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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.