ATLANTA – “Hotlanta” is smoking with baseball fever. The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros are facing off in the World Series and the Braves are just one win away from their first Major League Baseball championship in 26 years.

Not only are my hometown Braves in the playoffs, the teams are also boasting an impressive number of outstanding Jewish players.

Kvelling Over Jewish Superstars

Members of the tribe have been kvelling over what has been described as one of the most Jewish World Series ever. The American League champion Astros feature star slugger Alex Bregman. The National League champion Braves claim the impressive duo of pitcher Max Fried and outfielder Joc Pederson.

Alex Bregman

The 1959 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox also included three Jewish players – among them, Sandy Koufax who famously chose not to start Game 1 of the 1965 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers because it fell on Yom Kippur.

The Braves’ Max Fried is possibly the best Jewish pitcher since Koufax – and a fellow lefty. Fried met his idol Koufax during the 2018 playoffs when the Braves played the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Fried grew up in Los Angeles, where he played ball in high school and wore Koufax’s number with the Dodgers, 32, in the Hall of Famer’s honor. In 2009 Fried competed for the United States in baseball at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

Max Fried

Fried’s Jewish identity hasn’t created the same stir as Koufax’s. But several teammates have said he is the first Jewish person whom they’ve met. They sing praises for his pinpoint control that leads to a lot of strikeouts.

Fried told the Atlanta Jewish Times in 2017 that he grew up fairly observant, attending synagogue on the High Holidays and having a bar mitzvah.

A Pearl of a Player

Joc Pederson, the Braves lefty outfielder whose pearl necklace has become a signature piece, is the son of former Major League Baseball player Stu Pederson. Joc grew up in Palo Alto, California and played for Team Israel in 2012. His mother, Shelly, made a special trip to the San Francisco synagogue where her late father had his bar mitzvah, in order to produce proof of Joc’s Jewish heritage so he could play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round.

Joc Pederson and his pearls

Meanwhile, Alex Bregman hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The son of two lawyers, he attended Congregation Albert, the oldest Jewish organization of continued existence in the state. Bregman’s grandfather was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants and worked with baseball’s Washington Senators (which became today’s Texas Rangers) through his law firm.

Baseball runs in the family. Alex’s brother, A.J., was selected by the Astros in the 2018 Major League Baseball draft. Their father and uncle played baseball for the
University of New Mexico.

Mom Jackie Bregman told The Jerusalem Post: “I know that the Jewish community around the country is so proud of him.” Referring to the card collection of Jewish players, she added, “I hope that one day he’s in that collection.”

The Braves lost Game 5 Sunday night and are heading to Houston for Game 6 this Tuesday night. I've got my popcorn and prayers ready for the big game. Go Braves!