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 *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →