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Arts & Culture Red Sox Fall, but Jews Rise — at Least in Dennis Leary’s Telling

August 18, 2006
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The Boston Red Sox lost, 3-2, to the Detroit Tigers. But in the mind of Dennis Leary, at least, it was a win for the Jews — and a loss for Mel Gibson. Actor/comedian Leary and his “Rescue Me” co-star, Lenny Clarke, were guests on the New England Sports Network broadcast of the Red Sox baseball game Tuesday night.

When Leary asked if Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is of Greek heritage, announcers Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo told him Youkilis actually is Jewish.

“That’s fantastic. That’s one bottle of whiskey away from being Irish Catholic,” Leary said. “They got the Manischewitz, we got the Jamesons. It’s the same guilt, the same bad food… I’m so proud to have a Jewish first baseman.”

Leary might have confused Youkilis’ nationality because Michael Lewis nicknamed him “Euclis: The Greek God of Walks” in his 2003 book, “Moneyball.” Youkilis, then a minor leaguer, was known for earning frequent bases on balls, or walks.

Once apprised of Youkilis’ true background, however, Leary couldn’t resist riffing on the recent anti-Semitic tirade actor/director Mel Gibson launched into after a drunk-driving arrest.

“Nice! Yeah, where’s Mel Gibson now!” Leary yelled when Youkilis snagged a difficult ground ball. “Mel? I hope in rehab they’re showing replays of that. A Jewish first baseman makes the play… Good luck when you come out. Call Jeffrey Katzenberg and ask for a job when you get out. We’ll have a whole Jewish infield by the time he gets out.

“Bring back Sandy Koufax,” he suggested, referring to the Hall of Fame pitcher, who also is Jewish.

“We should have Sandy Koufax pitch at Mel’s head,” Clarke chimed in.

Leary suggested that Gibson’s community service should be to take an at-bat against Koufax, with Youkilis playing first.

And so it went. When Remy told Leary that Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler also is Jewish, it elicited a new torrent of jokes.

“We got two Jews on this team, Mel! Where’s your father now, huh?” Leary asked.

But that’s not all — another Jew, Adam Stern, plays for the Red Sox’s AAA farm team, and the team’s executive vice president and general manager, Theo Epstein, also is Jewish.

Andrew Sullivan linked a video clip of the conversation on his blog, “The Daily Dish.”

“Classic. Sublime. The best commentary on Gibson yet,” Sullivan wrote.

YouTube, the video-sharing Web site, was forced to take down a clip of the inning after NESN complained about copyright violation. But journalist Seth Mnookin posted a transcript of the broadcast on his blog,

Suddenly, Leary and Clarke appeared to have a spasm of contrition over their roast of Gibson.

“Why are we jumping all over him, you know what I mean?” Leary said. “He had a little bit of tequila. You know those days.”

But seconds later, when Youkilis tagged out a runner and gave the ball to a fan, they were back to their heckling.

“The ball went to a fan! That’s more than Mel Gibson’s ever done!” Clarke said.

As he was leaving the booth, Leary told Remy and Orsillo, “Hope we didn’t get you in trouble.”

Trouble, no. In fact, he made them famous for a day.

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