By Glen Sparks
Czarist Russia was a nasty place for anyone Jewish. Government pogroms (Russian for “harm” or “destruction”) led to rioting and to thousands of injuries and deaths.
Cruel orders such as the May Laws added more burdens to an already difficult life. Decreed by Alexander III in May 1882, the laws prohibited Jewish residents from settling in agricultural areas, forcing them into urban ghettos. May Laws also created a quota system in higher education and for professional jobs.
Many Jewish residents fled Russia for a better life. William and Ida Goldstein, along with their three children, escaped from Odessa, Russian Federation (present-day Ukraine). Isidore Goldstein was born June 6, 1908, not long before his parents and siblings left for New York City. Izzy mostly grew up in the Bronx and graduated from James Monroe High School.
The product of a faraway place, Izzy quickly picked up on the American game. Not much of a student, he preferred to play baseball. A 6-foot-tall, slender right-hander, Izzy hurled a powerful fastball. The Detroit Tigers liked him and signed him. They assigned Izzy in 1928 to the Wheeling, West Virginia, Stogies of the Class C Mid-Atlantic League. Young Goldstein went 12-9 with a 3.61 ERA.
Izzy followed up that campaign by going 12-8 and 2.74 ERA for the Evansville, Indiana, Hubs of the Three-I League in 1929 and 14-11 with a 3.52 ERA, in 1930, again for Evansville. The pitcher packed his bags for sunny California the next season. The Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League wanted him. In the end, though, Izzy pitched in the Texas heat in 1931 for the Class A Beaumont Exporters.
The Detroit Tigers invited Goldstein to spring training in 1932. He pitched well; the Tigers sent him back to Beaumont, anyway. There, Izzy put up his best numbers yet. He started the season by going 6-1 with a 1.58 ERA. Those stats were impressive enough for the Tigers brass. Izzy boarded a train, headed for the major leagues.
He pitched his first game for the Tigers on April 24, 1932, against the Chicago White Sox. He got in only one inning of work, in relief of starter George Uhle, who was rocked for five earned runs in just two innings. Izzy gave up just one hit, and he struck out a batter. Unfortunately, he allowed three walks, and that led to another Chicago run. Of note, the White Sox led 9-2 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, but ended up blowing that sizable advantage. The Tigers scored four runs in the eighth and another four in the ninth to win 10-9.
On May 24, Goldstein earned his first big-league win. He started in Detroit against the St. Louis Browns. Izzy gave up single runs in the first and second innings, but the Tigers came back with two runs apiece in the third and fourth. St. Louis answered with a run in the fifth, while Detroit scored two more times in the seventh. Goldstein allowed two runs in the eighth before getting the hook. The Tigers held on to win 6-5. In his 7.1 innings, Izzy gave up 10 hits, walked six and struck out two. He was charged with all five St. Louis runs. Considering that he allowed 16 base runners, it could have been worse.
Izzy’s best game as a big leaguer came June 27 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. He scattered five hits and gave up three runs, one in the first and two in the seventh, as the Tigers beat the White Sox 9-3. Izzy upped his won-loss record to 3-1 as the Tigers improved to 37-27 on the season. The 24-year-old even lowered his ERA to a solid 2.75. And, he never started another game.
Maybe it was the five walks. Goldstein was never one for pinpoint control. Izzy’s last game came exactly one month after his best game. He pitched in relief of starter Earl Whitehill, against the Philadelphia A’s. Walks got him again. He gave up two free passes in two/thirds of an inning, to go along with two hits, and allowed two runs.
The Tigers sent their rookie to pitch for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. Izzy Goldstein never pitched another game in the majors. He logged time with Toronto and at some point, he did what pitchers tend to do. He hurt his arm. That only earned him his release from the Tigers. Izzy pitched a little bit and played outfield for some semipro teams in New York, hoping to hook on again in the majors. It never happened. He retired from the game in 1938.
For a while, he sold men’s suits. Then, World War II broke out. Izzy, a single man, got a draft notice in the mail and served in the South Pacific. When the war ended, he went back to selling suits.
Izzy eventually got married. He and the former Carol Levine moved to Florida. Erwin Lynn included Izzy in the book The Jewish Baseball Hall of Fame: A Who’s Who of Baseball Stars. Goldstein pitched in 16 games in the majors. He started six times and tossed two complete games. His ERA ended up at 4.47 over 56.1 innings. He allowed 61 hits and struck out just 14 batters. Most telling, he surrendered 41 walks.
Izzy Goldstein died on September 24, 1993, at the age of 85. He is buried at the Jewish Eternal Light Memorial Gardens in Boynton Beach, Florida.