Max Fried becomes first Jewish pitcher to clinch World Series since St. Louisan Ken Holtzman in ’73

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MLB Photos via Getty Images

Max Fried pitches in Game 6 of the 2021 World Series, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Jacob Gurvis

(JTA) — Jewish ace pitcher Max Fried delivered his Atlanta Braves to their first World Championship since 1995 with six shutout innings in Tuesday’s Game 6 of a World Series heralded as the most Jewish in baseball history. Fried, also became the first Jewish pitcher to deliver in a clinch situation, since St. Louis native Ken Holtzman won Game 7 for the 1973 Oakland A’s against the New York Mets. 

Postseason Asset: Ken Holtzman pitched the Oakland A’s to three straight World Championships, winning six games and posting a 2.30 ERA in 13 playoff and World Series appearances from 1972 to 1975. (Getty Images)

The 27-year-old lefty held the Houston Astros to four hits, overcoming a potentially serious injury to strike out six without surrendering a run or a walk.

The game contained what might have been the most Jewish play in any Major League Baseball matchup ever: In the bottom of the second inning, Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman stepped up to the plate and sliced Fried’s second pitch to right field, where Braves outfielder Joc Pederson easily caught it for out number two. 

To most fans, the sequence was a mundane flyout with no significance. But to Jewish fans, the play showcased three Jewish players performing on the sport’s biggest stage. 

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For Pederson, who entered the series on a red-hot tear immortalized by his nickname Joctober, the victory gave him a second consecutive World Championship. Pederson played for the 2020 World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. He celebrated the achievement with a cigar and his trademark pearl necklace.

The fourth Jewish player to appear in the World Series, Astros backup catcher Garrett Stubbs, entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. He did not bat.

Fried’s success on the mound came after a scary moment in the bottom of the first inning. With the lanky pitcher covering first base on a ground ball, the Astros’ Michael Brantley came charging down the basepath, stepping on Fried’s ankle instead of the base. Replays showed Fried’s ankle almost flatten under Brantley’s cleat.

Max Fried covers first base on a ground ball hit by Astros outfielder Michael Brantley.

Max Fried covers first base on a ground ball hit by Astros outfielder Michael Brantley. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

For his teammates and coaches, it was a frightening few moments. But Fried popped right back up, and pitched deep into the game.

“I just told myself that I was going to go out there and be 100% me, just try to pitch and try to win a ballgame,” Fried said after the win. “I knew I could empty the tank. I knew it was the last outing of the year. I was definitely running on fumes at the end of the playoffs, but I knew I had to be ready for one more.”

Aside from Fried’s sparkling Game 6 start, the Jewish players had a cold series. Pederson had just one hit in 15 at bats, while Bregman knocked two, one of them a double, in 21 at bats. Bregman also struck out seven times, to Pederson’s four.

Holtzman was born in St. LouisMissouri.[1] He graduated from University City High School in St. Louis in 1963.

Holtzman is Jewish, and through 2010, his 174 career victories were the most in the major leagues by a Jewish pitcher (ahead of Sandy Koufax). He tied Koufax’ record for the most wins by a Jewish pitcher in 1977, and passed him in 1978. Holtzman’s 1,601 strikeouts were second (behind Koufax), and his 451 games were second (behind Scott Schoeneweis). He held the record for most pitching appearances by a Jewish pitcher until 1998, when Scott Radinsky passed him to become the major league leader in appearances among Jewish pitchers. His 3.49 ERA was fifth (behind Koufax, Radinsky, Barney Pelty, and Erskine Mayer).[2]


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