Columns - 2009

    A League of Our Own

    by Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice columnist

    As reported before in this column, the Israel Baseball League (IBL) started play in 2007.

    As not reported before in this column, the IBL ceased play after 2007.

    Like the Arena Football League after its 2008 season (though not its minor league Arena Football 2, explain that), the IBL officially went on hiatus for the ensuing year to regroup and come back strong the following year.

    The IBL is not playing in 2009, AFL beware.

    The IBL played a somewhat different brand of baseball. Some rules differences, such as playing only seven innings then resolving ties with a home run derby to keep games under two hours, can be read on the IBL website. But the site doesn't answer the more interesting questions about the IBL and its fate. This column does.

    The IBL Commissioner could not be reached for comment. But if contacting him had actually been attempted, the conversation might have gone like this:

    How difficult was it to get ballparks in Israel suitable for professional baseball?

    Not very. Ball fields already existed here and there. Considering the small number of fans we often drew, we didn't have to expand the facilities very much. But we did improve several ballparks and got help in planning to build several more.

    What kind of help?

    It's Israel, we're Jewish, we needed sparkling new baseball fields. Who else would we call but Chasidic diamond merchants?

    What did you do during the games to help excite the fans?

    One of our greatest ideas was one of the most difficult to execute. You try playing the trumpet call for "charge!" on a shofar. The last time that worked, Jericho fell.

    Wasn't there some expectation that the bases would be reversed, considering Hebrew already goes from right to left?

    No. We just told all the Hebrew-speaking players that the bases weren't translated from English so they'd run the right way.

    Were there any other points of confusion because of the whole right-to-left thing?

    Only because people thought there should be. Many of our fans were Americans. They expected the scoreboard to display the inning scores from right to left. But we didn't, we kept it normal. So they were confused because they worried about it just in case it was something to worry about, though it didn't need to be worried about at all. What's more Jewish than that?

    Your mother calling you at the game in the sixth inning telling you to not have that third Hebrew National which you actually just finished?

    Okay, that's more Jewish.

    Playing in the summer reduces the need to schedule around so many holidays. Were there schedule issues?

    Sure. In America you play Friday night and Saturday afternoon. We had to play Friday afternoon and Saturday night. But the only people leaving work early enough on Friday afternoon are going home to prepare for Shabbat. And Saturday night sundown would be after nine.

    We tried marketing the Friday afternoon games to people who wanted to avoid going home to prepare for Shabbat. It worked for one week.

    Then people lost interest?

    No. Their wives found out.

    What about fast days, of which there's a couple during baseball season? Fast days led to slow players.

    Funny thing, concessions were never hurt. But you could never find someone who admitted to eating, and you wouldn't see a single hot dog in the stands.

    How did that work?

    With few enough people attending, a person could go buy a hotdog unnoticed, and go down the concourse and eat it without anyone ever seeing him.

    You should have marketed that.

    How could we? If we got everyone to show up because the place would be so empty that nobody would see you breaking the fast, there'd be too many people to see you breaking the fast.

    What would you say is the single greatest controversy that the IBL faced, regardless of whether it led to its ultimate fate?

    I don't know how much it led to the IBL going on hiatus, but due to the political climate in Israel at the time there was great controversy over what constituted fair territory.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who will sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the San Jose Giants' first Jewish Appreciation Day in August. He also wants you to become a fan of The Beholder's Eye on Facebook. He insists. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.