Monday, March 31, 2008

Our Man Elli checks in from Yankee Stadium

Our Man Elli In Israel phones us from Section Eight (how's that for appropriate?), Row H, Seat 7 of Yankee Stadium, where it looks like the Opening Day game against Toronto will be scratched because of rain.

"I got an 80 dollar ticket for 20 bucks," says Elli. "And I did buy a t-shirt that says 'Final season, Opening Day,' since the Yankees are moving across the street next season. I checked it out while I was hustling tickets. It looks fantastic."

As we've told you, Our Man Elli in Israel is now Our Man Elli in Israel in America for a few weeks, as he's timed his return to his homeland and lecture tour to coincide with Opening Day of Major League Baseball. The native New Yorker and veteran print, television and Internet journalist makes his annual tour of the States to speak at universities and synagogue about the political situation in Israel, his home for the past fifteen years or so.

The pictures are from Elli's weekend talk at Purdue University in Indiana. The word on the shirt he's holding in the top photo translates to "Purdue" (but you knew that). He also got a nice note from the organizers, thanking him for "stimulating our minds." Fans of baseball in Israel share the sentiment.

Elli will be in New York the next few days-- for the Yankees makeup game and another on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, it's off to another talk at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Sadly, it looks like he's not coming to Los Angeles to get together with all the Tabloid Baby staffers-- some of whom haven't met him yet. So book him, Skirball Center! We'll keep you posted on his whereabouts.

Israel baseball tryouts find fifty in Florida

At $25 a head per hopeful, Jeffrey Rosen and his would-be Israel Professional Baseball League at least walked away with about $1,250 in pocket money after holding tryouts for a potential 2008 season of baseball in Israel yesterday.

The tryouts took place at Miami Dade College in Florida, and according to one of our spies who's been in touch with Our Man Elli in Israel (who's on a lecture tour in the USA):

"It was really, really good. All fifty guys got to hit, field and HIT-- as opposed to the previous regime. It was a good group of guys from around the USA."

Hmmm. No word on "gals"-- this was advertised as a co-ed tryout, after all-- but it looks like an impossible dream is one step closer to... something.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Our readers say: "Three cheers for Jason Rees!"

There was no joy in TabloidBabyville this week amid word that Australian baseball star Jason Rees, a standout in the first season of the ill-fated Israel Baseball League, was cut from the New York Yankees' Triple A minor league team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Rees' signing, along with veteran catcher Eladio Rodriguez (who'd had a shot with the Boston Red Sox almost a decade ago) with the Yankees at the peak of the IBL's financial troubles, was immediately attacked by critics as a public relations and fundraising stunt, considering that Yankees president Randy Levine, former Yankees PR director Marty Appel, minority owner Marvin Goldklang and the team's doctor were all on the IBL advisory board.

But our readers remind us that Jason Rees is the real deal. And making it to a step away from the Big Game-- let alone from Australia by way of Israel-- is a tremendous accomplishment. The Man from Down Under first made his mark at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kansas, playing ball for two years and tying the school record of games played (104). He also won conference and regional honors at Fort Hays State University.

The Newcastle native played professional baseball in Australia before he joined the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. hitting .362 with 17 home runs, 50 runs batted in, 14 stolen bases and 47 hits in 42 games-- leading the league in home runs and runs batted in, and helping lead the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox to a championship.

We'll be keeping watch on the career of his very talented 23-year old (and we'll be looking for Eladio, who never showed up at the Yankees' camp!). A few of our readers' comments follow:

Do you have any idea how many players get to play a single day in AAA baseball for any part of there career? If he was 2 years younger he would have been given more of an opportunity. Hats off to Jason!

Jason had the strength of character to get in there and give it his best shot. He should have our respect for doing that in such a public way. I had the honor to get to know Jason while we were in Israel last summer and found him to be a well spoken and responsible young man. He will be a success in life and someone that we all will be proud to know. Good luck Jason in your next effort be it baseball or otherwise.

The fact that Rees got recognized for his achievements and signed by the Yankees speaks volumes for what the IBL accomplished in their 1st season. The number of players that ever get to actually play at AAA let alone the BIGS is incredibly small...

Good Luck Rees! You are a great guy!

Rees is both a tremendously talented ballplayer and a solid citizen. Let's keep in mind that only about 17,000 men have played in the MLB over its history and only a relatively small percentage of guys get any shot at all out of camp. Jason flew half-way around the world and put it all out there. It only takes a couple of miscues to fall down the charts. He will re-surface, whether he joins Big Berg in Bridgeport or ends up going into business back in New South Wales. As Greg Raymundo would say, "So what!"...Jason will be a success with whatever he does.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

IBL's Rees is cut from Yankees farm team

So much for the hoopla over the pride of the Israel Baseball League being signed to the New York Yankees organization.

A day after our Tuesday update on the status of Aussie outfielder Jason Rees from the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox and the Modi'in Miracle's Eladio Rodriguez, the Triple-A Yankees of Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania made their first cuts, releasing six players-- including Jason Rees.

According to Chad Jennings of the Scranton Times-Tribune, Reese "saw regular time in right field and left field but didn’t do much offensively and perhaps made his greatest impression when he was picked off of first base to kill a rally last week."

Catcher Rodriguez never even showed up for Spring Training.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bulletin! Our Man Elli's Israel baseball update

"Jeff Rosen has lost a couple of key investors who weren't satisfied with the IPBL business plan... He's close to a deal with the IAB but hasn't finalized playing facilities... The uncertainties have prevented real marketing efforts... Tryout registrations have been slow..."

From his home base in Jerusalem, Our Man Elli in Israel has led every other journo in the world in coverage of professional baseball in Israel, including the first investigative report that exposed the problems of the first season, the collapse of the league and formation of a rival organization, subsequent financial scandals, frantic finaglings behind the scenes and ultimately, the effort by former players, investors and officials to organize play for the Sumemr of '08.

Only problem was most of the action has been taking place in the States, where the moneyed Israel-supporting sports moguls and season ticket-holding businessmen live work and call the shots for a league thousands of miles and worlds away.

So what good fortune that just as the season is once again on the line, Our Man Elli is back in the States for a lecture tour of synagogues and universities (and to be here for Major League Baseball's Opening Day). He's here to talk about political issues in the Middle East (Elli's not only a baseball but but a world-renowned print journalist and television correspondent for the Israeli Broadcasting Authority) but is already fielding baseball questions.

Earlier today, after landing in Chicago, he took a taxi to Wrigley Field and took time from worship at Clark & Addison to bring us the latest on IBL investor and Miami millionaire Magnetix maven Jeffrey Rosen and his Israel Professional Baseball League's last-minute efforts to play ball this summer.

As he heads to a lecture at Purdue University, through the innovations in Internet technology, Elli checks in from the new, still-under construction, Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis with the latest breaking news:

"Sources tell me that Jeff Rosen has lost a couple of key investors who weren't satisfied with the IPBL business plan, but he's pursuing efforts to find additional investors. If he's unsuccessful, he may invest more of his own money himself , but if that's the case, he'd scale back the league from six to four teams to reduce his risk exposure.

"I heard this week that he's 'close to a deal' with the IAB (Israel's baseball governing body) but hasn't finalized arrangements for playing facilities. Not yet. His initial plan, to play in Bat Yam and Ra'anana, appears to have run into obstacles and he's taking a look at the possibility of returning to Gezer and the Baptist Village (which he initially didn't want to do).

"I'm told the uncertainties have prevented the IPBL from commencing real marketing efforts and I'm told that so far, no revenue has come in to support his league. There's a tryout scheduled for this Sunday in Miami, but registrations reportedly have been slow. I don't know whether Jeff has made arrangements with (the IBL's) Dan Duquette for player procurement, but if he hasn't, he may have difficulty replicating the overall calibre of play last year.

"All in all, Rosen and the IPBL have a lot of work to do, and not a great deal of time."

Find all our exclusive, historic coverage of the Israel's professional baseball saga at our Baseball in Israel archive site...

Close, but no deal yet for Israel summer baseball

The last-ditch, eleventh-hour push to launch a second season of professional baseball in Israel continues as the upstart Israel Professional Baseball League gets closer to the unlikely prospect of an Opening Day this summer of 2008.

IPBL frontman Jeffrey Rosen, the Miami millionaire Magnetix maven and former Israel Baseball League investor who split off from the troubled operation and announced the new league in November, tells Our Man Elli in Israel (who happens to be in the United States now and wasted no time at all in breaking more news in this important and historic saga while standing outside Wrigley Field) that he and the IPBL are "going forward... working away... to create an viable plan." Rosen says he and his team "hope to make a formal announcement soon.

"Rest assured we are working hard to undo the mess of last year."

Rosen ignored Our Man Elli's specific questions:

I understand the IPBL has been certified by the IAB. Is that true?
How many fields are there, and how many teams?
Who and how many different owners are there?
Who are the managers and coaches?
Is the next tryout happening?
Where are the players sleeping and eating?
Is there an agreement with a bus company, an EMS car, a medic, a trainer?
Is there any national advertising?
Merchandising agreement?
Bats and balls?

"Thanks for your continued interest," said Rosen. Not much, but then again, any statement at all from the very tight-lipped IPBL camp is significant, coming days before its Sunday player tryouts and amid rumours that the league has been certified by the Israel Association of Baseball, the country's governing body for sport which canceled the IBL's contract in January (as we reported exclusively).

Sources tell us that no deal has yet been made with the IAB. But the ball is rolling...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One out, one left stranded: What ever happened to the Israel Baseball League players who were signed by the New York Yankees?

So whatever happened to the Israel Baseball League players who were signed by the New York Yankees? Unfortunately, they’re not exactly about to be swatting homers out of the House That Ruth Built. In fact, one never made it near pinstripes, at all.

When catcher Eladio Rodriguez of the Modi’in Miracle and Bet Shemesh outfielder Jason Rees got deals with the New York Yankees organization in the days before the defections of its distinguished commissioner and most of its advisory board over its financial opacity, the flailing Israel Baseball League made great hay over the deal— though the triumph was immediately dismissed by critics as a publicity stunt cooked up by several Yankee honchos on the IBL board.

And as it turns out, there was more smoke than fire to the announcements. Rodriguez and Rees both were assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees AAA farm team in northern Pennsylvania.

But according to Scranton Times-Tribune sportswriter Chad Jennings’ blog:

“Eladio Rodriguez, the catcher who was signed with Jason Rees out of the Israel Baseball League, never reported to the Yankees. (Farm director Mark) Newman said he had some sort of visa problems."

And an article this week in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader shows that Aussie outfielder Jason Rees, the Michael Johns of the IBL, may have taken a strange journey with his stop on the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, but may not be moving much farther up the ladder:

“Rees put up outstanding numbers for the Bet Shermesh Blue Sox. He batted .362 with 50 RBI in 42 games, and led the league with 17 home runs.

“'I went to Israel because I wanted a chance to play every day,’ said Rees. ‘Back home in Australia, the teams only play twice a week, so that makes it difficult to get into a hitting groove.’

“There were two major differences between baseball in Israel compared to the American game, according to Rees.

“'The skill level isn’t as good as it is here, and there’s more diversity,’ said Rees. ‘It was definitely a learning experience.’

“Rees enjoyed taking center stage. He was named the league’s ‘Co-Defensive Outfielder of the Year’ and made the all-star team.

“He made a strong impression on manager Ron Bloomberg, a former New York Yankee who wound up contacting the Yankees on his behalf…”

The article concludes:

“Rees is a long shot to start the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because the outfield will likely consist of Justin Christian, Brett Gardner and Jason Lane.”

A closer look at the Times Leader article also shows that the writer continues the awkward factoid tradition of misspelling the name of MLB star and former IBL manager Ron Blomberg. This post from Wiki Answers sets the record straight:

Q: Is Ron Blomberg and Ron Bloomberg the same person who played for the Yankees?

A: The baseball player Ron Blomberg has had his name misspelled (Bloomberg) many times. If you see a Ron Bloomberg in a baseball story it would be safe to say that the name is misspelled and the person referred to is really Ron Blomberg.

There is a Ron Bloomberg that was a TV writer from the 1970s to the 1990s. This Ron Bloomberg is not the Ron Blomberg that played for the Yankees.

Meanwhile, what does the future hold for baseball in Israel? Our Man Elli in Israel is in Our Man Elli in The United States this week, in from his adopted home of Jerusalem on a lecture tour and buttonholing the carpetbagging businessmen and players personally.

Stay tuned…

FUN FACT: Eladio Rodriguez was a prospect for the Boston Red Sox eleven seasons ago, and formerly went under the aliases of Ivan Rodriguez and Carlos Aleman. Some sort of visa problems, we'd assume.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tryouts & want ads: Upstart league in last-ditch push for pro baseball in Israel in the Summer of '08

While all may seem quiet on the Israel baseball front, behind the scenes there’s much activity in a well-financed effort to play ball this summer under the aegis of the Israel Professional Baseball League.

The upstart organization, which has looked very good on paper since it was announced in November as an alternative to the Israel Baseball League, which had entertained hundreds in 2007 before imploding in acrimony, unpaid bills and lawsuits, seeking backers and workers, negotiating playing fields in Israel and advertising player tryouts for March 30th in Miami, Florida.

While the IBL was headed by a Boston bagel baron, the IPL’s frontman is Miami millionaire Magnetix maven Jeffrey Rosen (right), under the aegis of his Triangle Financial Services, which staked its claim in Israel sports last summer when it bought the Maccabi Heat Haifa Heat adult basketball team of the Israel National League.

Our Man Elli in Israel was the first to report on the continuing efforts of Rosen and company to continue the Israel professional baseball tradition, despite general consensus that it’s all too little, too late for the summer of 2008.

The IPBL canceled a first round of coed tryouts that had been set for February, but after several rumoured shifts, are advertising 9 a.m. hopeful displays next Sunday, March 30th, at Miami Dade College.

Hopefuls are urged to register online or:

“Please bring $25 (Cash) to the tryouts…”

The IPBL webpage also seeks backers and workers:

If you or your company is interested in becoming an official sponsor, investor, or friend of the (IPBL) please let us know. In the comments field, please indicate how you would like to become involved with the (IPBL).

Job Openings
The (IPBL) will be posting full-time, part-time, internship and volunteer opportunities soon. Please indicate your areas of interest, skill sets, and whether or not you will be in Israel during the summer of 2008.

Our Man Elli touches down in the States tomorrow as he begins his much-anticipated lecture tour. He'll be hitting the ground running, so stay tuned here for the latest.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Israel Baseball: SI thinks the IBL is still alive

With so much of their attention focused on steroid scandals and swimsuits, we can forgive the guys at Sports Illustrated for not keeping up with all the latest international sports news, but some stories, like the fate of the Israel Baseball League, tend to stand out more than others. So eyebrows in the Tabloid Baby office did raise today while perusing the website's excerpt from the new book, Change Up: An Oral History of 8 Key Events That Shaped Baseball-- and not because sports oral histories are the provenance of Our Man Elli In Israel, the journalist who broke and continues to own the Israel baseball story.

No, it's the description of Ron Blomberg, who's a voice in the new book:

"On the eve of the 2008 baseball season -- the 35th anniversary of the debut of the designated hitter in the American League in 1973 -- presents an exclusive excerpt from Change Up, in which Ron Blomberg, the first DH, and nine others recount their memories of the new rule, and how it all got started...

"Ron Blomberg: The first DH in 1973 while playing for the Yankees, the left-handed swinger's eight-year career was cut short by shoulder and knee injuries. His autobiography, Designated Hebrew, was published in 2006, and he is currently the manager of the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox of the Israel Baseball League."

"Currently the manager of the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox of the Israel Baseball League?"

Do they know something we don't know? More likely, as we chase down the latest in what could build into an avalanche of lawsuits against the defunct IBL and its founder Larry Baras, they reproduced already-outdated information from the book, and like the rest of the mainstream sports media, is still playing catch-up.

Speaking of catching up, catch Elli Wohlgelernter on his US speaking tour that kicks off in Chicago next week. The newsman is in the States to talk serious international issues, but he's bound to field more than a few baseball queries along the way...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Zum, zum, zum! Israel baseball's player exodus

Add another Israel Baseball League standout to the list of IBL athletes who won’t be coming back for another season of Holyland hardball.

Josh Zumbrun, pitcher last season with the Ra’anana Express, is among eight players signed for spring training with the Chico Outlaws of the independent, unaffiliated California Golden League.

"Zum" is 26 and living in Playa Vista, California. He pitched for the U.S. Air Force Academy from 2000 to 2003, and at 26 has a Masters Degree in Business Administration and is working on his Ph.D.

Zum's also got a MySpace page on which he writes about his experience with the IBL:

“I opted to leave the Air Force in 2006 to play in the in the Israel Baseball League’s inaugural 2007 season – hands down the best summer of my life. Everything about the experience left me overwhelmed with gratitude.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bergstrom is Israel baseball's boy of summer

They may not be playing baseball in Israel this summer, but one world-weary veteran of the Israel Baseball League will be playing in beautiful downtown Bridgeport.

Right-handed pitcher Rafael Bergstrom of the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox got out while the going was good, signing with the Bridgeport, Connecticut Bluefish after the IBL season ended in shambles last August. And now the Bluefish say they’ve made a deal for Bergstrom to pitch in 2008.

Bergstrom was the first player from the Israel Baseball League to sign a pro contract in the United States and joined the minor league Bluefish in time for their 2007 season. In six appearances (four starts), he struck out 18 batters in 29 innings while only walking six.

Bergstrom’s a true journeyman. After playing in college in San Diego, he played two seasons in Munich, Germany and another season in in Brisbane, Australia before winding up with the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox of the IBL. The 6’5, 225-pounder had a career season with the Blue Sox on their way to a league championship. In 56 and 2/3 innings, he whiffed 51 batters and posted a 2.44 ERA to accompany his 7-2 record. He finished off the regular season with a complete game shutout and eight strikeouts in the championship game.

The Bridgeport Bluefish Professional Baseball Club, a charter team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, plays its home games at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard. They made world headlines when two of their players were injured when Jose Offerman of the visiting Long Island Ducks went nuts with a bat. Offerman got off with probation.

The Israel Baseball League made world headlines with its post season collapse and scandals following the exclusive exposé by Our Man Elli in Israel.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bloggers beat and embarrass "mainstream media" on coverage of Israel baseball's juicy scandals

Baseball in Israel, one learned journo wag in Jerusalem tells us today, is "a failure, was only followed by Anglos living here with Israelis across the board having no idea it was even happening at all-- which of course, was one of the big failures-- was not important on any scale; and was just diversionary entertainment for a few hundred American Jews." But when it comes to that failed experiment, we must say that it is the "bloggers"-- led by us and Our Man Elli in Israel in particular-- who continue to wipe home plate with the so-called mainstream media-- in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, in New York, in Miami and in Boston-- when it comes to coverage of an issue that's more important and a bigger, grander and more scandalous story than their lack of attention would bely.

The latest with his ear to the mound is Moshe Mandel (right), "a 23 year old Yankees fan from Long Island who currently resides in Jerusalem with my wife Elizabeth.

"I am a Yankees season ticket holder, and I look forward to blogging about the Bombers as they chase championship #27 in 2008."

Moshe blogs on The Bronx Block on the MVN (Most Valuable Network) Internet and podcast site, "an independent sports media company relying on the volunteered time of people to “blog,” or write on the internet, about their favorite sports team or any derivation thereof."

And though he answers questions about his favorite team in his Bronx Block Mailbag, today, he addresses life on Elli's turf:

Do you get much coverage of baseball/American topics in Israel? Is there a league over there that you follow and is it similar to the minor leagues here?

The coverage of American sports here is pretty decent. If you have a television (I do not), you may be able to catch Sportscenter, and ESPN International carries the entire MLB postseason. Of course, due to the Internet, I can catch all the games on, although they do occur in middle of the night. There is an Israeli baseball league that opened last year. However, the league is struggling financially, and has not caught on among native Israelis, who stick to soccer and basketball. The Yankees actually recently signed two players from the league, outfielder Jason Rees and catcher Eladia Rodriguez.

It's "Eladio," but close enough. This kind of word-of-mouth and blog-to-blog coverage, from Jerusalem to Los Angeles to New York to Dublin, is how stories like this take hold and get deeper.

Israel baseball hopefuls chase dreams of field

Yes, sometimes we think we ought to rename this site Tabloid Baseball, but hey, we're sixteen days from Opening Day for the Major Leagues and over in Israel, that rival, renegade, rebel, upstart Israel Professional Baseball League, formed amid the rubble in the debt-ridden aftermath of the Israel Baseball League's inaugural (and, most likely, final) season, is scrambling to get something going by summer.

Sources tell Our Man Elli in Israel that the IPBL's billionaire frontman Jeff Rosen is negotiating to use a soccer field in Bat Yam, a coastal city just south of Tel Aviv, for IPBL play in the summer of 2008. Word is that Rosen's group has decided that the Baptist Village Field in Petach Tikva (former home to the IBL's Ra'anana Express and the Petach Tikva Pioneers) is too expensive.

Last week, Our Man Elli broke the incredible news that reports of the death of baseball in Israel are, if not greatly exaggerated, at least premature, with the report that Rosen and the IPBL are also negotiating with Israel's baseball governing body (which still carries an IBL logo and link on its website) to play ball without having to first cover the IBL's million dollar debt.

Is Rosen's rush good enough? Skeptics tell us there's not enough time to turn the field into a pro-level ballpark, and others wonder why Rosen hasn't put up any of his own vast fortune to cover some of the IBL debt (or made any good faith public gesture) to get his own league into first gear.

Watch this space for the latest. And while you're at it, check out our one-stop Baseball in Israel archive site here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

We pause in our coverage of baseball in Israel

Our Man Elli in Israel writes from Jerusalem:

"I went to that Yeshiva '71-'72, and I pass by the entrance every Monday and Wednesday at 4:45 PM. It's three minutes from my IBA office.

"I'll have to get back to you later. Dealing with a lot of sh-t here, and then I have to go to Tel Aviv for Shabbos."

Israel's baseball tragic leads us to Irish magic

Don’t let the naysayers fool ya. Our coverage of the rise and fall—and, we hope, resurrection of baseball in Israel has led us to all kinds of interesting and friendly people and places. The latest is John Fitzgerald, baseball fan, baseball documentary director and baseball reality series producer who picked up our latest exclusive story on Israel baseball on his Playing for Peanuts blog and, unlike some people who will go unnamed (like Uncle Murray “Do You Mr.” Chass and That Putz Greenberg), actually credited the source of the story—us!

“I commend the league's complete stubbornness and reckless behavior in the face of a impending financial meltdown. It reminds me of me. Nice job and good luck, guys.”

And thanks, Johnny! Good on ya!

It turns out that Mr. Fitzgerald directed and wrote The Emerald Diamond, the acclaimed (“Terrific!” The NY Post; “Charming!” The NY Times) 2006 documentary about Irish baseball (now available in a deluxe DVD edition).

And the site isn’t called “Playing for Peanuts” because he’s worked for Larry Baras. Fitzgerald and crew are taping a reality TV series by that very name, following a season in the life of the South Georgia Peanuts minor league baseball team.

What a wonderful way to spend several months making television! It reminds of that season, too many years ago, we spent with Elli as he worked with the Utica Blue Sox Class A Penn League baseball team in the Leatherstocking region of New York State (sold in time for the 2002 season to Cal Ripken Jr., moved to Maryland and renamed the Aberdeen Ironbirds) and the team’s owner, Roger Kahn. Kahn would write the book, Good Enough To Dream (his sequel to The Boys of Summer. (Our editor would go on to write Tabloid Baby. Elli Wohlgelernter would make history with a report on the first season of the Israel Baseball League that was first seen here and reprinted as "The Oys of Summer.”).

Anyway, check out the Playing for Peanuts site. It’ll tell you where you can watch John Fitzgerald’s killer reality series. And The Emerald Diamond will be airing on St. Patrick’s Day on Sportsnet Chicago—the real St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, not March 15th as the Catholic Church arbitrarily moved it this year (so it won’t confliuct with their “Holy Monday”, just like they banned Danny Boy from funerals (when will they learn?). It’s also airing on the America One Network, mostly in the South, so we’ll ask our pal Lewis to check up on that.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

ISRAEL BASEBALL EXCLUSIVE: IT AIN'T OVER! (At least not 'til it's over. IPBL quietly negotiates, IAB backs down and summer dream stays alive.)

As a great (honorary) Jewish ballplayer (and a great half-Jewish rock star) once said: It ain’t over ‘til it’s Passover. Er, "over."

And though time’s run out on self-imposed, common sense deadlines and there’s little chance anyone can get a baseball league together in Israel in time for summer, we must recall that in the days before he wrote off the 2008 season for us, Our Man Elli in Israel had told us something very intriguing:

“… One source told me, and I quote, ‘We've heard that Jeff Rosen's group (The Israel Professional Baseball League) 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.’ I do know that the IPBL has been working on the ground in Israel. They’ve found playing fields and housing for the players.”

The Israel Professional Baseball League, the rebel would-be replacement for the crumbled IBL that was first announced in November by a group that included IBL players Andrew Wilson and Alan Gardner, Bet Shemesh Blue Sox general manager and IBL investor Michael Rollhaus and aforementioned billionaire investor Jeffrey Rosen, may have canceled the February 24th (coed!) tryouts on Miami, but as Our Man Elli reported, they’ve rescheduled them back for April 6th and is quietly pushing ahead to mark baselines on Israel fields before the end of summer.

What’s more, the IAB’s president has backtracked on his demand that they must pay their predecessor’s debts if they want a licence to play.

Elli, who will soon be heading Stateside on another lecture tour, is packing shirts and working the phones and email at the same time. He’s gotten in touch with the reticent billionaire Rosen and IAB president Haim Katz to find out what’s going on behind the scenes. First, he asked the who, what, when and where questions (which add up to “how”— and we already know why) of the IPBL honcho:

“Jeff, has the IPBL been certified by the IAB? Is there going to be a baseball season this summer? On which fields will it be played? How many teams will there be?”

“Eli, we are trying--"

"It's Elli. And you know it!"

"--We hope to. We have many issues we are working through everyday. Peter Kurz (The IAB’s secretary-general) is here in the USA and our negotiation for the contract have started. Will advise when we can...”

Elli also tried to pull a few more teeth and get some answers from IAB president Katz (he’s the guy who gave us that nice plug when he said, “Tabloid Baby will not determine when the process will be finished!”):

“I have nothing to add to our last conversation,” Katz began. “When I do, I will put out statement. When I’m ready.

“When everything’s closed (Translation: When deals are finalized), I will put out a statement.”

“But it’s already Match 4th!” Elli exclaimed.

“There won’t be baseball till the end of June the earliest,” said Katz, “As of today, there could be baseball.”

“Well, have you sanctioned anyone as of today?”

“We have not sanctioned anything as of today.”

“What about the IBL debts?”

Katz: “The IBL were the ones who promised the money. They didn’t pay them. They have the major responsibility (to pay it back).

“Didn’t you say you would not sanction a new league unless the debt was paid?”

“I don’t remember.” (Whoa!)

“Will the debts hold up a new league?”


“Will the issues be resolved?”

“I’m not a forecaster.”

When that Katz-and-mouse game was over, Elli spoke to another source who confirms that Rosen and Katz are still negotiating.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

"It's over. Now and perhaps forever."

As we reported this morning, today, March 1st, was considered by all involved to be the drop dead deadline decision day on whether professional baseball will be played in Israel in the Summer of 2008. The deadline has come and gone. And so, apparently, has the dream.

Our Man Elli in Israel checked in as soon as Shabbos ended:

"Well, March 1st is here and gone, and so is baseball in Israel.

"Not officially yet, as the IPBL continues to scramble to try to make it happen. But it's obvious that there will be no baseball in Israel in 2008. And it's not even just a matter of squaring the debts of the IBL. It also has to do with the simple task of forming a baseball league. That task takes money, lots of money, and there isn't enough of it. Not that the IPBL's Jeff Rosen doesn't have the money himself, if he wants to go out and create the league. But he wants other people to put up some money as well, and right now his game plan has investors losing for the first four to five seasons.

"And with all the bad publicity generated by Larry Baras and the IBL, potential investors are gunshy. And understandably so.

"In short, it's over. Now, and perhaps forever. And that is very sad."

It's drop dead deadline day for baseball in Israel

From our February 21st, 2008 conversation with Our Man Elli in Israel:

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.

Today is March 1st: The drop dead deadline day to determine whether there will be professional baseball in Israel in 2008. Elli Wohlgelernter, we await your next dispatch! And so do Uncle Murray and That Putz Greenberg.