In writing about the Yankees’s new $12 million third baseman, The New York Times seems far less interested in Kevin Youkilis’s declining production — the guy hit under .220 after the All-Star break last season — than in his religion. The Times wrote a lengthy story this week about Youkilis’s Jewish roots, something the ballplayer rarely, if ever spoke about during his career in Boston. (Maybe that’s because his mother, Carolyn, a West Virginia native, was not raised Jewish, but converted after marrying Youkilis’s father, Mike.) We were puzzled by the Times piece, but Aviva Kempner wasn’t. The filmmaker best known for her documentary “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg ” said it’s the difference between playing in Boston and in New York. “There’s always been a phenomenon in largely populated Jewish cities where people want to kvell about Jewish players,” says Kempner, who’s a diehard Red Sox fan. “I would have preferred if he went to the Mets, but I’m happy for the fans and, of course, I want any Jewish ballplayer to succeed.” As Times writer Richard Sandomir points out in his story about Youkilis, Jewish ballplayers have been rare and so are somewhat exotic. Perhaps ironically, the Yankees have not had many Jewish players, the most recent being Elliott Maddox, Ken Holtzman, and Ron Blomberg. As happy as she is for Youkilis, Kempner said there’s not a chance she’ll become a Yankees fan. By the way, her movie about Greenberg will be released on DVD in the spring with two hours of additional material, including a phone interview Kempner did with Ted Williams before his death.
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