Nahem, "Subway Sam"
Samuel Ralph Nahem
When "Subway Sam" Nahem died in 2004 at the age of 88, his obituary (by Joe Eskenazi in J, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California) started with the following anecdote:
"One spring day in 1940, after a particularly disastrous outing, young Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Sam Nahem was asked by a New York Daily News reporter what good he was doing the team. 'I am now in the egregiously anonymous position of pitching batting practice to the batting practice pitchers,' said the clever right-hander, without missing a beat."
"Subway Sam" was generally the only Jew -- often, the only New Yorker -- his teammates had ever met. A lifelong raconteur, union activist and political liberal, Nahem -- a sandlot baseball legend and Brooklyn College quarterback who subsequently became an attorney -- pitched parts of four seasons in the major leagues, taking time out to serve his country in the military. After hanging up his spikes in 1948, he moved his family from New York to California, where he became an organizer and
activist for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union.
Nahem, who grew up in a Syrian Jewish neighborhood where the first language was Arabic, always excelled in sports. During long, hot summers spent in backwoods towns during his minor league days, Sam would read all of Balzac. Sometimes, Nahem would even bring his books into the dugout. "It was almost detrimental to him at that age. He was almost too bookish for the jocks he was around," said his eldest son Ivan. "He might have gone further in baseball if it weren't for his bookishness, but that's who he was."
Besides being a Jew with an advanced degree, Nahem differed from his Major League teammates in his strong belief that baseball should be integrated. "I was in a strange position. The majority of my fellow ballplayers, wherever I was, were very much against black ballplayers, and the reason was economic and very clear. They knew these guys had the ability to be up there and they knew their jobs were threatened directly and they very, very vehemently did all sorts of things to discourage black ballplayers," Nahem
told J in a characteristically outspoken interview (October 2003).
Nahem enjoyed his best professional season in 1941, for the St. Louis Cardinals, when he went 5-2. But the following season, he was a Philadelphia
Phillie. Then he was drafted into the army. Sam didn't see combat in Europe, but in 1945, he did team up with legendary Negro League pitcher Leon Day to lead the integrated Overseas Invasion Service Expedition all-stars over an all-white 71st Infantry Division team stocked with professionals. The high-pressure games were played in front of 50,000 rabid fans at the same Nuremburg stadium in which Hitler held his most infamous rallies.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. October 19, 1915 - d. April 19, 2004
In 1938, Nahem made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers and went 2-5, including a complete game win. One of his teammates that year was outfielder (and member of the College Football Hall of Fame) Fred Sington. Sam returned to the majors three seasons later with the Cardinals and went 5-2, with an excellent ERA of 2.98 in 26 games. In 1942, Subway Sam played for the Philadelphia Phillies and went 1-3 as a reliever, appearing in 35 games. After serving in the armed forces during World War II, Nahem played several years with the semi-pro Brooklyn Bushwacks. Then, in 1948, he returned to the Phillies, going 3-3 in 28 games (all but one were in relief). That was his last season in the majors. He retired with a record of 10-8 in 90 career games.
Nahem pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, 1938, the St. Louis Cardinals, 1941, and the Philadelphia Phillies, 1942, and 1948.
6'1-1/2", 190 pounds
Winning pct.: .556
Games Started: 12
Complete Games: 3
Innings Pitched: 224.1
Hits Allowed: 222
Strike Outs: 101
Home Runs: 0
Batting Average: .164
Double Plays: 2
Total Chances per Game: 0.8
Fielding avg: .900