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Rookie could make history — but will he cut Yom Kippur?

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As the baseball season heads into the home stretch and the High Holy Days approach, Ryan Braun is supplying a double dose of suspense: Will the Milwaukee Brewers' slugging third baseman become the first Jewish player to be named Rookie of the Year in either league? And does he plan to take a day off on Yom Kippur in the tradition of Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, and Shawn Green?

Braun, '5, has made an impact since his debut at the end of May. The California native made history in July by becoming the first player to be named the National League's Rookie of the Month and Player of the Month.

After 83 games he was batting .333 with '5 home runs and 66 runs batted in.

If Braun, the son of an Israeli who immigrated to the United States at the age of 7, is selected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America as the N.L.'s top rookie, it would mark a first for Jewish players in Major League Baseball history.

Jewish Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Lou Boudreau played before the award was instituted in 1947. Koufax wasn't even close in 1955. Nor were the nine current Jewish major leaguers: Shawn Green, Brad Ausmus, Mike Lieberthal, Jason Marquis, Kevin Youkilis, Scott Schoeneweis, and John Grabow, along with promising second-year players Ian Kinsler and Jason Hirsh.

The closest any Jewish player came to winning Rookie of the Year was another slugging third baseman, Al Rosen of the Cleveland Indians. In 1950 he led the American League with 37 home runs, but lost out in the balloting to Red Sox first baseman Walt Dropo, who batted .3'' and was the RBI leader with 144.

Rosen went on to become the American League MVP in 1953, while Dropo never came close to matching his rookie totals.

Over the years, as the baseball season has wound down toward the playoffs, observers of Jews in baseball traditionally wonder what the prominent Jewish players will do on Yom Kippur, play or pray.

In earlier decades, Greenberg and Koufax made the American Jewish community proud with their decisions to sit out on the holy day -- Greenberg attended services; Koufax did not. Boudreau publicly denied his Jewishness until the last years of his life. Green, the premier Jewish ballplayer of this era, has played and prayed depending on the year and the situation of his team.

Why believe Braun will take off on Yom Kippur?

Perhaps it's his connection to Greenberg: Braun lived for a time with his maternal grandfather in a house that once belonged to the legendary Detroit Tigers' slugger.

Then there is the interview Braun gave to the Milwaukee Jewish Sentinel.

"Being Jewish is something I take great pride in," he told the paper. "There aren't too many Jewish athletes who have achieved success at the highest level, so it's something I'm very proud of."

Of course, there is at least one good reason to believe he will play: Milwaukee is in the thick of a tight three-team race for the Central Division title and would hate to lose his bat, even for one night.

The Brewers aren't providing any clues; they haven't returned calls on the issue. So fans will just have to wait until Sept. '1 to find out if Braun will be wearing a uniform or a kippah.


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Stay tuned for the return of comments

Lenny G posted 13 Dec 2012 at 07:12 PM

any idea what Ryan Braun’s Hebrew name is?



For a Jewish baseball purist, Cuba beckons

To the dismay of baseball fan Kit Krieger of Vancouver, British Columbia, future travels to Cuba no longer will include get-togethers with ex-Washington Senators pitcher Connie Marrero.

Marrero, who played for Washington from 1950 to 1954, died in Havana last April at 102, a few months after Krieger’s last visit and three years after Krieger helped arrange a $10,000 annual pension from Major League Baseball for him.

Theirs was a special friendship, one of many forged by Krieger, who will return to Cuba in late February. That will be his 30th visit there. His first was in 1997, part of his job with the British Columbia teachers federation. That trip spawned a love affair with the country and its baseball scene.


Hoops guru David Thorpe connects with players on and off the court

BALTIMORE —Rodney Glasgow catches a pass, pivots, takes one dribble, and lays the ball in the basket.

David Thorpe, Glasgow’s coach and trainer for a couple of weeks this summer, steps in to offer some pointers, instructing the former Virginia Military Institute guard to look up after making the catch and how to keep opponents from stealing the ball.

It’s what Thorpe has been doing for nearly three decades out of his Clearwater, Fla., base: identifying and correcting flaws in a basketball player’s game in preparation for a season and, he hopes, a pro career.

For some of his clients — the NBA roster includes Israelis Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel, as well as Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer of the Minnesota Timberwolves — the relationship extends well beyond the court.


LeBron takes on Tel Aviv

James’s circus, David Blatt’s NBA debut spice the Maccabi-Cavaliers meeting

TEL AVIV — The carnival’s coming to Cleveland, and the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team has a front-row seat.

In fact, the 2014 Euroleague and Israel Super Basketball League champions will be participating.

On Sunday, Tel Aviv will present the inaugural challenge for NBA superstar LeBron James as he returns to his hometown Cavaliers as a free agent after spending four seasons with the Miami Heat. And the Israeli club will be facing the coach who led them to both titles — David Blatt was hired in June to guide the rebuilt Cavs.

Guy Goodes, the Tel Aviv assistant who ascended to head coach when Blatt moved to the National Basketball Association, knows what to expect when he brings his guys to face the King before a packed house and hordes of media.

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