Forward Thinking

Ryan Braun's Jewish Disgrace

By Peter Ephross

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images
Ryan Braun

The best of times has turned into the worst of times for Jewish baseball fans now that Major League Baseball has suspended slugger Ryan “Hebrew Hammer” Braun in baseball’s latest performance-enhancing drugs scandal.

The Milwaukee Brewers slugger and former National League Most Valuable Player, who is the son of an Israeli-born Jewish father and a Catholic mother, has boasted of setting a good example for Jewish children.

“I do consider myself definitely Jewish,” he has been quoted as saying. “And I’m extremely proud to be a role model for young Jewish kids.”

Oy. Some role model.

After months of denying any involvement in the doping scandal, Braun now says he is accepting his suspension — a tacit admission that he broke baseball’s rules on performance-enhancing drugs.

“I realize now that I have made some mistakes,” Braun said in a statement. “I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”

With Braun’s acknowledgment of his links to Biogenesis, a Miami-based clinic (MLB did not specifically mention Biogenesis when it suspended Braun), those Jewish fans who defended Braun will have to change their tune. Some of his supporters once cited an arbitration panel that overturned his 2011 test because of the chain-of-custody issues in handling his urine sample, while others believed Braun’s high levels of testosterone were linked to medication they believe he took for herpes.

Nor do those who believe he was the target of a vendetta from a Commissioner’s Office angry that his earlier positive test was overturned have any leg to stand on. Braun may soon have company on the sidelines. Several other players have also been publicly linked to Biogenesis, including once-certain Hall of Famer Alex Rodriguez, and more suspensions are likely.

Others might still fear an anti-Semitic backlash from those who know about Braun’s Jewish background. But to spend time worrying about about a possible backlash is a misdirection of emotions.

We all cheered when Braun was on top of the baseball world. He is a poster boy, along with Shawn Green, Kevin Youkilis, and Ian Kinsler, of a Jewish baseball renaissance over the past decade or so. Indeed, it’s arguably been the greatest time for Jewish Major Leaguers since the period between the 1930s and the mid-1950s, when Hank Greenberg, Harry Danning, Al Rosen, and Sid Gordon starred on the diamond.

Several among the current crop of players either played for or coached the Israeli team that narrowly missed qualifying for this year’s World Baseball Classic. Braun earned the National League Most Valuable Player award in 2011, a season in which he whacked 33 home runs, had 111 runs batted in, and stole 33 bases. He had even gaudier statistics the following year, when he finished second in the MVP voting.

So for all these reasons and more, we should now direct our anger, as well as our pity, at Braun.

There’s also a larger point at issue here. We have been taught from childhood the inspirational stories of Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax refusing to play games to observe Yom Kippur. Braun’s strikeout teaches us that it’s time to go beyond idolizing Jewish baseball players, whether in the past or present, and to see them as human beings who made imperfect decisions for imperfect reasons.

Peter Ephross is the editor, with Martin Abramowitz, of “Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players” (McFarland).


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: ryan braun, hebrew hammer, drugs, doping, baseball

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.