal securities fraud suit filed in Boston that Baras used her bagel-bound money to start up the IBL, and, in an echo of the IBL's former advisory board's complaints about his refusal to give an accounting of what he did with the money:

"The Plaintiff... invested $275,000 in SJR (Foods, Inc.) from September 1999 to October 2000... During 2006 and 2007 it became increasingly difficult for Plaintiff to obtain information from Baras and SJR about the financial condition of SJR... The balance sheet provided by Defendants in May 2007 indicated that as of November 31, 2006, SJR had a negative net worth of $1.5 million, despite the representations of Baras in March 2007 that SJR had a total debt of $400,000.... Furthermore, balance sheets for previous years showed sizable increases in SJR's debt which could not be explained or reconciled. The Plaintiff believes that Baras may have charged SJR substantial amounts for personal living expenses or for expenses which were properly chargeable to other business entities.

"...After the Plaintiff became aware of the Defendant Baras' involvement in the Israeli Baseball League, and said that she was concerned about her investment as a result, Baras represented that his involvement was very limited. All of these statements were false and/or misleading..."

Baras' attorney recently filed a motion to have the case dismissed. The papers posted here make up Blacher's objection to the motion. Baras claims the statute of limitations has run out on her claims. Blacher's attorneys say the clock didn't start ticking until she discovered the fraud. Baras' teams have until the end of the week to respond.

Based on Our Man Elli in Israel's exclusive coverage, we'd venture that the IBl clock started ticking about six months ago. Click the individual pages to expand them into extra-large, very readable versions.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Batting cleanup on the Israel baseball meeting

So the big money mullahs met in New York City two Thursdays ago to decide the future of baseball in Israel, but in light of last year’s season, in which American-based businessmen set down in the Holy Land with their documentary cameras, boxes of souvenirs and imported players who couldn’t cut the mustard in the States, ignored the natives and then left town without paying their bills, who in Israel really cares whether there’s a Season Two this summer or next?

No decisions came out of the Penn Club powwow, and not even New York Timesman Murray Chass, who can be counted on to do his part for the cause by dishing up whatever promotional information he’s fed, has yet to come up with a report on Israel baseball’s Yalta (or at last Appalachin) conference (Murray’s usually late to the plate, but not this late).

The one journalist who got the lowdown on what went on behind closed doors is the same journalist who’s kept the Israel baseball saga a priority since the summer: Our Man Elli in Israel (Dig that crazy new headshot at left!). Elli Wohlgelernter spoke to many participants in the meeting despite an edict to keep him away from the truth— and despite childish mockery from one participant who should know better.

(Read to the end to find out who made that mistake).

The Lowdown

Two sides came to the meeting with separate agendas. Marvin Goldklang, the New York Yankees shareholder and former IBL advisory board member who chaired the meeting, and former IBL commissioner Dan Kurtzer (the former US ambassador to Israel and Egypt), wanted to settle up the bills left behind by Larry Baras and the IBL. Kurtzer has told IBL players that they’d be paid, and has said he wants the vendors paid as well.

The “other side,” led by Jeff Rosen, who’s heading up the most obvious successor, the Israel Professional Baseball League didn’t want to do it. In the words of one participant: “That’s easy for them to say when they’re spending other people's money.”

(Elli reports that Larry Baras and the Israel Baseball League left a debt that surpasses $1 million. The IBL raised about $1.5 million from investors—who are still demanding an accounting of where their money went.

(The estimated cost of a new season: $2.5 million to $3.2 million.)


The most optimistic proposal for Holy Land hardball fans was to shrink a league to four teams with an abbreviated schedule this summer. “That would help operationally and logistically,” Elli quotes a source. “But the idea was countered by arguments that it’s preferable to take an extra year to line up the ducks more impressively and professionally. And finally, to recognize that any league's long-term success will depend on its ability to attract native Israelis as fans and sponsors.”

Then there’s the Israel Association of Baseball, which governs the game and licenses any potential league. The IAB wants any successor to the Israel Baseball League to pay the $420,000 in unpaid bills the carpetbaggers left behind in Israel.

Rosen took the position that his group will not. As one summit participant told Our Man Elli, “Several people at the meeting pointed out that the Rosen’s refusal to cover at least some of the debts could hurt his efforts. There’s a perception that the IPBL is led by former IBL investors— major IBL investors— who set up a new company as way to avoid paying those debts.”


Sources tell Elli that Rosen’s got people looking into the possibility of sidestepping the IAB altogether, and establishing a league without a license. Those same sources don’t think it’ll happen, though, since the Israel Sports Authority, which governs all professional sports in Israel, sanctions the IAB (and depends on those licensing shekels).

While some insiders think the threat is simply leverage to force the IAB to drop the creditor clause, others tell Elli that Rosen feels so strongly about the issue, he just might go for it.

Ami Baran, the manager of the IBL’s Netanya Tigers who for some reason showed up, brought up the spectre of violence if a new league moved in without paying the IBL’s debts, saying there would be demonstrations, and things “could get ugly.”

“He was basically trying to shake down the room,” said one participant in disgust.


Other observations? The meeting’s chairman, Marvin Goldklang, the New York Yankees shareholder and former IBL advisory boardmember, told Elli: "Although I don't have a horse in the race, my hope is that, whoever moves forward with the professional baseball effort, will do so with a sensitivity toward the many people, including creditors, who placed their faith in the idea that baseball can succeed in Israel---regardless of who may have let them down. In the end, it’s the credibility of the sport that is at stake, more so than the reputation of any one individual or group."

Rosen (sounding a little like Mark McGuire speaking to Congress), said: “We are rowing forward. With little help from our friends. Our focus is the future, not the past. And we believe in the The Dream, not past mistakes.”

Off The Record

Still more participants spoke off the record:

“The bottom line is that all of the parties shared the vision of the greater good: baseball in Israel,” said one man who was at the meeting. “Everyone recognized the need to resolve things quickly to have a 2008 season, but by the end of the day, there was no resolution. Everyone left with a more complete understanding of the operating costs, which was a big step. Private conversations in coming days will hopefully bear fruit.”

Sadly, many believe that the IPBL's Rosen is naïve: naïve in thinking that a new league (whose name sounds so similar to the old one) can rise up from the debt-strewn ashes of the IBL and throw out the first ball without covering the bills left behind from last season. And one businessman who was a minor investor in the IBL laid out the most obvious: “Baseball is not basketball. And it’s not soccer. Baseball is not a priority in Israel. It’s not on the 'must-need' list! When you bring in a new product, you need to be very flexible and prepare yourself at least the first few years for some probable big financial losses and a lot of birth pains.

“All this hostility against Baras is taking away from a positive solution. If you’re serious about solutions, you go to the heart of the problem. If you don't satisfy the Israel Baseball Association and the vendors who are owed, you are not a serious player! I do wonder if this whole Rosen thing is something of a farce.”

Who said “Wohlge- liar”?

By the way, we're told it was Martin Berger, the president and COO of the Israel Baseball League, who referred to journalist Elli Wohlgelernter as “Elli Wohlge-LIAR.”

He has not, of course, pointed to one “lie” told by Elli or any misstatements in his reporting.

And how would he like it if we called him Marty Berg-ler?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Exclusive! Inside the big Israel baseball meeting: No decisions, and most likely, no 2008 season

All the major backstage players in the first and last season of the Israel Baseball League-- bar one (or should we say "Bar-as one?") got together in New York City Thursday to hash out plans to get the game back on track after the disastrous organizational and financial morass that was first revealed by Our Man Elli in Israel within days of the field crew pulling up homeplate for the final time.

The meeting was meant to be secret. The participants were told specifically to not talk to the great journalist and baseball lover Elli Wohlgelernter.

Guess what? Most of them did talk. And we talked to Elli about an hour ago:

Tabloid Baby: Where the hell have you been?

Our Man Elli: Trying to separate the-- what was that you said last week? The wheat from the Chass? That was a good one.

Let’s get to the meeting.

You can imagine, with an eight-plus-hour meeting, there was a lot to digest, especially working with the handicap of participants being told not to talk to me.

Cue the violins, Woodstein.

But a lot of them did.

Ha ha.

Right. But the bottom line, today, is that we don’t know. We don’t know anything about anything.

We waited five days for that? For that we could have called That Putz Greenberg

Well, listen. It was a long, detailed meeting. And there were a lot of agendas—four basic ones: The Israel Baseball Leagues, the Israel Professional Baseball League that wants to take over, the ones who want to see the IBL debts paid and don’t care who pays them, and the ones who wanted everyone to agree on a league under new leadership, figuring out a way to address the old debts.

It was sometimes a little heated and it there was even some anger— but it was productive in that everything was laid out as to where things stand now, on every issue. Past, present and future. But at the end of the day, nothing was resolved.

Fewer teams & games?

So is there going to professional baseball in Israel this summer?

I don’t know. They don't know.

Isn’t it getting late for “they don’t know”?

Oh yes, very late indeed. And as this drags out, and as we get closer to the summer, one solution being contemplated is to reduce the number of teams to four, and to reduce the number of games, to make it easier to manage logistically in the time that remains.

Okay. Any surprises at the meeting?

One big surprise. Guess who showed up?

Osama bin Laden?


Jackie Mason.

Dan Duquette! (
The Israel Baseball League’s Director of Operations, at right). No one told me he was coming.

Duquette got some good press last week. The LA Times ran a big story about how he was ridiculed for letting Roger Clemens go from the Red Sox in '96--

Right. In the "twilight of his career."

But now that Clemens is accused of using steroids and human growth hormone in the years that followed, Duquette's been vindicated.

Yeah. Okay, Red Smith, you want I should continue?

The Participants

Right. Who was in the room— in the Penn Club in midtown Manhattan, so long ago?

Watch it.

It was last Thursday. It was a long time ago.

Just so happens, I have the names of the fourteen participants. It was mentioned on the original press release. I say "original" because they couldn’t even agree on the language of the release, so it was scrapped. But I have a copy.

Anyway, here’s the list:

1) Marvin Goldklang, minority share-holder of the New York Yankees and former member of the Advisory Board of the IBL, who chaired the meeting;
2) Dan Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel & Egypt and former commissioner of the IBL;
3) Marty Appel, former head of public relations for the IBL;
4) Jeff Rosen, former IBL investor and head of the newly-created Israel Professional Baseball League;
5) Michael Rollhaus, a former IBL investoraand investor in the IPBL;
6) Andrew Wilson, a facilitator on the ground for the IBL, who’s now working for Rosen and the IPBL;
7) Seth Cogan, financial adviser to Rosen, on the phone from Israel;
8) Martin Berger, president and COO of the IBL;
9) Dan Duquette, director of baseball operations of the IBL;
10) Jeffrey Royer, general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the largest individual investor in the IBL;
11) Haim Katz, president of the Israel Association of Baseball, on the phone from Israel;
12) Mitchel Rosenzweig, chief financial officer of the Jewish National Fund, the single largest investor in the IBL;
13) Ami Baran, manager of the Netanya Tigers;
14) Jeff Goldklang
, son of Marvin, and a former member of the IBL advisory board.

And you’ve told us that Larry Baras, Boston bagel baron Baras, the IBL founder, was not in attendance.

Uuhhh, don’t think there would have been any meeting had he attended. There’s too much animosity toward him.


Rosen, Rollhaus and Cogan expressed their deep loathing and bitterness, to say the least, towards Baras. They also expressed their sadness at the state of affairs brought on by Baras’s lack of transparency.

Was there any other anger at anyone else?

I’m sure there was.


What are you getting at?


Yeah. Someone at the meeting referred to me as “Wohlge-
liar.” I’m trying to find out who.

Excuse me a second.

(NOTE: Do you know who in that meeting
called Our Man Elli “Elli Wohlge-liar?”

If you do, or if you can think of
any other funny takes

on Our Man Elli’s name,
email us here and we’ll send you a prize!)

Okay, where were we?

The meeting. The meeting itself held some promise. Everyone reasserted their belief in the concept of professional baseball in Israel. But Jeff Rosen’s group—the IPBL-- expressed strong opposition to paying any of the outstanding Israeli debts accumulated by the IBL, except the ones that are absolutely necessary to a continued operation.


How did the rest of them feel about picking up Baras’ debt?

Most all the other participants felt it was morally right-- and practically beneficial-- to pay most of those obligations in that they owed people who had placed their faith in the concept of professional baseball in Israel.

The IAB took the position that it was willing to consider working with any group that was willing to address the Israeli debts in a reasonable manner. And according to a confidential internal memo-- a copy of which was leaked to me by a recipient--


-- Jeff Royer urged that the debts “be addressed in a proper manner."

But is it their problem?

To these guys, it’s a matter of establishing the financial credibility and image of the professional baseball game in Israel. Many players are still owed money. And so is Kfar Hayarok, where the players stayed. And there are other creditors who placed their trust not so much in the IBL, but in the concept of professional baseball. One of the participants told me that paying the creditors is the right thing to do, regardless of whether it's legally required of anyone other than the IBL and Baras.

Rosen, meanwhile, trued to attract additional investors for the IPBL, but everybody brushed it off. They want him to clarify his position on the debts and his proposed business plan. Rosen said he’d talk to his partners and report back.

What about the money the IBL still owes to Berger and Duquette?

Not a word. Neither Duquette nor Berger, nor anyone else talked about the money they’re owed. Although Cogan did complain at one point about the money he'd lost with the IBL.

How much?

I hear around $40,000.


Oh, and get this! Martin Berger indicated that Baras was working with a couple of prospective investors to bail out the IBL.

That must have went over really well.

No. It didn't go over well at all. From what I'm told-- and this is a quote: "Five people wanted to jump up and scream, 'STOP THE BULLSHIT!!!!' The others in the room were just too numb from over a year of hearing continual bullshit."


And by the way, if you go to the IBL website, you'll see that Berger's name is no longer listed among the executives. (UPDATE: Berger's name was back on the IBL site the next day-- they read us!) There's only Baras, Duquette and Baras' son, Jeremy, the "Director of Game Experience," whatever that means.

How long until Duquette's name is down?

Hey, he's got his good baseball name back. Why sully it further?

Any other controversy?

Well, there was some disagreement on whether they should push for a season in 2008 or push it back until 2009, when improved facilities will be available and leaving more time to build a more professional organization and raise lots more money.

So it looks like 2009 at the earliest.

Look, the real question is whether any league is capable of mounting a serious marketing effort in time for a 2008 season. Right now, nobody has enough boots on the ground.

Get your boots back on the ground and get us more.

Later. I'm in a restaurant. A friend just walked in.