As the baseball seasons heads into the home stretch and the High Holidays approach, Ryan Braun is supplying a double dose of suspense: Will the Milwaukee Brewers' slugging third baseman become the first Jewish player to be named Rookie of the Year in either league? And does he plan to take a day off on Yom Kippur in the tradition of Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax and Shawn Green?
I have no idea about the depth of Braun's religious convictions, but my guess is that he plays. Unlike Shawn Green and Hank Greenberg before him, Braun would have to miss two games because the September 21st game against the Braves is a post-sunset affair, and the September 22nd game is a day game. That's a lot of sacrificin' for a rookie involved in a tight pennant race, playing for a team from a city that, unlike Green's Dodgers and Greenberg's Tigers, isn't the fourth or twentieth largest Jewish city on the planet.
I'm not saying those facts should trump religious conviction in Braun's decision making process, but if they do, Braun certainly wouldn't be the first person to consider how much Hell he'd catch by trying to ensure that he got into Heaven.
By the way, even if you don't care about Ryan Braun, you should give the article a read anyway, because it has all kinds of other fun stuff in it. The author, Martin Abramowitz of The Jewish Legder, gives a rundown of every Jewish player who has had a serious shot at rookie of the year (only Braun and Al Rosen) or would have had there been such an award at the time (Hank Greenberg and Lou Boudreau).
Likewise, Dennis Leary will be happy to read the article's handy rundown of all current Jewish players in the big leagues (Shawn Green, Brad Ausmus, Mike Lieberthal, Jason Marquis, Kevin Youkilis, Scott Schoeneweis, John Grabow, Ian Kinsler and Jason Hirsh).
Finally, Abramowitz reports that, as a child, Braun lived for a time in a house that once belonged to Hank Greenberg, which is pretty neat.