Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Kevin Youkilis Leads the Pack of Jewish Big Apple Ballplayers

December 20, 2012 5:50 pm 1 comment

Kevin Youkilis in New York.

“What happens when you combine a Greek omelet-sounding name with a bagel and lox?” a friend of mine asked me the other day.

“You have Kevin Youkilis playing baseball in New York City.”

Youkilis, having inked a one-year, $12M contract – pending his physical – with the New York Yankees can now add his signature to the Tuna Melt, the New York Pizza Slice, and the holed Bagel.

Before he’s even picked up a piece of lumber for the Bronx Bombers, the new third baseman for the Yanks has bettered the list of Jews who’ve donned a baseball uniform in New York City.

No more do Jewish fans have to hang their collective hat on the heads of schlemiels, schlimazels, and an assortment of unlucky athletes since the first Jewish baseball player (Lipman Pike) donned a uniform for a professional Metro-area squad.

Prior to the unofficial announcement of Youkilis’ signing up to occupy the Hot Corner at Yankee Stadium, as the incumbent Alex Rodriguez will likely miss most of the 2013 baseball season due to injury, the list of Jewish Big Apple players numbered in the 40-range; most of them having short, lackluster careers.

Were there to be a starting lineup for the All-Time New York baseball Jew-crew, Youkilis certainly bumps most players off the list, shooting directly into the Top Five.

The most famous Jews to play ball in the Big Apple were Sandy Koufax (even though his best years were after the Dodgers moved West from Brooklyn), and more recently, Shawn Green and Ike Davis of the Mets.

Notable mentions include Ron Blomberg, most famous for being the first designated hitter in the history of the sport, and Art Shamsky, whose best season came with the Miracle Mets in 1969, when he batted over .300.

The Youkilis family story is as traditional as his surname is untraditional, full of name changes and persecution in the Old Country.

The arrival of the hard-nosed veteran with the unusual batting stance should especially resonate in the Five Borough’s market, where many baseball fans are Jewish and have immigrant roots.

The original name for the Youkilis family was, in fact, Weiner, and Kevin’s roots originate in Romania.

Fearing torment, and possible death, at the hands of the Cossack hordes that ravaged the Jewish populations in cities from the Danube to the Dnieper, Youkilis’ great-great grandfather fled to Greece.

As Kevin’s father, Mike, told New York Times reporter, Richard Sandomir, “there was a family friend in Greece with a name similar to ‘Youkilis.’ When this ancestor eventually went back home, he decided to keep the Greek name, and it stuck.”

Good thing for Kevin, for if his last name would still be “Weiner” and not “Youkilis,” imagine what the Boston faithful would call Kevin. It wouldn’t be “Yooouuk!”

One alluring aspect with Jewish ballplayers is if their mother is Jewish. This, by traditional Jewish law, makes them Jewish, not if he is observant or not.

On that scorecard, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, Ryan Braun is not considered Jewish by many, even though he identifies with the Hebrew heritage, as his mother is Catholic.

Then there is Ralph Branca. The Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher who gave up the famous home run to Bobby Thompson is considered Jewish because his mother was Jewish.

Regarding Youkilis, there’s a bit of haziness and uncertainty, as his mother, Carolyn, wasn’t raised Jewish and converted after marrying Kevin’s father.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Youkilis has always handled well the attention he’s received over the years for being a proud Jew. Be that during the years he spent in Boston’s Fenway Park or the half-season last year he spent on the South Side of Chicago playing for the White Sox.

Youkilis has always “been into” his Jewish heritage and has worn his “Jewishness” proudly.

Had Team Israel qualified for the World Baseball Classic in March, 2013, Jews would have cheered Kevin on, as he alluded, prior to the Holy Land Landsmen getting knocked out of the tournament’s qualifying round, to his likely participation.

Perhaps with Youkilis now lacing up his cleats for the Yankees, we may have many more reasons to root for him.

1 Comment

  • How cool is it that the New York Yankees will start a Jewish 3rd baseman this year? And Mr. Youkilis has always exemplified the toughness and spirit that characterizes Israelis and Jews around the world. As we all know, making it in New York sports requires the sort of commitment and consistent effort that Youk has always demonstrated…frequently playing hurt and always giving his best effort. Welcome Mr. Youkilis!

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Actor Zachary Levi said casting directors have denied him roles for being “too Jewish,” despite the fact that he is not a Jew, the New York Daily News‘ Confidenti@l reported on Wednesday. “I guess they were looking for more of a corn-fed, white boy look,” he said. “My family is from f****** Indiana! Come on, I’m like dying here!” The Thor star clarified that he is Welsh, and that Levi is actually his middle name, while his real last name is Pugh. He said he […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    The secret of Chabad’s worldwide success is revealed by veteran Chabad shliach (emissary) Rabbi David Eliezrie in his new book, The Secret of Chabad. The Chabad movement was founded by Rabbi Schnur Zalman of Liadi, Belarus, in 1775. Years later it came to the US with the arrival of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in 1940, after his escape from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Upon his arrival in New York, a number of his co-religionists advised him that there was no place for traditional […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Rapper B.o.B’s New Song Invoking Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial Has Jewish Group ‘Deeply Troubled’

    Rapper B.o.B’s New Song Invoking Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial Has Jewish Group ‘Deeply Troubled’

    A Jewish human rights organization expressed concern on Wednesday over a new song by a popular US rapper that includes lyrics promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories and cites a Holocaust denier, The Algemeiner has learned. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was responding to Tuesday’s release of B.o.B’s “Flatline,” the lyrics of which include: “But before you try to curve it, do your research on David Irving; Stalin was way worse than Hitler, That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a Kippa.” Irving is a historian who has questioned […]

    Read more →
  • Business Features World-Changing Israeli Technologies Wow at Global Investor Summit

    World-Changing Israeli Technologies Wow at Global Investor Summit

    JNS.org – You’re cruising along the highway. Suddenly, your car starts to sputter, your engine grumbles, and your car comes to a screeching halt. The tow truck drags the car to a local auto mechanic. Damage: $1,000. You have no idea whether or not the mechanic is trying to do one over on you, but you will soon, thanks to a new Israeli innovation. Engie puts the car owner in the driver’s seat by providing a special malfunction reader that simply […]

    Read more →