Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Al Rosen, Cleveland Indians MVP in 1953, dies at 91

Albert Leonard Rosen of Rancho Mirage, Calif., passed away on Friday, March 13, 2015, of natural causes at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. He was 91 years old. Two of his sons, Jim Rosen and Rob Rosen, live in Orlando.

Al Rosen, as he was known to baseball fans, was born on Feb. 29, 1924-a "leap year" baby-to Louis and Rose Levin Rosen in Spartanburg, S.C. When he was 18 months old, his mother and grandmother moved the family to Miami. He attended Riverside Elementary School, Ada Merritt Junior High School, and then Miami Senior High School for a year attending Florida Military Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, on a boxing scholarship. After graduating from Florida Military Academy, Rosen enrolled in the University of Florida in Gainesville, and left after a semester to play minor league baseball in North Carolina. Growing up, he was an avid fan of Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg.

In 1942, Rosen enlisted in the Navy and fought in the South Pacific during WWII, rising to the rank of lieutenant. In 1946, he returned to playing baseball and in 1947, he signed on with the Cleveland Indians and played on the team until 1956, when he retired, at the age of 32, due to injuries.

His banner year was in 1953 when he led the American League with 115 runs, 43 home runs, 145 RBI, a .613 slugging percentage, a 1.034 on-base percentage while adding 201 hits and batting a career high .336. And he was named MVP by unanimous vote, the first time to happen since 1935 when his idol Hank Greenberg won. In fact, both he and Greenberg were called the "Hebrew Hammer" during their careers.

Rosen was named to four MLB All-Star Games and was a member of the 1948 World Series champions that defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in six games.

While in the minor leagues, it was said that Rosen wished his name was something less obviously Jewish, but later he remarked that he wished it were more Jewish-more like Rosenstein.

Proud of his Jewish heritage, Rosen refused to play on the High Holy Days, and did not hesitate to confront anyone who made anti-Semitic comments. Once a White Sox player made an anti-Semitic remark from the dugout and Rosen walked over to the dugout and called the player out to a fight. The player cowarded. Another time, when a Red Sox bench player taunted Rosen with anti-Semitic names, Rosen called for a time out, left the field and confronted the player.

A 2010 documentary, "Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story," highlighted Rosen, who in it is frank about how he dealt with anti-Semitism: "There's a time that you let it be known that enough is enough... You flatten [them]."

In 1952, Rosen married his first wife, Teresa Ann Blumberg, who passed away May 3, 1971. He married Rita Kallman several years later.

Rosen occasionally consulted for baseball teams, including a stint with the Yankees as an executive, then with the Houston Astros and finally the San Francisco Giants in 1985 as president and general manager. Two years later, the Giants won the National League West title and Rosen was named Major League Executive of the Year, the only former MVP to do so.

Rosen is quoted in the "Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations": "The greatest thrill in the world is to end the game with a home run and watch everybody else walk off the field while you're running the bases on air."

Rosen is survived by his wife Rita; sons Jim and Rob of Orlando, and Andy of New York; stepdaughter Gail Evenari of Half Moon Bay, Calif.; stepson David Lowenstein of Cupertino; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


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