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Johnny Bench apologizes for anti-Semitic comment at Reds Hall of Fame induction press conference

Johnny Bench apologizes for anti-Semitic comment at Reds Hall of Fame induction press conference

CINCINNATI — Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Bench made an antisemitic comment during a pregame press conference honoring the three newest inductees into the Reds Hall of Fame, one of whom was Jewish, former Reds general manager Gabe Ball.

Paul’s daughter, Jenny Paul, was on hand to represent Paul, who died in 1998, along with former Reds pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Danny Graves.

During the event, Pete Rose began telling a story about Paul, noting, “When I left high school in 1960, Gabe Ball signed me to a contract for $400 a month.”

Jenny Paul replies, “That’s cheap… Never mind.”

Bench then said, “He was Jewish.”

Many in the audience laughed. Others have not.

On Sunday, Bench apologized for his anti-Semitic comment.

“I realize my comment was insensitive,” Bench said in a statement. “I apologized to Jenny for taking from her dad the full attention he deserves. Gabe Ball earned his place in the Reds Hall of Fame, like others who have stood on that podium, and I’m sorry some of the focus was on my inappropriate remark rather than just on Gabe’s achievement.”

Paul later said that she did not know what Bench had said.

“I didn’t even hear him say that,” she said. “Johnny Johnny came over and said, ‘Are you offended? Paul said, “For what?” “I didn’t even hear him say that. I suppose if I had heard him say I might have said something, but I didn’t even hear him say it.”

Jenny Paul said she was not Jewish and was raised an Episcopalian. She also said that Gabe Paul’s parents were from Ukraine, which was then part of Russia.

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We went to the Church of the Redeemer here in Cincinnati. So when we come back from church he had this spread, which was lox and pagels, minus the gefilte fish. No borscht. “He never talked about it,” she said. “But it followed him his entire baseball career because so many people knew he was Jewish.”

Paul served as general manager of the Reds from 1951 to 1960. Under Paul, the Reds signed their first black players, including Chuck Harmon and Nino Escalera.

Paul also signed Frank Robinson, Tony Perez, Curt Flood and Vada Benson. He traded for Joss Bell, grandfather of current Reds coach David Bell.

Earlier in the press conference, Paul noted that her father is Jewish and advocates for black and Latino players.

“(Gabe Paul) himself was in the minority. I don’t know if a lot of you know he’s Jewish,” said Jenny Paul. “He was a very big supporter of the underdog because he was an underdog himself. He went to the Latin leagues and the Negro leagues and signed as many minority players as he could, which boosted the Reds.”

The Reds did not respond to a request for comment.

(Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)