The Jewish, mostly-American princes of baseball were beaten by the Japanese in Tokyo on Wednesday, ending Team Israel’s Cinderella run at the World Baseball Classic.
Japan snapped a scoreless tie with five runs in the sixth inning on the way to an 8-3 victory before more than 40,000 fans packed into the Tokyo Dome.
Israel, the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the showcase tournament, dropped its last two games in the second round and will not advance to the semifinals next week in Los Angeles. Japan, with a tournament record of 6-0, and the Netherlands will advance from Pool E. They will join the top two teams from the Pool F games now being played in San Diego.
Israel had startled the baseball world by opening the tournament with four straight victories, including a 4-1 win over powerhouse Cuba in the first game of the second round. But Israel lost 12-2 to the Netherlands on Monday and had to beat Japan to move on.
Last week, in the first round, the Israelis squeaked past third-ranked South Korea, 2-1, in extra innings, outscored fourth-ranked Taiwan, 15-7, and defeated ninth-ranked the Netherlands, 4-2, to finish first in Pool A with a 3-0 record.
This is the first year that Israel has qualified for the tournament. In 2012, its inaugural WBC squad narrowly missed advancing past the qualifiers.
Most of the players are American Jews, and several former major leaguers are among them. WBC rules say that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on its team. Jews and their grandchildren, and the grandchildren’s spouses, have the right to become Israeli citizens.
The team appeared on the field at each game for the national anthem of Israel, “Hatikvah,” wearing matching blue kippahs. The club’s mascot was a super-size version of the plush Chanukah toy called Mensch on a Bench.
JTA Wire Service