Jews in the News: Craig Breslow, Jonah Hill and James Franco

Working the Diamond: Jewish Baseball Players

The following Jewish players were on a major league roster as of opening day (April 6).  All the players listed below have at least one Jewish parent and were raised either Jewish or secular. Players: RYAN BRAUN, 31, outfielder, Milwaukee Brewers.  Braun was named rookie-of-the-year in 2007, the only Jewish player ever to win this award. He stole 30 bases and hit 30 homers in two seasons (2011, 2012).  He had a so/so season in 2014, after being suspended for 65 games in 2013 for violation of the MLB drug policy.  He had hand surgery in the off-season and this season will tell us whether the surgery will return him to top form; CRAIG BRESLOW, 34, reliever, Boston Red Sox. Like Braun, 2015 will be a pivotal season for Breslow. He missed part of 2014 to injuries and his pitching quality was way below his career-average. The Sox signed him to a one-year deal off-season, clearly making this his “test” year. He’s an honors Yale grad from a religious home; IKE DAVIS, 28, first base, Oakland A’s. Davis broke-in to the majors with the Mets in 2010 and remained with them until early 2014, when he went to Pittsburgh. He was traded to the A’s in the off-season. He has a lot of power, but suffers from anemic batting streaks; SCOTT FELDMAN, 32, starting pitcher, Houston Astros. A ten-year veteran, Feldman had a good season in 2014, with a career best ERA; SAM FULD, 33, outfielder, Oakland A’s. He’s a veteran of a lot of teams, including Tampa Bay (2011-13); IAN KINSLER, 32, second base, Detroit Tigers. Named several times to the all-star team (incl. 2014), Kinsler has speed and power; RYAN LAVARNWAY, 27, catcher, Baltimore Orioles. He’s been shuttling between the majors and minors since being called up in 2011 by Boston. He’s a Yale grad like Breslow; JASON MARQUIS, 36, starting pitcher, Cincinnati Reds. The much-traveled Marquis broke into the majors in 2000. He’s had some very good seasons. But 2014 wasn’t one of them: JOC PEDERSON, 22, outfielder, L. A. Dodgers. Great things are expected from Pederson, who was called up by the Dodgers last September after a stellar minor league season. He played for Israel in the 2012 World Baseball Classic qualifiers; KEVIN PILLAR, 26, outfielder, Toronto Blue Jays. This former bar mitzvah boy has been shuttling between the big club and the minors since mid-2013; DANNY VALENCIA, 30, third base, Toronto. Like Pillar, the much-traveled Valencia had a bar mitzvah. He had a good season with two clubs in 2014.

Valencia was born in Miami and was raised in Boca Raton.

At the Movies and Upcoming

Opening on Friday, April 17 is “True Story,” starring JONAH HILL, 31 and JAMES FRANCO, 36. In November, 2001, NY Times journalist MICHAEL FINKEL (Hill), then 32, found out in the course of two days that he was being fired by the Times for presenting a composite character as a real person in a Times article and that a criminal, Christian Longo (Franco), was using his identity while evading the FBI in Mexico. Other media outlets wouldn’t hire the disgraced Finkel and, weirdly enough, the only journalist Longo would talk to was Finkel. So, needing the work, Finkel opted to do prison interviews with Longo, who accused of killing his wife and three young children.  After Longo was convicted, and sent to Oregon’s death row, Finkel wrote a book about their interviews which is the basis of this film.

In early 2014, Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio, fresh off their successful collaboration in “The Wolf of Wall Street”, started to put together a film project called “The Ballad of Richard Jewell.” It’s about the security guard who found a backpack that contained a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. His quick action minimized the bomb’s damage and saved a lot of lives. However, his hero status turned to villain when media reports spread that he was a suspect. His life was in tatters by the time the FBI cleared him, weeks after the bombing. Hill is set to play Jewell, and DiCaprio will play Jewell’s lawyer. Already Oscar-nominated screenwriter BILLY RAY, 50, a Jewish guy with a Country music name, has written a script. Last week, reports were that Clint Eastwood wants to direct if he can get his home studio, Warners, on-board.  Meanwhile, Hill is now filming a black comedy, “Arms and Dudes,” about two Orthodox Jewish “stoners” from Miami who somehow got a Pentagon contract to supply the Afghan army with ammunition. It’s based on a true story.


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