THE KING OF JEWISH SOFTBALL

29 Jul

I, King of All Jewish Baseball, leader and ruler of THE GREAT KINGDOM OF JEWISH BASEBALL, to be completely honest in my divine, genius communications, shamefully must tell you, there is… another man– nay, not another King of Jewish Baseball, for, clearly, as just covered, there is one and I am him, but there is a man so large, so powerful, he warrants mention here, King and Ruler of his own Kingdom, that is to say, the Kingdom of Jewish Softball, Ladies and Geetle Juices, I, here and now, proudly dub thee, David Blackburn, King of All Jewish Softball.

I met Dave in 2005.  We were teammates on the Open Mens Fastpitch Softball Team aka THE GREATEST ALL JEWISH SOFTBALL TEAM OF ALL TIME OF THE GREAT AND WELL-KNOWN 2005 MACCABI GAMES – a perfect team, with a perfect record, 12 wins, 0 losses.  At the conclusion of the tournament we were, naturally, awarded the Little Golden Medal of Ultimate Bravery and Intelligence, and were the sovereign Holders, for 4 years at least, of the Snow Globe of Jewish Softball.

The 2005 Gold Medal Team.  That's me with the afro holding the flag.  Dave is the big man to my right.

The 2005 Gold Medal Team USA. That’s me with the afro holding the flag (#9). Dave is the giant to my left (#7).

Dave was our #1 pitcher, the only #1 pitcher the USA had ever had in the Maccabi Games.  Dave had pitched for the team since their first Games in 1985.  I was just a young warrior looking for his place in the World of Jewish Baseball, or Softball, in this case, and he was a legend.  He was competing in his 5th Maccabi Games.  And he had the calves of an adolescent Rhino.  He had already won 2 gold medals.  There is, you must know, a rule in the Maccabi Game that says athletes can only compete 3 times.  But Dave got an exemption because, well, it’s hard to find good Jewish Softball pitchers, and his calves, and, frankly, because he is, after all, the King of All Jewish Softball.

In his life, Dave has thrown 70 no hitters, 4 of them in the Maccabi Games.  One of his no-hitter balls is in the Maccabiah Hall of Fame.  He is the only non-Israeli in the Israel Softball Hall of Fame.  He is in the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.  And last summer he was inducted into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame, softballs equivalent to Cooperstown.  All together, Dave has 4 gold medals, 1 silver, and 1 bronze.  This year, for the first time, Dave did not medal.  He lost to 3 superior Israeli Para-Olympic athletes in  Wheelchair Table Tennis.

Dave playing table tennis.

Dave playing table tennis.

3 years ago, Dave was in a car accident on the way to a tournament in Prescott, Arizona.  Some of the guys from our 2005 team entered a Maccabi team into– no, shockingly, not an all-Jewish competition, but the the 40-and-over National Tournament with some of the top fastpitch softball teams in the USA.   On the way, the car Dave was in, along with 2 of our teammates, was in a head-on collision.  No one was killed.  But Dave wound up in a coma for 54 days and has since lost the lower half of his famous, gigantic right leg, and his ability to walk.

The team decided to continue on in Prescott despite not knowing if Dave would live.  At night, they went the hospital.  During the day, they played softball, and that year, in Arizona, with their Giant Jewish Friend, not to mention, best pitcher, in the hospital, using only the power of Love, and Black Jewish Softball Magic, of course, the 40+ Maccabi USA Softball Team won a National Championship.

This is the 1st time I’ve seen Dave since the accident.  He is here to compete in Table Tennis, and he was announced as a flag bearer for the United States delegation at opening ceremonies.  It is Dave’s 7th Maccabi Games, the most any athlete has competed in.

In softball, the USA plays their final games of the tournament tonight.  They play Mexico at 7, if they win, they play for gold at 9.

Dave will be there.

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Big Dave Blackburn, for always and forever, under the sun, the King of All Jewish Softball

————-

Dave Is working on a film project, The King and Me.

Visit, http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-king-and-me, to see more…

4 Responses to “THE KING OF JEWISH SOFTBALL”

  1. Danny HArari July 30, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    Got to meet Dave in a Macabee games in Israel some time ago. I still have one of his USA jersey and holding on to it a reminder of a great person and human being. You have great friends all over the world, and some of them are here in Panama City, Republic of Panama. Keep on rocking Big D. Danny Harari.

  2. Alfred O. Cohen May 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    TO THE KING…MAY HIS MEMORIES LIVE ON & GROW…HE WILL BE MISSED…
    ALFRED AN EX KING…

  3. Brian 'Shifty' Schiff May 30, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    I potsed this on Facebook and I hope you don’t mind me putting it here as well.

    I became aware of the Maccabiah in the 1980s as some players from the USA team were in a Sunday morning softball league in Philadelphia in which I also played. I used to see them walking around with USA Maccabiah gear which could not have been more impressive. Jewish Olympians. What could be better? They were Terry Goldberg, Mitch Kline, Neil Kabinoff, Eric Weinraub & Dennis Weiner. The coach, I later found out, was Villanova baseball coach Larry Shane.

    I became involved with Maccabiah basketball and I also was a writer for the Jewish Times newspaper. In 1993, as the softball team was about to leave for Israel for the 14th World Maccabiah Games, the USA fast-pitch team played an exhibition game at Max Myers Playground in the Northeast. Their opponent was D.C. Tire, the defending national fast-pitch softball champions. Being that I had some personal interest, I assigned myself to cover the game for the paper.

    It was the 1st time I saw ‘El Gordo Grande,’ aka Dave Blackburn. Blackburn was the team’s pitcher. An imposing figure Dave did not have, shall we say, an athletic swimmers body. Frankly, with his huge belly, he was at first glance, a fat guy.

    However, once he walked out to the mound, no athlete I have ever watched perform was more impressive. ‘Breeder’ as some called him, threw fast balls, he threw curve balls, change-ups and his money pitch, a riser. He never seemed to tire. He was amazing. If memory serves, the USA team won the game 2-1. The national champs got ‘bupkus’ off the Big Jewish Guy.

    As my involvement with Maccabi grew we got to know each other. We were together in Israel three times and in Mexico, Chile and Argentina. When not competing Dave wore one of his baseball hats that was covered with Maccabi pins from around the world. He lived in Southern California but pitched for teams and in leagues all over the country. Dave pitched around 1,800 games, winning 1,400. He pitched 70 no-hitters. He won four Maccabiah golds and numerous other medals. He was inducted into multiple softball halls of fame.

    What he cared about most was Maccabiah. To me, he was Maccabiah, its most revered figure, its most accomplished athlete. My USA junior basketball teams, which I was honored to coach 6 times, were extremely successful. When I ran into him, Dave started calling me ‘legend.’ To me it was a total joke, but when he did it was right up there with the proudest moments of my life. It usually brought me to tears. Many Jewish athletes receive acclaim for being Jewish, but Dave’s fame was because he accomplished things on behalf of Jewish athletics. That is something extra special.

    In 2010, on the way to a tournament in Arizona, Dave was almost killed in a car accident. After two months in a coma, he survived, but lost part of his right leg. After 10 months in the hospital he was confined to a wheelchair. In 2013 he returned to Israel and the Maccabiah and was named one of 10 athletes who carried the U.S. banner onto Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem for the opening ceremonies. Not just satisfied to be there, he competed in table tennis as a paralympian. At the Maccabiah softball venue he was honored by every country and in a universal show of love, support and appreciation, his number 7 jersey was retired from all future Maccabiah competition.

    When I found out today Dave died I was engulfed by sadness. He had been through so much. Hopefully he is at peace and pain-free. For all he accomplished throughout his career and what he went through over the last few years of his life, Dave is an inspiration of mammoth proportions.

    Ultimately, Dave Blackburn is greatest Maccabi since Judah himself. He will be missed.

    Brian ‘Shifty’ Schiff

  4. Mike Duchowny June 2, 2014 at 12:00 am #

    I met Dave in 1982, shortly after he received his engineering degree from the Univ. of Illinois. A gentleman and a world-class athlete. I placed him into his first job, and a couple of other times as well. He invited me to his induction into the Southern Calif. Jewish Sports Hall of fame and I invited him to a UCLA women’s basketball ga,e I was working at the time—he sat courtside with me. I’ve just learned of his passing, very sad. He will be missed by all who had the good fortune to know him.

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