Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moses Solomon - The Rabbi of Swat

One of the gifts of curiosity is that reading a book about someone like Babe Ruth (a good read by Leigh Montville from 2006) leads to little gifts of wonderment. Ruth was such a phenomenon of his times and he changed the game completely, so much so that baseball men searched the countryside looking for anyone like him. And hence there was the Cuban Babe Ruth and the Mexican Babe Ruth, etc. McGraw, the leader of the New York Giants was not only looking for guys who could hit like Babe Ruth, but also for other players that could boost the popularity of his team. One idea was to bring in Jewish players to appeal to the large New York population of those peoples. He found what he thought was a combination of the two searches in Moses Solomon, the Rabbi of Swat.

Moses Solomon was born on December 8, 1900 in New York City. He was the son of Russian immigrants, Benjamin and Anna Solomon. The elder Solomons were married in Russia in 1884 and came to the United States in 1891. They had eight children in all and Moses was the fifth of the eight. In 1906, the family moved to Franklin County in Ohio and Benjamin worked for a junk dealer. Moses also worked for the dealer and is listed in the 1920 census as a time keeper for the dealer.

A year later, Moses played baseball for the Vancouver Beavers in the Pacific Coast International League. He played in 115 games and batted .313 with 13 homers. Not bad for a first year in professional ball. He only played in a few games in 1922 but still batted .303. But it was 1923 that would make him a legend.

By 1923, he had signed to play for the Hutchinson Wheat Shockers in the Southwestern League, a Class C league. He played mostly first base for the Wheat Shockers and had one of the most memorable seasons in minor league history. In 134 games, he batted 527 times, piling up 222 hits for a .421 average. He hit 40 doubles, 13 triples and 49 homers. The 49 homers set a minor league record and only the great Babe Ruth had more in professional baseball.

McGraw heard of Solomon's exploits and amidst much hoopla, purchased his contract and brought him to the Giants in September of 1923. He made his major league debut on September 30 and played two games. In eight at bats, he had three hits including a double and drove in a run. It would be the only two games he would ever play in the major leagues.

The Giants found out about an aspect of Solomon's game that would prove to be his undoing. He couldn't field. The same minor league season where he set the record for home runs, he made 25 errors. He made an error in the two games he played in the outfield for the Giants. He was the Ron Bloomberg of his time. All hit, no field.

Moses Solomon continued after the 1923 season to bang around the minor leagues. He played through 1929 and batted over .300 three times, but his total home run output of all those seasons did not come close to totaling as much as his 49 in 1923 alone. One source indicates he also played football, but no record can be found as such.

By 1930, he is listed in the census as being back in Franklin, Ohio with his wife, Gertrude and two young children. His occupation is listed as, "Agent." His Wiki page states that he went into real estate and did quite well. The Rabbi of Swat died in Miami, Florida in 1966.

Moses Solomon (or Mose) only played two games in the major leagues, but not many people could state that his career ended with a .375 average. Imagine if the guy with the .313 minor league career batting average could have caught the ball. His minor league record of 49 homers was broken in 1924 by Clarence Kraft who hit 55. Kraft didn't hold the record long himself as a guy named Tony Lazzeri (you may have heard of him) hit 60 in 1925.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Now, there's a name I haven't heard in awhile. The New York Giants brought in Andy Cohen for the very same reason: to attract more fans.