Larry Sherry, who died of cancer on Dec. 17, 2006, was a star relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who was overshadowed by the Dodgers’ “other” Jewish pitching star – Sandy Koufax – but who formed half of the one of the first all-Jewish batteries (pitcher-catcher tandems) in Major League Baseball with his brother, Norm.
Sherry was a Los Angeles native who overcame birth defects and several operations on his feet to become a multiple-sport star in high school.
Sherry, born July 25, 1935, made his MLB debut April 17, 1958, as a Dodger, and pitched his final game 10 years later, July 7, 1968, as a California Angel on the eastern side of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
He compiled a lifetime record of 53-44, primarily as a relief pitcher, with an ERA of 3.67 and 606 career strikeouts for the Dodgers (1958-1963), Detroit Tigers (1965-1967), Houston Astros (1967), California Angels (1968).
What saved his career from being that of another journeyman ballplayer was a star turn in the 1959 World Series, when the Dodgers defeated the Chicago White Sox in their second year in Los Angeles after leaving Brooklyn.
Larry Sherry (L) with Dodger great Duke Snider
Sherry completed all four Dodger victories during the Series, recorded the win in relief two of them, had saves in two others, and had a 0.71 ERA in 12-2/3 innings. He was named series MVP for his performances, some of them in front of his hometown crowd.
In a reminiscence on a Jewish sports website, Ken Kantor wrote of Sherry’s ’59 heroics:
“I felt crushed by the defeat, but also impressed with Sherry’s grace under pressure. To describe Sherry’s performance, the Ribalows quote Judah HaNasi from the Talmud: “Some win eternity after years of toil, others in a moment.”
(In My Heart editor’s note: The Ribalows Kantor was referring to are Harold U. and Meir Z. Ribalow, authors of “Jewish Baseball Stars,” published in 1984.)
The World Series performance was a prelude to his best season. Sherry won a career-high 14 games, finished 38 games (4th in the league), pitched in 57 games (6th in the league), and even received support for MVP in 1960.
It was in 1959 that Sherry and his brother Norm, a catcher, became one of the first all-Jewish batteries in MLB history, and probably the only all-brother, Jewish battery. Most reminiscences of Sherry have him as being in the first Jewish battery.
According to a Los Angeles sports blogger, each Sherry (and Koufax) had “baseball nicknames:: Larry Sherry was “Rude Jew,” who would knock down hitters with inside pitches; his brother was and “Jolly Jew,” and Koufax was known then as “Super Jew.”
In 1976, Esquire magazine sportswriter Harry Stein published an “All Time All-Star Argument Starter,” consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. He made Larry Sherry the relief pitcher on his all-Jewish team.
In addition to his brother Norm, he is survived by a son, Scott; a daughter, Susie; his brothers Stan and George; and five grandchildren.