NEWTON, Mass. (JTA) – Ryan Braun this season accomplished something that Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg or any other Jewish Hall of Famer never did: He was named Rookie of the Year.
Braun, the slugging third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, picked up the award Monday in the National League. In the voting by the Baseball Writers of America, Braun edged Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, 128-126.
“To show you how good Ryan was, in any other year Troy Tulowitzki would have won hands down,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told The Associated Press.
Called up from the minor leagues in May, Braun batted .324 with 34 home runs and 97 runs batted in while leading the league with a slugging percentage of .634.
Braun, who turns 24 on Saturday, is the son of an Israeli father and a Christian mother. Although he wasn’t raised Jewish, the California native spoke this spring of the pride he takes in his Jewish heritage.
While Braun made history, he wasn’t the only Jewish ballplayer to distinguish himself on the diamond this season.
Last week, Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis was selected by his peers as a Gold Glove winner for his defensive excellence in just his second year at the position.
Youkilis, who played 145 games, mostly at first base, played error free while eclipsing the Red Sox and American League records for most consecutive errorless games and chances at first base.
With a streak of 190 errorless games at first base, he will need just four more to snap the major league mark of 193 set by Steve Garvey.
Youkilis fared well at the plate as well, batting .288 with 16 homers and 83 RBI. He was at his best in the A.L. Championship Series, going 14 for 28 in the seven games against Cleveland.
He joins catchers Brad Ausmus and Mike Lieberthal as active Jewish Gold Glove winners. Ausmus is a three-time winner.
Two other Jewish ballplayers reached milestones in ’07.
Shawn Green, the New York Mets’ outfielder/first baseman, collected his 2,000th career hit in September. Buddy Myer, a Washington Senators’ infielder in the 1920s and ’30s, was the first Jewish player to accomplish the feat. Green’s 10 homers left him three shy of Greenberg’s career mark of 331.
Jason Marquis, a Chicago Cubs right-hander, in pitching to a record of 12-9, became only the sixth Jewish pitcher to notch at least 10 victories in four consecutive seasons. The others are Koufax, Ken Holtzman, Steve Stone, Dave Roberts and Barney Pelty.
With the passing of Mickey Rutner, a New Yorker who played for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1947, Al Rosen became the oldest living Jewish major leaguer.
Rosen, 83, enjoyed a solid career as a third baseman for the Cleveland Indians. His rookie season in 1950 was among his best: a .287 batting average with 37 home runs and 116 RBI. But Boston Red Sox first baseman Walt Dropo beat out Rosen for Rookie of the Year.
It took until 2007 for a Jewish player to earn that distinction.
Martin Abramowitz produces Jewish baseball cards and lectures on Jews in baseball. His Web site is www.jewishmajorleaguers.org.