In his life, Dave has thrown 70 no hitters, 4 of them in the Maccabi Games. One of his no-hitter balls is in the Maccabiah Hall of Fame. He is the only non-Israeli in the Israel Softball Hall of Fame. He is in the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. And last summer he was inducted into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame.
David is larger than life.
His energy and leadership, He is such a dominant figure on the mound.
To see Dave on the first day of the games was like
a ray of sunshine that suddenly came out of a black cloud.
He fought his injuries like he fought on the mound and he won.
If I was asked about inspiration I’d have to give it to Dave Blackburn.
He is always committed to the common goal of winning
an being part of the community. He’s retained that perspective.
My involvement in the Maccbiah is because of Dave Blackburn,
He told me about the team and that change my life.
In 1984 I was asked to organize a field for softball at
the Maccbiah games my first question was “what is Maccbiah games?”.
The Olympics are a sporting event the Maccbiah games are cultural heritage event.
It was the first time I was away from my parents,
I was meeting new people that had a common bond of being Jewish without knowing anything else.
It’s been two weeks and it feels like months.
I’ve bonded closer with guys here then people I’ve known for years.
Athletes from so many other countries that would not come to Israel otherwise,
I met a guy 88 years old yesterday and he still playing tennis remarkable.
The US delegation is 1,116, it’s not about how many metals we bring home
it’s about how many people we bring to Israel.
It’s the single most satisfying athletic experience I’ve had,
the camaraderie is unparalleled and the ball playing is top notch.
Brian ‘Shifty’ Schiff May 30, 2014 at 11:37 pm #
This post from Blackburn’s Facebook and shared to
I became aware of the Maccabiah in the 1980s as some players from the USA team were in a Sunday morning softball league in Philadelphia in which I also played. I used to see them walking around with USA Maccabiah gear which could not have been more impressive. Jewish Olympians. What could be better? They were Terry Goldberg, Mitch Kline, Neil Kabinoff, Eric Weinraub & Dennis Weiner. The coach, I later found out, was Villanova baseball coach Larry Shane.
I became involved with Maccabiah basketball and I also was a writer for the Jewish Times newspaper. In 1993, as the softball team was about to leave for Israel for the 14th World Maccabiah Games, the USA fast-pitch team played an exhibition game at Max Myers Playground in the Northeast. Their opponent was D.C. Tire, the defending national fast-pitch softball champions. Being that I had some personal interest, I assigned myself to cover the game for the paper.
It was the 1st time I saw ‘El Gordo Grande,’ aka Dave Blackburn. Blackburn was the team’s pitcher. An imposing figure Dave did not have, shall we say, an athletic swimmers body. Frankly, with his huge belly, he was at first glance, a fat guy.
However, once he walked out to the mound, no athlete I have ever watched perform was more impressive. ‘Breeder’ as some called him, threw fast balls, he threw curve balls, change-ups and his money pitch, a riser. He never seemed to tire. He was amazing. If memory serves, the USA team won the game 2-1. The national champs got ‘bupkus’ off the Big Jewish Guy.
As my involvement with Maccabi grew we got to know each other. We were together in Israel three times and in Mexico, Chile and Argentina. When not competing Dave wore one of his baseball hats that was covered with Maccabi pins from around the world. He lived in Southern California but pitched for teams and in leagues all over the country. Dave pitched around 1,800 games, winning 1,400. He pitched 70 no-hitters. He won four Maccabiah golds and numerous other medals. He was inducted into multiple softball halls of fame.
What he cared about most was Maccabiah. To me, he was Maccabiah, its most revered figure, its most accomplished athlete. My USA junior basketball teams, which I was honored to coach 6 times, were extremely successful. When I ran into him, Dave started calling me ‘legend.’ To me it was a total joke, but when he did it was right up there with the proudest moments of my life. It usually brought me to tears. Many Jewish athletes receive acclaim for being Jewish, but Dave’s fame was because he accomplished things on behalf of Jewish athletics. That is something extra special.
In 2010, on the way to a tournament in Arizona, Dave was almost killed in a car accident. After two months in a coma, he survived, but lost part of his right leg. After 10 months in the hospital he was confined to a wheelchair. In 2013 he returned to Israel and the Maccabiah and was named one of 10 athletes who carried the U.S. banner onto Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem for the opening ceremonies. Not just satisfied to be there, he competed in table tennis as a paralympian. At the Maccabiah softball venue he was honored by every country and in a universal show of love, support and appreciation, his number 7 jersey was retired from all future Maccabiah competition.
When I found out today Dave died I was engulfed by sadness. He had been through so much. Hopefully he is at peace and pain-free. For all he accomplished throughout his career and what he went through over the last few years of his life, Dave is an inspiration of mammoth proportions.
Ultimately, Dave Blackburn is greatest Maccabi since Judah himself. He will be missed.
Brian ‘Shifty’ Schiff