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Max Kepler and the German Connection

Posted by mikelink45 , 22 February 2018 · 1,285 views

max kepler gardenhire germany baseball history
Max Kepler and the German Connection Max Kepler, being a German, seemed like quite an exception in baseball history, so I had to do some research. Bleacher Reports was so fascinated by his story that they published http://bleacherrepor...-for-mlb-dreams. The article included this Max Kepler quote – "Soccer is the No. 1 sport in Germany," Kepler said. "Baseball was barely poking its head out the window at the time. Being one of the best [soccer players] in my school, people frowned about it and they were just surprised that I would take baseball which is kind of a long jump."

What I found out follows - https://www.baseball...ball_in_Germany Baseball Reference says that in a 1796 book by a German, Johann Guts Muths, rules for a game called "English base-ball" appeared and as you might imagine it was a little different than what we play today. Then in 1936 Germany hosted an exhibition of baseball in the Olympics. Baseball was played by American prisoners of war in the notorious Nazi prison camps. http://mopupduty.com...ermany-091412/ Following WWII the GIs that were occupying Germany introduced the sport again on their bases.

The military men followed their American examples and set up a league that included - Frankfurter Black Knights, Mannheimer Tornados, Münchner Broncos, and Stuttgarter Hawks. The Tornados – an all-black team was the best and the most popular. These teams had many Negro League and Major League players, but as service representation diminished Germany set up its own league – “In 1951, the first season of Baseball-Bundesliga was played, the first German championship.” Eventually they became part of a European baseball association that helped spread the sport through the Continent.

Now Max Kepler came out of this history, but he was not the first German player in the majors. Baseball Reference has this to say about the history of German’s in the American League and interestingly it is not Max Kepler who is the noted Minnesota Twins German: “The first Major League players from Germany were David Lenz and Marty Swandell who both debuted from May 7, 1872 for Brooklyn Eckfords. Swandell had played for the club since 1863, while Lenz was a 21-year old catcher who played the opening four games of the season with the club before being replaced by William Bestick. Over the next twenty years another eight players played in the majors, but only two played more than forty in their career - the most successful of which was pitcher Charlie Getzein who won 145 games. From 1893 through 1897, there were no Germans in the majors, but then until the American entry into World War I another twelve players played in the majors.

Of course, Germans were part of American history since the beginning so many players in the early years were still recognized by their home country and there have been 41 players who were born in Germany, including Max and Gardy - http://www.baseball-...php?loc=Germany Check out the list.
Only three Germans played in the Majors between the two World Wars, a single player (Heinz Becker) played in the World War II-era, and during the 1950s and 1960s no Germans played in the majors. Thirteen players have debuted from 1972 onward, most of whom were the children of American service members stationed in the country. When Ron Gardenhire became the manager of the Minnesota Twins in 2002, he was the first German skipper since Chris von der Ahe in 1897.”

Germany’s domestic league – the fifteen team Bundesliga – reformed in 1982 and continues to play to this day. Baseball in German website says that from this league baseball started to sign players like Mitch Franke in 2000, and then Rodney Gressman, Donald Lutz, Max Kepler, Tim Henkenjohann, Simon Guhring, Kai Gronauer, Ludwig Glaser and Jennel Hudson with Max leading the way into the majors.

In the book – Beer, Brats, and Baseball – the author Jim Merkel writes about the 1860’s when many Germans, including some of distant uncles – settled in St Louis where the brewed beer and started a local baseball club – not the Cardinals – while joining the Union and helping preserve Missouri as a free state. This coincides with the official advent of Baseball in the US.

Baseball history is also filled with “Dutch” nicknames like Hubert Benjamin "Dutch" Leonard, (April 16, 1892 – July 11, 1952) was an American left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who had an 11-year career from 1913 to 1921, and 1924 to 1925. He still holds the record for the lowest ERA ever – 0.96 in 1914. But he was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Lots of nicknames were based on the players ethnic backgrounds.

Should you want to see how German born players did in baseball careers – Baseball Reference provides this summary of statistics https://www.baseball...many_born.shtml You will be happy to know that Gardy is the greatest German born manager in history! Glenn Hubard is the best career hitter, and Edwin Jackson is the greatest German born pitcher. And Max – three years, two full years in the majors – his line is 239 – 310 – 422.

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