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.
Advice for Mel Gibson and John Galliano: If you’re an accused anti-Semite trying to rescue your career, Alex Rodriguez, aka A-Rod, is apparently the man to see.
The Yankees third baseman, of all people, was behind last week’s oddball reunion between Anti-Defamation League leader Abe Foxman and Rick Sanchez, the CNN anchor fired last year for insinuating that Jews control the media.
Rodriguez invited the pair to share his box at a game, where they appear to have had a pretty good time.
The Israel Baseball League’s web site boasts a full slate of games, fun tidbits about players, and even a tongue-in-cheek take on “Baseball in the Time of Our Forefathers.” And “as one would expect, the majority of this season’s players will be of Jewish extraction,” the site trumpets.
Trouble is, the league went bust in 2007 after heavy financial losses; the most recent scheduled game took place three years ago. But that’s not stopping a team of American businessmen from trying to launch a new professional baseball league in Israel, according to YNet News. The entrepreneurs, including an unnamed owner of the New York Yankees, met with Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development Silvan Shalom and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat last week with hats in hand for funds to build a stadium and promote the league.
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.
At the 92nd Street Y last night, Jon Stewart talked with Terry Gross about politics, the media and — of course — himself. In the meantime, he was sure to play to his core 92Y audience: the Jews.
Here are some of the shout-outs he made to the tribe:
“It’s a pleasure to be here at the 92nd Street Y. This is actually the third holiest place in the Jewish religion. I believe it goes: Wailing Wall, Zabars, here.”
Gross: Are you nervous?
Stewart: Am I a Jew? Is that what you’re asking?
On his brother, Larry Leibowitz, chief operating officer of the New York Stock Exchange: “Changed his name from Stewart. Wanted to seem more ‘financial.’”