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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?



Orthodox vendors going the way of Cubs’ hopes at Wrigley

Longtime fans of the Chicago Cubs know there are a few mainstays they can expect when they visit Wrigley Field: ivy on the outfield walls, a strict no-wave policy rigorously enforced by fans, and on most days, disappointing play by the hometown team.

But there’s one little-known quirk at Wrigley that appears to be fading away. The ballpark, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last week, enters its second century, but the many Orthodox Jewish vendors who sell food and drinks in the stands seem to be vanishing.

A few subtle signs could give the vendors away: a stray tzitzit strand flapping out of a jersey, a name tag reading Simcha, the Mincha prayer minyan that used to take place in the outfield stands before or after games.


Braun’s back, Kinsler’s in Detroit and more Jewish baseball news

BALTIMORE — In the biblical tradition of lingering in the desert en route to the Promised Land, major league baseball teams are packing up and embarking on their exodus from Arizona (and Florida) spring training sites to begin the new season.

Rosters won’t be finalized until this weekend, but 10 Jewish players are likely to make the journey, led by Moses and Aaron — er, Ian Kinsler and Ryan Braun. A Jewish perennial, Kevin Youkilis, late of the New York Yankees, signed with Japan’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for this season.

Filling out the Jewish roster are mostly middle-of-the-road role players without any up-and-comers at the major league level. The World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the expected also-ran New York Mets each feature two Jewish players, and the Detroit Tigers have one player (and maybe a second later in the season) along with new manager Brad Ausmus, who guided the Israeli team’s World Baseball Classic entry in 2012.


American football goes to Israel

On visit to Bergen County, head of Israeli league talks tachlis, tackles

Are you still suffering from post-Super Bowl football withdrawal, even though it’s halfway into baseball’s spring training schedule?

Maybe you should move to Israel, where the Israeli Football League’s regular season doesn’t end until next Saturday night, with the playoffs and championship scheduled for April.

And yes, that’s American football, with touchdowns and tackles and wide receivers, not the “football” known in Israel as kadur regel and in America as “soccer.”

Here’s another advantage of the Israeli Football League over its American counterpart: The league is strictly amateur, so if you make aliyah this summer, you could be on your way to playing for the Judean Rebels or Haifa Underdogs next fall.

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