Jewish World Review Sept. 22, 1999 / 12 Tishrei, 5760


A Jewish Cub: Lefty Lorraine
continues tradition


By George Castle

PERSEVERANCE IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY is a trait common to being Jewish and playing for the Cubs.

Andrew Lorraine qualifies both ways. So he perseveres.

Just like he did on the afternoon of Aug. 24 at Wrigley Field. Some 2 1/2 months of indignities had been heaped on the hapless Cubs, whose mother of all mid-summer swoons had reached 20-47 at that point. And here was left-handed pitcher Lorraine, going about his business, when he felt a sting on his left pinkie pitching in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants.

Shaking off that wrath of a yellow jacket, Lorraine kept on going until the Giants bombed him out four innings later, the sting of defeat even more painful this day. But Lorraine, 27, made his next start, and the one after that, and so on, as the losses mounted. Better to be trying and losing in the majors than offering up the best stuff in the minor leagues.

They don't write much about Jewish minor leaguers. Up in "The Show," it's a mark of distinction.

Econophone

"It seems it's always made an issue once it's discovered," Lorraine said. "When you grow up, you hear about Jewish players like Sandy Koufax.

"It's a part of me. People want to identify with a (Jewish) player. There's a big Jewish community in Chicago. It's great.

"I think part of the fascination is that there's not many of us. And then you read the old stories about how Hank Greenberg overcame anti-Semitism. But no matter what era, there aren't many, so that's where there's so much of a distinction."

Toronto's Shawn Green ranks as the top Jewish baseball star over the last few decades. Philadelphia's Mike Lieberthal is one of the more power-packed catchers around. Lorraine? He continues a 1990s tradition of Jewish Cubs with foreign roots.

Pitcher Jose Bautista (1993-94) discovered his mother was descended from Holocaust refugees in the Dominican Republic, and became a devout Jew. Similarly, Cuban-born left-hander Tony Fossas, who pitched midway through the 1998 season, found out on a trip to Israel that he was descended from Sephardic Jews.

Lorraine's father, Michael, grew up in east London, eventually emigrating from Great Britain as a teenager. His uncle, Jon Lorraine, is an Orthodox rabbi in England and the father of an ultra-religious activist in Israel. The family name originally was Levin. Lorraine's paternal grandfather, serving in the British Army in World War II, apparently served time in the Alsace-Lorraine section of France.


Leiters Sukkah

"He liked the name Lorraine, and changed his name before he got married," his grandson the lefty said.

Lorraine's Chicago debut hearkens back to the greatest Jewish Cub ever. On Aug. 6, Lorraine, arriving from Triple-A Iowa only hours earlier, pitched a complete-game, three-hit shutout over the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field. That became the first shutout by a Jewish Cubs left hander since, well, Ken Holtzman's second no-hitter, against the Reds, on June 3, 1971.

Holtzman, now working for a Jewish Community Center in Chesterfield, Mo., is the most prominent Jewish Cub ever, with Steve Stone, the team's TV color analyst since 1983, a close second, with his video work far outranking his pitching days (1974-76) in prominence. Ed Reulbach was one of the game's top pitchers during his Cubs tenure from 1905 to 1913. Bit-part Jewish Cubs like Art Shamsky, Ed Mayer, Hy Cohen and Cy Block appear in team annals.

Like Stone, Lorraine also ranks as a rare Jew who pitched for both the Cubs and White Sox. Lorraine had a brief tour with the South Siders in 1975, while Stone had two tenures at old Comiskey Park, in 1973 and 1977-78.

Lorraine is just learning about the Chicago Jewish baseball tradition. He didn't even know Stone was Jewish until he came to the Cubs. Lorraine got his baseball broadcast education from Vin Scully, not Stone, having grown up in Valencia section of Los Angeles, part of the huge Jewish community in the San Fernando Valley. He attended Stanford University, earning a bachelor's degree in American Studies in 1994.

A young left-hander growing up Jewish would hear a lot about Sandy Koufax, and a lot of wishful comparisons.


"I'll take half of his (Koufax's) fastball," Lorraine said.

Lorraine and well-traveled catcher Jesse Levis, also Jewish, also achieved a rare distinction. During one winter-league game in Puerto Rico in 1996, they formed a battery of pitcher and catcher, another rarity possibly last achieved in the early 1960s when Koufax pitched to catcher Norm Sherry in Los Angeles.

All these connections hardly got any media play because Lorraine didn't stick around long enough with one team to merit a lot of coverage. Originally signed with the Anaheim Angels organization, he appeared in four games with the Halos in 1994 before moving on to the White Sox. He appeared in five games, all in relief, with the Sox in 1995 before being traded for Danny Tartabull early in 1996.

Lorraine then re-surfaced with the Athletics for 12 games, including six starts, as he compiled a 3-1 record in 1997. Another team, the Seattle Mariners, beckoned in 1998 with a four-game cup of coffee.

Why the constant moving around when left-handers are supposedly prized? He figured he wasn't mature and settled enough in his own game to stick with one team in baseball's fickle universe. Along the way, he was fortunate to not encounter any anti-Semitism connected with baseball, a conservative, steeped-in-tradition game where name-calling is almost as endemic as chewing and spitting and scratching.

Signing with the Cubs' top minor-league team in Iowa last winter, Lorraine credited working in the bullpen in 1998 in the Mariners' organization in maturing his approach to handle the promotion to the Cubs.

With Cubs pitching in total disarray, Lorraine has to make the most of his opportunity now. No other left-handers are ready for major-league delivery from the farm system. A strong finish could mean a close look at a spot on the pitching staff next spring training.

Getting his longest tryout in a big-league starting rotation so far, Lorraine hopes to avoid the age-old conflict for Jewish ballplayers: whether to play on the High Holidays. He pitched Wednesday, Sept. 8, avoiding the conflict with Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur was a little easier to handle, with the Cubs playing a day game prior to the onset of the holiday at sundown and not playing again until 7 p.m. Monday night, Sept. 20, in a Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire rematch in a Cubs-Cardinals game at Wrigley Field.

"A lot of people have told me it should be my personal decision, and as long as I've been in professional baseball I've been able to work around it as best as I can," Lorraine said. "I've never taken a (full) day off from work and always come to the ballpark, but I make sure I attend services during each of the holidays. In my own way, I'm observing the holidays."


Once the holidays are over, Lorraine would like to meet the Jewish sports legends in whose wake he follows. He could bump into Holtzman when the Cubs travel to St. Louis, but Koufax is a different story. He's a virtual recluse now, turning down interview requests and invitations to appear at old-timers' games.

So without the greatest ever, fellows like Lorraine have to keep the tradition going. They're left-handed and Jewish, but not the next Koufax. No one can be. But they can easily be a role model for Jewish athletes no matter what the speed of their fastball or bottomless-pit record of the team that employs them.


George Castle is a correspondent of The Chicago Jewish News. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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