When the first pitch of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game is thrown Tuesday night at Citi Field in New York, fans looking out for the next Sandy Koufax or Hank Greenberg may be disappointed. Whereas in recent years Jewish fans could consistently count on at least two Jewish stars to take the field, this year’s crop is uncharacteristically thin.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is the only 2013 All-Star who self-identifies as Jewish, because of his father’s Jewish ancestry, but he himself is a practicing Roman Catholic. Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has a Jewish father, but identifies as a Christian. Beyond that, the pickings are even slimmer.
All-Stars San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, Washington National pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, and Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist all have names that sometimes cause fans to assume they are Jews, but none actually is.
Until this season, two out of the three premier Jewish players in the game would make the All-Star teams for their respective leagues. This season, however, all three have run into trouble.
New York Yankees infielder Kevin Youkilis, formerly a fan favorite on the Boston Red Sox, underwent back surgery on June 20, and is currently on the 60-day disabled list. Milwaukee Brewers phenom Ryan Braun, whose father was born in Israel and whose grandparents escaped the Holocaust, is in a slump this year, and will likely face a crushing suspension in the wake of a league investigation into performance-enhancing drugs. Ian Kinsler, the Texas Rangers star second baseman, is having an uncharacteristically poor season on the basepaths after proving himself as one of baseball’s most consistent base-stealers. He has also spent time on the disabled list.
In 2008, Braun, Kinsler, and Youkilis all made the All-Star game. That marked the highest number of Jewish players in the game since 1999, when Brad Ausmus (2012 Israel World Baseball Classic coach), Mike Lieberthal, and Shawn Green all played.