Ryan Braun is a Jewish American professional baseball player nicknamed
The Hebrew Hammer.
Braun was born on November 17, 1983, to a Jewish-Israeli father and a Christian American mother in California. He attended the University of Miami under a baseball scholarship and was named “National Freshman of the Year” and first team “Freshman All-American” by Baseball America in 2003. In 2005, Braun was drafted as a third baseman in the fifth overall spot by the Milwaukee Brewers in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
During his first professional season, Braun worked his way through the Brewers’ minor league system, playing for the Helena Brewers, West Virginia Power, Brevard County Manatees, Huntsville Stars, Scottsdale Scorpions, and Nashville Sounds.
Braun made his major league debut for the Brewers on May 24, 2007, and hit his first career home run two games later. He eventually played 113 games during the 2007 season and led the National League with a .634 slugging percentage while setting the Major League rookie record. Braun also broke the Brewers team rookie records for home runs (34) and RBI (92). In recognition of these accomplishments, Braun was awarded the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Following the 2011 season, Braun became the first Brewers player since 1989 to win the National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) award after hitting .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI and 33 stolen bases. He also became the first Jewish player to win an MVP award since Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers took home the coveted hardware in 1963. Other Jewish players to win an MVP award include Detroit Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg (1940) and the Cleveland Indians’ Al Rosen (1953).
In 2012, Braun was awarded the NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Award, winning it for the fifth consecutive year, and finished second in MVP voting. That year he hit 41 home runs, the most in his career.
On July 22, 2013, following months of speculation regarding Braun’s involvement with accusation of steroid use, Major League Baseball suspended the slugger for 65 games for violations of the drug prevention program. In a statement, Braun said: “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”
One of the consequences was the loss of a number of endorsement deals, including one with Nike.
In the six full seasons prior to his suspension, Braun was a five-time all-star, and five times posted a batting average above .300 with more than 30 home runs. In the six seasons subsequent to his suspension, Braun has been named an all-star once, and has had only one season in which he hit 30 homes run or a batted over .300.
Braun led the National League three times in slugging percentage (in 2007, while setting the major league rookie record, 2011, and 2012), three times in extra-base hits (2008, 2011–12), and once each in hits (2009), home runs (2012), and runs (2012). On defense, he led all major league outfielders in fielding percentage in 2008.
Through 2018, Braun was 6th among all active players in career slugging percentage, 7th in home runs, and 8th in RBIs. He also ranked first on the Brewers' all-time list in career home runs, second in RBIs, and third in runs scored, doubles, triples, stolen bases, and slugging percentage.
On June 7, 2019, the 35-year-old outfielder hit his 332nd career home run, passing Hank Greenberg for the most homers by a Jewish ballplayer.
Braun told the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in 2007 that “being Jewish is something I take great pride in.” In January 2010, he was elected into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and, in 2011, he was included in The Forward’s list of the top 50 most influential American Jews.
Braun and his wife, Larisa, have two children; a daughter, Celine, and a son, Greyson.
Career statistics all with the Brewers
Sources: Momemt Magazine (Sept/Oct 2011);
“Ryan Braun,” Wikipedia;
Major League Baseball;
USA Today, (July 23, 2013);
“Hank Greenberg’s record for most home runs by a Jewish player,” JTA, (June 11, 2019).