Chaim Bloom is not a Boston guy. The chief baseball officer of the Red Sox grew up in suburban Philadelphia. He never experienced the childhood thrill of Opening Day at Fenway Park. He never cried himself to sleep after a promising Sox season ended in October heartbreak. And when his days in the Sox front office are done, the odds of him staying in town may be long.
But Chaim Bloom has his own Boston story, one that almost ended before it began. His family’s roots here run deep — deeper than those of many of his critics — and, in fact, predate the Sox themselves.
It all started with his great-grandmother Sadie Bloom and a runaway horse.
One fateful spring day in 1920, three months after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, Sadie, a mother of 13, was walking with two friends through Boston’s bustling West End when something spooked a horse pulling a peddler’s wagon. Children scattered as the animal charged through the narrow streets, its riderless wagon careening behind.
At 66 Poplar St., where the Charles River Park residences now stand, the runaway horse “stumbled, but did not go down, and in trying to keep to his feet swerved upon the sidewalk, taking the wagon with him,” the Globe reported.
Sadie and her friends were struck “by the horse’s hoofs,” witnesses said. Severely injured, they were transported to Boston City Hospital’s relief station in Haymarket Square.
As destiny would have it, Sadie survived, and the Bloom family tree would grow to include her great-grandson, who nearly a century later would be appointed to the top baseball job in Boston.
It has not, thus far, been an easy ride. Bloom has been cast by some diehard Sox fans as an interloping budget-cutter who imperiled the franchise by letting cornerstones Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts get away. Critics have derided him as a modern-day Harry Frazee, the Sox owner who by selling the great Ruth to the Yankees was blamed for the mythical Curse of the Bambino — an 86-year championship famine.
Such is the circle of life for the Blooms of Boston. As the Sox try to defy forecasts that they will finish last in the American League East for the third time in Bloom’s four years in charge, he joked in an interview about the chances of his experiencing some kind of karmic mishap involving a runaway steed.
“Maybe I should stay away from the [horse] track,” Bloom said.
The Bloom family’s roots in Boston date to the early 1890s, before the Sox or Ruth even existed, according to a review of public documents, genealogical records, news archives, and interviews. The Globe, which informed Bloom about his great-grandmother’s startling misfortune with the runaway horse, explored his bloodlines as it previously did the ancestries of Boston sports figures such as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Arrival in America
Over time, Bloom’s forebears forged a path from the West End through three of Boston’s major public housing developments — Franklin Field, Orchard Park, and Franklin Hill — before his grandparents bought their first home in Milton, an easy walk from Mattapan Square, in the late 1950s.
His ancestors played stickball in the projects, rode the city transit lines, worked in the Globe’s pressroom, packaged candy in the Schrafft’s factory, ate Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins, found love, went to war, and returned home with haunting memories and a stronger sense of place.
They epitomized a multitude of European immigrants who settled in Boston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: poor, foreign-speaking, law-abiding refugees who endured boundless challenges to better the lives of future generations.
Sadie, her husband, Harry, and their first two children arrived in Boston from Liverpool on the steamship Michigan in 1891. Persecuted as Jews, they had fled Odessa, then part of the Russian Empire, now a Ukrainian seaport under threat from Russia.
Yiddish was their mother tongue, as it was for many in the West End, a richly diverse immigrant community. Harry worked as a tailor, while Sadie raised their family. They lived for decades in tenement apartments above a Chinese immigrant’s laundry shop at 126 Brighton St. — one of many century-old thoroughfares that disappeared when most of the West End was demolished in the late 1950s in the name of urban renewal.
Harriet Bloom, one of Sadie and Harry’s grandchildren, lived in the Brighton Street tenement and befriended Leonard Nimoy, himself the child of Yiddish-speaking refugees. Nimoy lived on nearby Chambers Street and later gained fame playing Spock in “Star Trek.”
As teens, Harriet and Nimoy socialized at a deli on North Russell Street and performed in youth stage productions at the West End’s Elizabeth Peabody House.
Nimoy became a Red Sox fan, as did Chaim Bloom’s father, Ben, who was born in 1946, the year the Sox lost the seventh game of the World Series in agonizing fashion — the first of many season-ending calamities during the title drought.
Ben Bloom said in an interview that he has fond memories of the Red Sox, among them watching a television broadcast of the 1955 team defeating Detroit, 4-3, thanks to a ninth-inning grand slam by Ted Williams. He remembers marveling at Carl Yastrzemski’s Impossible Dream season in 1967 and Luis Tiant’s masterful pitching in the 1975 postseason.
Ben Bloom, however, also recalls the misery of the championship famine, foremost for him the heart-wrenching climaxes of the ‘67 and ‘75 World Series.
“When you grew up a Red Sox fan, you grew up learning how to be disappointed in all those years of never winning,” he said, with a trace of a Boston accent. “That’s the way it always was.”
The legacy of despair is not lost on Ben’s son.
“You don’t have to have family roots here to understand what baseball means in Boston,” Chaim Bloom said. “But knowing that my dad and so many other family members have lived here and have lived and died by the fortunes of the Red Sox just adds more meaning to what we’re doing, which already means a heck of a lot.”
Ben’s father, Isadore Bloom, one of Sadie and Harry’s youngest children, enlisted in the Army in 1942, four months after Williams left the Sox for the Navy in World War II.
Isadore, who went by Irving or Izzy, deployed to Europe in 1945 with the 86th Infantry, known as the Black Hawks. Historians say the 86th captured more than 53,000 German soldiers, liberated more than 200,000 Allied prisoners of war, and freed nearly 1,000 forced laborers at a Nazi camp in the German town of Attendorn.
Because Yiddish is similar to the German language, Isadore served at times as a translator for German prisoners of war.
When the war in Europe ended, the 86th briefly returned home. It was then that Isadore and his wife, Gertrude, a Lithuanian immigrant who grew up on Wales Street in Dorchester, conceived Ben. He said they did so in part because a perilous mission appeared to loom: Members of the 86th expected their next assignment to be a ground invasion of Japan; they considered their chances of survival slim.
“My father wanted to leave something behind,” Ben said. “So, here I am.”
When the invasion became unnecessary after the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 86th was ordered to the Philippines to root out remaining Japanese forces, a mission in which Isadore waged combat with an Army knife that he later gave his son, along with his bayonet.
“My father didn’t talk much about the war,” Ben said. “He told me that anyone who was in the middle of that stuff didn’t want to remember it.”
After the war, Isadore and Gertrude, Chaim Bloom’s grandparents, moved with their infant son Ben into military-style barracks erected for veterans on Franklin Field. The Blooms lived there until the barracks, drafty and cold in the winter, were torn down in 1950.
Over the next year, they lived in city housing at Bataan Court in the Orchard Park projects in Roxbury, before they returned to Dorchester and settled in a new public development on Franklin Hill, across Blue Hill Avenue from Franklin Field, now Harambee Park.
Rich cultural experience
Blue Hill Avenue at the time was the backbone of Boston’s burgeoning Jewish community. Isadore, a skilled compositor and typesetter, opened a printing shop downtown, while Gertrude worked nearby in the corsetry section of Jordan Marsh’s bargain basement. Gert, as she was known, was particularly popular with Italian-speaking customers because she had learned their language at a grocery shop her father operated in the North End.
Isadore’s brother David Bloom, meanwhile, worked for a while as a typesetter and proofreader for the Globe.
As for Ben, he often immersed himself as a child in the science section of the city library in Codman Square. A self-described nerd, Ben attended the Paine Elementary School in Dorchester and Lewenberg Middle School in Mattapan before the family resettled on Ferncroft Road in Milton in 1958. They arrived with a new General Electric refrigerator, thanks to Gertrude’s winning entry in a Dorchester grocery store contest, as noted in a Globe advertisement.
At Milton High School, Ben joined the chemistry, math, and amateur radio clubs. He then became a co-op student at Northeastern University, where he studied engineering and conducted NASA-funded research, leading to a postgraduate job at a NASA lab in Cambridge.
Chaim Bloom’s father helped NASA build an instrument that enabled astronauts to measure blood oxygen levels through their eyes. He later enrolled in Tufts Medical School and became an ophthalmologist, which took him to Philadelphia, where he opened a practice in 1980 and started a family with his wife, Esther.
Ben described his life in Boston as rich in recreational, educational, and cultural experiences. He bicycled to the Arnold Arboretum, sailed on the Charles, viewed Rembrandts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, explored every nook of the Museum of Science, and attended free rehearsals at Jordan Hall and Symphony Hall, including an appearance by Leonard Bernstein, the legendary conductor and composer.
“My life probably would have been a lot different if not for Boston,” Ben Bloom said.
An office at Fenway Park
Chaim Bloom was born three years after Ben opened his practice in Philadelphia. Ben said Esther, fearful that her son would become a nerd like his father, placed a baseball book on Chaim’s nightstand as a boy. Chaim’s uncle, Robert Bloom, an attorney who graduated from Boston College Law School, later gave him an American Professional Baseball Association (APBA) game that favors the best statistical analysts and strategists. The kid was hooked.
At Yale University, where Chaim majored in Latin Classics, he interned for the statistical analytics publication Baseball Prospectus and graduated in 2004, not long before the Sox won their first World Series in 86 years.
Ivy League degree in hand, Chaim began his climb up baseball’s front office ladder, starting with an internship at Major League Baseball headquarters. He made his name in baseball by helping to build the low-budget Tampa Bay Rays into perennial contenders, before the Sox hired him in 2019.
Again, Ben marveled.
“When I found out my son had met and worked a bit with Carl Yastrzemski, I was speechless,” he said. “Then my son took a picture of the legendary Luis Tiant teaching my grandson how to throw a changeup. Imagine that!”
However, criticism of Chaim Bloom has not gone unnoticed by his father.
“Nowadays, Red Sox fans are a whole lot more demanding,” Ben Bloom said. “They’ve got some championships, and they want it to be that way every year.”
Yet deep in the DNA of Chaim Bloom’s Boston bloodlines seems to be a strand of eternal optimism, as he illustrated in January when he told a crowd of hecklers at a fan forum that the best is yet to come for the Sox, that “it’s going to be awesome.”
Resilience also may be a family trait. More than a century after Sadie Bloom was trampled and got back up again, Ben Bloom said, “It’s easy for Chaim to remember his blood type because it’s the same as his personal motto: B(e) positive.”
Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Chaim Bloom’s uncle Robert Bloom as a professor at Boston College Law School.
Bob Hohler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.