Why Donald Lutz really is the first German in the big leagues

I had this discussion with a friend from the US so maybe it’s worth going back to this.

There have been quite a few a few players in the major leagues who were born in Germany. Some of them might even have been raised in Germany. So why is Donald Lutz called the first German player to ever reeach the big leagues when there have been so many before him who fulfil the criteria as well?

As some people might know, Germany wasn’t always the Germany you have here. There used to be the empire before the first World War, then there was the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and eventually the Federal Republic of Germany we know today. After the reunification in 1990 the eastern part was annexed to the old FRG and this is where we stand today. Now, major leaguers who came to the US before WWII didn’t learn to play the game over here. They were immigrants who almost certainly fled Germany because of persecution or because of poverty to try their luck in the new world. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig might be the two most famous children of German immigrants.

So while those players learned the game in the states and cannot technically be labelled as German baseball players (they should have had the American citizenship by the time they reached the majors, I assume), what about the children of army staff and soldiers who were born on in Germany while their parents were on duty in Europe? Well, here the German citizenship law comes into play. When you are born here and your parents aren’t German you are automatically rewarded the citizenship of your parents. This changed over the past 10 years, but all in all American army staff children won’t be getting German passports simply because (and this is my guess) their parents want them to have the American citizenship. Ron Gardenhire (born in Butzbach, Germany), Edwin Jackson (born in Neu-Ulm) or Will Ohman (born in Frankfurt/Main) fit this category.

Lutz on the other hand was born in the States, but was brought up in Germany. So he learned the game over here. This is what really makes him stand out from the group. Even more so since he wasn’t actually born here. You can make the argument that technically he isn’t the first player born in Germany, but he definitely is the first who was raised here and learned how to play here. Which truly makes him the first German (with German citizenship, he has both, German and US, though) to reach the majors.

 

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