It wasn’t so long ago that Ryan Braun was just a rookie phenom, racking up numbers that had Jewish sports junkies rushing to put the Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger in the pantheon with Greenberg and Koufax.
You don’t have to be the next Sandy Koufax — or even a Major League Baseball player — to make it into an upcoming exhibition related to Jews and America’s pastime at the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH).
When the Dodgers celebrated their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles on March 29 with an exhibition game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it seemed almost fitting that a Jewish ballplayer, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, would hit a pivotal home run that helped Boston win the game. During the Dodgers' final home game against the Chicago Cubs at the Coliseum in 1961, a young left-handed pitcher named Sandy Koufax won the ballgame for Los Angeles.
Woody Allen's oft-told joke about the paucity of Jewish sports heroes reinforces stereotypes going back centuries. A noteworthy example comes from sociologist Edward Ross, a Protestant, who about 100 years ago had this to say about Jews: "On the physical side, the Hebrews are the polar opposite of our pioneer breed. Not only are they undersized and weak-muscled, but they shun bodily activity and are exceedingly sensitive to pain."
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In professional baseball's 135-year history, there have been, at last count, 143 Jewish ballplayers. Yet only two of them are bona fide stars: the great slugger, Hank Greenberg, who played from 1930-1947; and the game's greatest left-handed pitcher Sandy Koufax, 1955-1966 (along, that is, with Lefty Grove).
Jewish pride across the baseball world swelled back in 1965, when the legendary Sandy Koufax decided to observe Yom Kippur rather than pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins.
But the Hall of Fame pitcher proved unforgiving recently, when a gossip item in the New York Post intimated that he was gay. The Post is owned by the News Corp., controlled by multimedia magnate Rupert Murdoch, who also happens to own the Dodgers.
Through a friend, the always very private Koufax, now 67, declared that he would no longer assist any Murdoch-owned enterprise and was therefore severing his 48-year-long relationship with the Dodgers.