Reuben Cohen

Reuben “Rube” Cohen, 1899-1970

Inducted into Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Greater Hartford, 1983

Born Reuben Cohen in Odessa, Ukraine, Cohen came to Hartford with his parents as a young child and played football, basketball, and baseball at Hartford High. After a year at Tufts University, he transferred to Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. His college baseball coach was also a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals, and the sports prodigy enjoyed a weeklong “cup of coffee” as a 21-year-old shortstop with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1921. His manager, the legendary Branch Rickey, inserted him into the lineup as a late-inning defensive replacement on June 21, 1921, and he successfully handled his only chance in the field. He pinch-ran four days later and finally earned his only major-league plate appearance on June 27, 1921, when he struck out in a pinch-hitting role. During his weeklong stint in the big leagues, he was teammates with Rogers Hornsby.

To escape anti-Semitism but also to maintain his amateur eligibility in college, he played under the name Reuben Ewing. But the ruse didn’t work: Newspapers continued to call him by his Jewish name. The Richmond (Indiana) Palladium-Item in July 1921 explained that Cohen had adopted the new name “for ballplayer purposes,” reminded readers that another major leaguer, Sammy Bohne, had changed his name from Cohen, and mused, “just why these fellows think the name is a handicap is not clear.”

The Cardinals sent Ewing to its minor league teams, but by the end of the season, he was out of professional baseball. Reverting to using his original name, he returned to college and played his three favorite sports and returned to Hartford after graduation. There, he worked as a realtor, played for and coached the Young Men’s Hebrew Association basketball team to a city championship, and joined B’nai Brith and other Jewish organizations.

Odessa, Ukraine Has a Rich Jewish Baseball History, Jewish Daily Forward April 27, 2022
Jewish Baseball Museum