Who still says Jews can’t be good at sports?
With baseball season kicking off (or rather, batting off), we’ve rounded up the top five Jewish things you should know about the who’s who of America’s pastime.
These guys are all more kosher than the hot dogs at Citi Field.
1. Kevin Youkilis
No, he’s not Greek. Well, not really. Known as “Youks,” this former Red Sox player, who signed with the New York Yankees in December , is undeniably Jewish. His great-great-great grandfather was originally from Romania, but moved to Greece at the age of 16 to avoid conscription into the Cossacks. When he returned to Romania years later, he changed his name from Weiner to Youkilis. The first baseman was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Carolyn and Mike Youkilis, a wholesale jeweler. His mother converted to Judaism after her wedding.
Youkilis will be facing his old team Monday afternoon as the two rivals open the season in the Bronx.
The Texas Rangers’ Jewish general manager, Jon Daniels, idolized the Mets while growing up in Queens, but he always assumed his future wouldn’t include being a star ballplayer for the team. It became that much more apparent when he tried out for the freshman baseball team at Hunter College High School in Manhattan. As he said in an interview with Fast Company magazine, “I could throw, and I wasn’t afraid to take a beating, but I couldn’t hit for shit.”
But he has conquered the Major Leagues as a front-office wiz kid. In 2005, at age 28, he took over the wheeling-and-dealing of the Rangers to become the youngest general manager in history. Five years later, the Rangers are appearing in the American League Championship Series for the first time, playing the New York Yankees starting tonight for the right to advance to the World Series.
If you believe Kosher Sports Inc., keeping kosher matters more to the Mets than to Rabbi Shmuel Heinemann, who has been an orthodox “Kashrus Administrator” for 28 years.
According to an article in yesterday’s New York Post, Kosher Sports – which operates three kosher food stands at Citi Field – is suing the Mets. It is claiming over a half-million dollars in lost profits as a result of the team’s prohibition against operating its kosher food stands on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.
The catch? Kosher Sports insists that it got approval from the appropriate kosher-certifying authorities – Rabbi Heinemann of Star-K – and that only the Mets are standing in its way. The rabbi says otherwise.
Play ball, already! For those who are in the “fascinated by Jews who are professional athletes” category, a new website will help you indulge your yenta streak.
JewishBaseballNews.com, a website that debuted this week, follows all Jewish Major League Baseball players, showing how they perform, as well as how they fare compared with the rest of Major League Baseball.
Jewish Mets fans across the city are abuzz over news of this season’s first-baseman, 23-year-old Ike Davis (actually, Isaac Benjamin Davis), the first Jewish kid to ever come up solely through the Mets farm system and make the big league team.
Davis, who’s batting an impressive .355 in his first 10 games, is being hyped more than any Jewish ballplayer in the city since Sandy Koufax. “I am really proud of my Jewish heritage,” Davis, 23, told SNY.tv recently. “I did grow up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah. I know there haven’t been too many of us. So I’m glad Jewish kids get to see they can grow up to be professional baseball players.”