Saturday, December 20, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cc: ****…

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

Subject: Re: Baseball In Israel

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

David Solomont

(617) ***-****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned…

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

Saturday, December 6, 2008

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

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

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

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

That's women... and men!

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

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

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

She wants $11 million in damages.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2008

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

Remember the Israel Baseball League?

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

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

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

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

"All credit goes to Elli Wohlgelernter..."

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

Professional Baseball in Israel rained out for 2009


Special to

JERUSALEM - Forget about professional baseball in Israel in 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another insider who doesn’t want his name used:

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the JNF in bed with the IBL?

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

Stay tuned…

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