On this Labor Day edition of Leading Off with True Blue LA, we look back at former Dodgers outfielder Goody Rosen, a man who understood the value of his work.
Rosen played five years for the minor league Louisville Colonels before getting called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937, becoming the first Canadian-born Jewish player in major league history. He had a hot start that September, with multi-hit games in each of his first four starts, and was 10 for 20 to begin his career.
He was a regular for the Dodgers in 1938, playing all three outfield positions, but slumped under first-year manager Leo Durocher in 1939 and got sent to the minors. After that season, Rosen sent his contract back to Dodgers general manager Larry McPhail unsigned, a strategy that never brought endearment, especially in the age of the reserve clause.
Rosen was sold to the Pirates, then to the Reds, and after four years in the minors made his way back to the Dodgers in 1944. Rosen was of slight build, listed at 5’9, 160 pounds, and didn’t have much power. But coach Charlie Dressen, who would later manage the Dodgers, helped Rosen with his swing, and helped unlock his best season in 1945.
Rosen that year hit .325/.379/.460, a 134 OPS+ with 24 doubles, 11 triples, and 12 home runs, finishing in the top-10 in the National League in WAR, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, hits, total bases, triples, OPS+, and his 129 runs scored ranked second in the league.
During a hot streak in 1945, Rosen referred to the price the Dodgers paid for him both times they acquired him, telling the Brownsville Herald, “Do you know that I’m really a $40,000 player as far as Brooklyn is concerned? The Dodgers bought me for $20,000 late in 1937, then [in 1944] paid Syracuse another $20,000 for my contract.”
Come salary time before the 1946 season, Rosen thought he should be paid more to reflect his worth, but all that got him was traded, by Branch Rickey to the Giants a few games into the season.
Rosen hit .333/.500/.524 for the Giants in 16 games against the Dodgers that season, including five hits in a doubleheader sweep of Brooklyn in his first two games with the team.
- Rosen’s SABR bio, written by Alex Tepperman
- Rosen at the Jewish Baseball Museum
- Twitter thread on Rosen from Kevin Glew, in which one of the replies includes Rosen’s obituary from 1994 in Toronto
Episode link (time: 21:09)