Brainy Breslow clutch on the hill in Red Sox title bid


When Craig Breslow entered Saturday night’s playoff game against the Detroit Tigers, FOX broadcaster Tim McCarver hailed the Boston Red Sox reliever — a Yale University graduate with a double major in molecular biophysics and biochemistry — as the smartest player in Major League Baseball.

But with Breslow’s stellar performance this postseason, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is looking like the genius for acquiring the lefty in a trade last year.

In Boston’s first two playoff series this season, Breslow has pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing three hits and five walks while striking out seven.

He’ll likely be counted upon again in the World Series when the Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals starting Wednesday.

While creating the impressive postseason resume, Breslow also has solidified Boston’s reputation as a hub for Jewish players. Back in 2006, in fact, Breslow was one of four Jewish players to play for the Red Sox, including Kevin Youkilis and Gabe Kapler.

This season, he’s not the only Jewish player and Yale alumnus on the team — there’s also catcher Ryan Lavarnway (now on the disabled list). Another Jewish player, outfielder Ryan Kalish, has been out all year with an injury.

Breslow, 33, has expressed his Jewish pride throughout his career, saying he has fasted on Yom Kippur even while playing.

He also has performed tikkun olam, the Hebrew term for “repair of the world,” with his charity efforts that include the Strike 3 Foundation he established in 2008 in the battle against cancer afflicting children (his younger sister is a survivor of thyroid cancer). For his charitable works, Breslow is this year’s Red Sox nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award handed out by Major League Baseball.

Like Youkilis and Kapler, Breslow took home a World Series ring when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007. But he actually spent nearly the entire season in the minor leagues and never threw a pitch in the playoffs, though he was on the roster of available players.

From 2007 to 2012, Breslow pitched for several teams before being traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Red Sox in the middle of last season. Along the way he often drew more attention for his intellectual prowess than his mound exploits.

McCarver wasn’t joking: Breslow’s Wikipedia page boasts several citations hailing him as the smartest big leaguer. The Sporting News went even further, declaring him the smartest athlete in all of sports.

Fueling such talk was the time during his first stint with the Red Sox that Breslow settled a bet over whether he could calculate how many times a baseball spins when it is thrown from the pitcher’s mound to home plate at 90 miles per hour.

“There’s a lot of variables,” he was quoted as saying, “but I put in some figures and came up with answers for a fastball, curve or slider. It’s rather simple once you do it.”

Breslow hasn’t lost the braniac reputation. Red Sox manager John Farrell recently quipped, “Breslow uses words in a normal conversation that I’m not used to.”

This time around with the Red Soz, however, the team is very much depending on Breslow to be a significant contributor to the playoff run. They acquired him for that most specialized of pitching assignments: a lefty retiring left-handed batters in crucial situations.

It’s an important role, enabling a team to stifle an opponent’s midgame rallies while saving its top reliever for the ninth inning to close out victories.

In the series-clinching win in Boston’s opening playoff series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Breslow came on in the sixth inning for starter Jake Peavy and proceeded to strike out four of the five batters he retired. Breslow was credited with the win when the Red Sox rallied for three runs.

In the American League Championship Series, Breslow again was a vital bullpen cog as Boston defeated Detroit in six games.

Breslow had a great vantage point for a key moment of that series. In Game 2, with the Tigers closing in on a commanding lead in the ALCS, David Ortiz blasted a grand slam into the Red Sox bullpen, just a few feet away from Breslow. The home run tied the score at 5, and the Red Sox went on to win in the ninth inning.

“It was pretty surreal and incredible,” Breslow told MLB-TV of the scene. “I couldn’t imagine a better guy to do it than David Ortiz.”

Breslow has been blogging about his playoff experiences for the website of the Boston-area sports radio station WEEI.

“It’s going to be a great series, I’m sure it’s going to be a dogfight, but we’re all looking forward to it,” he wrote Sunday about facing the Cardinals. “As much as we all got to enjoy what we accomplished on Saturday night, we know that there’s still a final goal to reach.

“We’ll do our homework, we’ll be prepared and be ready to get back at it on Wednesday.”

If there’s any homework to be done, Breslow would be the guy to do it.

Master Class: Israelis and Angelenos learn the secrets of show business


How do you get anyone in Hollywood to return your phone call? How do you sell an idea at a pitch meeting without seeming arrogant, desperate or, worst of all, boring? How do you protect your idea or script as it makes the rounds of producers and agents? And when that agent or producer finally returns your call, how are you supposed to behave?

Such quintessential “biz” questions proved to be hot topics for a select group of 25 film and television professionals from Los Angeles and Tel Aviv as they sat in a conference room July 13 at The Jewish Federation’s Goldsmith Center. It was still early in the morning on the first full day of the ninth annual Master Class in Cinema and Television, but already people seemed to be in the throes of furious note-taking as they listened to tricks-of-the-trade advice from several Hollywood veterans.

“I want to help you get through in Tinseltown,” summed up Joan Hyler, a prominent talent manager and former senior vice president at the William Morris Agency. “The ‘let’s have lunch and never call you back’ experience happens to so many people, but it doesn’t have to happen to you.”

“We’ll give you the inside track of the inside track,” promised Danny Sussman, another formidable talent manager who co-chaired the class with Hyler. And to the Israelis present, he added: “As pertains to film and TV, you have the thirstiest community.”

Taking place for the first time in Los Angeles rather than Tel Aviv, the master class has become one of the flagship programs of The Federation’s decade-old Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership — a city-to-city exchange of culture, education, health and human services. Spread out over 10 days, the class offered its mostly midcareer participants a whirlwind itinerary of panel discussions, lunches and dinners with seasoned Hollywood artists, executives and agents.

This year’s lineup of experts included David Sacks, who’s written for shows like “The Simpsons” and “3rd Rock From the Sun”; Gail Berman-Masters, former president of Paramount Pictures; Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, and Jon Avnet, director and producer of films like “Risky Business” and “Fried Green Tomatoes.”

“Not everyone in Hollywood is willing to jump on a plane and fly to Israel for two weeks,” said Jill Hoyt, The Federation’s senior director of international programs. “We wanted to provide even more opportunities for entertainment people to share their expertise.”

Calling the master class “a very successful model for engagement with Israel,” Hoyt pointed to past participants who went on to achieve significant international acclaim, like Nadav Schirman, whose award-winning film, “The Champagne Spy,” recently received its North American premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and Dror Shaul, director of “Sweet Mud,” which won this year’s Sundance grand jury prize.

“I firmly believe that the next zeitgeist in the movie industry is coming from Israel,” said Hyler, who traveled to Tel Aviv in May to give a “mini” master class. “Israel is starting to experience in film what Italy did after World War II, then the French in the ’50s and England in the ’60s. Feeding and growing this exploding industry in Israel is very important to me.”

Hyler presided over that first morning’s proceedings, which included Q-and-As with Sacks and producer Zvi Howard Rosenman, who spoke about the difficulty of getting Jewish-themed work produced in Hollywood and how “this business is all about tenacity.”

“I’ve made 29 movies,” he said, “but I still wake up every morning praying to God to get me through the day, because 99.9 percent of the time, you’re dealing with rejection.”

Sacks focused on Hollywood etiquette.

“You never sit down and go right into your pitch,” he said. “Look at the person’s office. Comment on their paintings. The more they like you, the more they’ll like your idea.”

When discussing the dynamics of a television writers’ room, Sacks emphasized the importance of “never speaking definitively and outright saying you don’t like someone else’s idea.”

This elicited some incredulous yet understandable responses from the Israeli contingent, since “no” simply means “no” in their country.

“Look, this is the culture of Hollywood,” Sacks added in his defense. “If you use the Israeli model, you’ll get nowhere.”

For the most part, both the Tel Aviv and Los Angeles participants seemed very eager to learn from whomever took the podium. “We’re still in our baby steps, and they’re in middle age,” award-winning Tel Aviv-based actor and director Oded Kotler observed of Hollywood professionals. “These are the top people in the world for my field, and I feel that Israel still has a lot to learn from them.”

Arik Kneller, an established Tel Aviv-based agent who represents top Israeli talent like Joseph Cedar and Etgar Keret, decided to submit an application for the master class because

“I’ve gone as far as I can in establishing my network in Israel. Now I need to meet people in L.A.,” he said.

Other participants mentioned that it’s equally, if not more important, for them to network with colleagues and peers on similar rungs of the professional ladder.

“I want to meet people who struggle with the same issues as I do,” said Ravit Markus, an Israeli documentary filmmaker who now lives in Los Angeles. “I’m really looking to form good relationships of support and friendship.”

Markus echoed Hyler when she first welcomed the group and issued her “most important” piece of advice.

“Take the time over the next 10 days to schmooze with each other,” she commanded. “This business is all about relationships.”

For more information about the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership Master Class, visit http://www.jewishla.org/Film_and_Television_Master_Class.cfm