(I am in Anaheim for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, so it seemed like a good time to have a column about the best Jewish baseball players of all time. But since I’m on the road, I’ve decided to let Micah Symons take the wheel this week. Symons is a 10-year-old baseball fanatic who belongs to Temple David of Monroeville. His parents are Rabbis Barbara and Ron Symons. For writing this week’s Chosen 1s, my usual stipend for the column will be donated to a charity of Micah’s choosing, the Make-a-Wish Foundation).
As Jews we are proud to be a part of our country. There are Jewish musicians, politicians, architects, movie stars and business people. And then there are baseball players. We are proud as Jews to have our people nationally known. Like when Hank Greenberg once hit two home runs on Rosh Hashana. Or when Sandy Koufax refused to open the 1965 World Series on Yom Kippur.
These are my nominees for the top nine players of our religion:
• To lead things off, the youngest person in the Hall of Fame, at age 36, Sandy Koufax. He was a power pitcher and strikeout artist who, if he hadn’t had arthritis in his left arm, would have had many more records in the bag;
• Another Hall-of-Famer, Hank Greenberg, was flat-footed as a kid, but overcame that to become a great power hitter. He once came two homers away from tying Babe Ruth’s season record until pitchers started pitching badly to him, resulting in strikeouts, groundouts, walks and bloop singles;
• A member of the 2004 curse-breaking champions, the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis can hit well to all fields. He has five-star defense and is a multiyear All-Star. This guy is sure to be in the Hall some day;
• Batting fifth is second baseman, Ian Kinsler. A top 2005 prospect, he can hit for power and average and has been an All-Star. He has a shot at the Hall of Fame;
• Lou Boudreau has both defensive and managerial talent and ability. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970 with 77.33 percent of the vote. He retired into the broadcast booth, doing color commentary;
• Ken Holtzman was the co-founder of the Israeli Baseball League (which sadly only lasted for one season in 2007). On Sept. 25, 1966, one day after Yom Kippur, Ken faced Sandy Koufax, the finer lefty of the two, but actually beat the Hall of Famer, 2-1;
• Mike Epstein, or “Super Jew,” was a league leader in being hit by a pitch. He was traded a good number of times and could hit to most fields;
• Ike Davis is willing to dive over walls for foul balls. He has Major League Baseball throughout his family, with his father in the game as a reliever for 11 years;
• An average left fielder defensively, Ryan Braun, in his three years in the majors, has used a total of seven at-bat songs over the public address system. He also has tremendous power, hitting 30-plus homers in each of his first three seasons. He’s made the All-Star team three years in a row.
These are my top nine. Who are yours? We’ll keep changing the rankings, because there’s a whole lineup of prospects coming up, and at least nine of them are Jewish.
(Jonathan Mayo, The Chronicle’s sports columnist and a staff writer for MLB.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)