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Cal Abrams

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Cal AbramsOn November 20, 1980, Eli Wohlgelernter interviewed Cal Abrams and his wife, May. Now housed in the Jewish Division of the New York Public Library, the record of this interview goes beyond statistics, to which British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli disdained in a pungent remark, often quoted and wrongly attributed: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” With regard to Calvin Ross Abrams, whose lifetime batting average of .269 in a truncated eight year major league career, the bare record is less than overwhelming. Abrams’s impact, however, bears closer scrutiny and more appreciation.

Born in Philadelphia on March 2, 1924, Calvin at three weeks of age moved with his parents to Brooklyn. He lived in various sections: Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay, and Flatbush, where he grew up in the 1930s listening to Dodger games on the radio and honing his baseball skills on the sandlots of his adopted borough. For the ambitious young player, Brooklyn, as he recalled, offered the best of everything: Chinese food (dinner for twenty-five cents), handball, basketball courts, baseball fields at the Parade Grounds adjacent to Prospect Park, dancing (his passion), and entertainment in the downtown section, the equal of  Manhattan events. Cal’s father, a frustrated athlete, pushed his son and shepped nachas (derived vicarious joy) from his success—so much so that Abrams likened his “overly critical father” to Jimmy Piersall’s dad (Wohlgelernter Interview, (I-26).

Cal attended James Madison High School (two blocks from my current residence); where Brooklyn Dodger scout Joe Labate saw him hit a mammoth home run in a game. Shortly thereafter, Labate signed Abrams to a Dodger contract. Assigned to a Class D Pony League team, Abrams played in only 19 games, hitting .327 before joining the U.S. Anti-Aircraft Artillery on January 22, 1943. Serving in both the European and Pacific theaters, Cal earned two battle stars in the Pacific.

Released three years later, on January 17, Abrams resumed his baseball career with the Class B Danville Dodgers in 1946. In this, his first full year of organized baseball, he hit a robust .331. Basically a slap hitter, the left-handed young outfielder got most of his base hits to the left side of the diamond. The following two years found Abrams in the Double A Southern Association sporting a Mobile Bears uniform. With 203 hits in 589 official turns at bat, Abrams hit a hefty .345 in 1947 and .337 in 1948. Moving laterally to Fort Worth in the Texas League, Cal continued to wield a hot bat with a .336 average and a measurably colder bat when summoned to the major leagues. As a Brooklyn Dodger, competing on a team with an abundance of outfielders, Abrams managed only two hits in 26 at bats. Never a home run hitter, the Brooklyn native traveled around the minor league circuit where he never hit below .300. 1950 was no exception. Starting off in Double A again; this time as a  Jewish Saint Paul Saint, Abrams hit a solid .333 in 58 games before he was called up to the major leagues, as in the Count Basie chant: “One more time!” (Abrams’ minor league statistics come from a treasure trove: SABR Minor Leagues Database: Cal Abrams).

Click here to read the rest of Cal Abrams’s story.