Braun issues apology for doping in MVP season

Banned Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun acknowledged on Thursday he used performance enhancing drugs during his National League Most Valuable Player season in 2011.

“During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn't have used,” Braun said in a statement published on the Brewers' website.

“The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately,” he added.

Major League Baseball (MLB) in July suspended Braun for the rest of the season, at least 65 games, saying that he had violated the league's joint drug prevention program.

No details were given of the offence committed by Braun but he had been suspected of procuring performance enhancing drugs from Biogenesis, the now-shut Florida anti-aging clinic that was investigated by MLB.

Previously Braun was suspended for 50 games by MLB after he tested positive for elevated testosterone levels during the 2011 sseason but that ban was overturned in February 2012, after he successfully appealed claiming his tests were mishandled.

After winning that appeal, Braun made critical comments about the collection of his urine sample and the collector, saying that he viewed the process as “suspicious”.

On Thursday, Braun revisited his comments and said he was embarrassed by them.

“I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator's decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn't want to believe that I had used a banned substance.

“I think a combination of feeling self righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong. I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality.”

Braun said he was now in the process of trying to understand why he responded the way he did, acknowledging there was no excuse for it.

“For too long during this process, I convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong. After my interview with MLB in late June of this year, I came to the realization that it was time to come to grips with the truth.

“I was never presented with baseball's evidence against me, but I didn't need to be, because I knew what I had done. I realized the magnitude of my poor decisions and finally focused on dealing with the realities of – and the punishment for – my actions,” he said.

Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami, Editing by Larry Fine

Forget Braun, new film reminds us we have Al Rosen to go with Koufax and Greenberg

When Ryan Braun was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, Jewish sports nuts talked about whether the Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger would end up in the pantheon with Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax.

Following Major League Baseball’s recent suspension of Braun for using performance-enhancing drugs, the answer seems to be a clear no.

Forgotten in the discussion of Jewish diamond greats is Al Rosen, a power-hitting third baseman who was a member of the tribe in more ways than one, playing his entire career for the Cleveland Indians.

But now comes a new documentary, “Beating the Odds: The Al Rosen Story,” celebrating Rosen’s contributions to baseball as a player and executive, as well as being a role model for American Jews.

Rosen’s MVP season of 1953 followed on the heels of Greenberg’s two MVPs (1935 and 1940) and preceded Koufax’s one MVP (1963) and three Cy Young Awards (1963, 1965 and 1966).

Like Greenberg — his idol — Rosen was nicknamed the Hebrew Hammer. Like Koufax, he enjoyed a brilliant career abbreviated by injury.

Rosen was a four-time All-Star who played in the 1948 World Series — the last one won by the Indians — and two seasons later led the American League in home runs with a rookie record 37 (he qualified as a rookie despite appearing in games the previous three seasons with Cleveland). His MVP was the last for an Indian.

He would help lead Cleveland back to the Series in 1954, but the Tribe was swept by the Willie Mays-led New York Giants.

Two years later, at age 32 and after just seven full seasons, Rosen played his last game, done in by a finger injury and back problems. Another factor: He learned Greenberg, by then the Indians’ general manager, was planning to cut his salary or trade him.

“I feel like my career was aborted,” Rosen, 89, told JTA in a recent interview. “It’s been troubling me over the years. I don’t dwell on it because it’s not worth dwelling on.”

The new documentary serves as a reminder that while Rosen might fall short of the Greenberg-Koufax bar, he should never be forgotten in discussions about the greatest Jewish baseball players.

The film was financed in large part by the Indians, who are selling it at Progressive Field souvenir stands and on the team’s website.

It chronicles the asthmatic Rosen’s rise from his native Spartanburg, S.C., to Miami, where his family moved to improve his health, through his youth exploits as a boxer and on to an accomplished baseball career. Rosen hit for a .285 average, slugged 192 home runs and batted in 100 or more runs five consecutive seasons.

Rosen is “one of the great names” in Indians’ history, said Bob DiBiasio, the team’s senior vice president for public affairs.

“We really felt it was important to participate in this project because you do need to document the rich history of the game and our franchise,” DiBiasio said.

The documentary was completed earlier this month, 60 years since Rosen was named MVP. Due to Major League Baseball’s licensing fees for footage, filmmaker Bill Levy opted to tell the story through interviews, narration and still photographs rather than utilize clips of Rosen hitting and fielding.

“He was a hell of a baseball player,” said Levy, who produces corporate films but as a journalist covered the team during Rosen’s career. “In his era, Al Rosen was a hero, Jewish or not Jewish. He was a hero to me. He carried himself in a dignified way.

“With this Ryan Braun thing, [Rosen’s] position as one of the three top Jewish baseball players of all time is still unchallenged.”

The 57-minute film’s other subtitle, “Making Elmer Yoter Eat His Words,” is a slam at the minor league manager who brought the 17-year-old Rosen to tears after a workout by saying he’d never amount to anything as a ballplayer.

“You’re wrong, Mr. Yoter, and some day I am going to make you eat your words,” Rosen is quoted as responding.

That was hardly the only opposition faced by Rosen. A football coach at his Miami Senior High School implied that Jewish athletes were soft — that they preferred tennis to contact sports.

“That’s etched in my memory,” Rosen says in the film. “You could never get it out of there because I always wanted to prove this guy wrong.”

The film also recalls Rosen approaching the Chicago White Sox dugout to challenge the player who screamed anti-Semitic slurs during a game at Comiskey Park. Rosen never found out the player’s identity, and told JTA that he admired Saul Rogovin, a pitcher and also a Jew, for not ratting on his White Sox teammate.

“I could imagine he was in a very difficult spot, and he handled it absolutely correct,” said Rosen, who ran into Rogovin years after the incident and asked about the heckler’s identity.

Rosen’s integrity also comes through in the documentary.

In 1953, Rosen nearly achieved the rare Triple Crown — finishing the season leading the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers won the trifecta last year, only the 13th player in baseball history to accomplish the feat.

Heading into the final game, Rosen was first in homers and RBIs, and was neck and neck with Mickey Vernon of the Washington Senators for the batting title. Vernon had picked up two hits in four at bats against the Philadelphia Athletics; Rosen was 3 for 4 against the Tigers. If Rosen could hit safely in his last at-bat, he could secure the batting title and the Triple Crown.

Rosen topped a slow grounder to third base but was nipped at first trying to leg out the infield hit. He finished at .336, one point short of Vernon. Rosen led the league in homers (43) and RBIs (145), along with runs (115), total bases (367) and slugging percentage (.613).

“I knew I was out,” Rosen tells Levy of the deciding play. “I couldn’t have accepted being called safe on that play. … I just wouldn’t have been able to live with that. I was glad he called it right, and I accepted it. That’s just the way it was.”

So dominant was Rosen in ’53 that he won the MVP unanimously — a first. He wrote thank-you letters to each writer who cast a vote.

The next year, the Indians recorded one of the best regular seasons in baseball history with 111 victories before losing to the Giants in the Series. Rosen was on base when the Giants’ Willie Mays made his legendary catch of Vic Wertz’s drive to deep centerfield in Game 1 (Rosen said he fully expected Mays to make the play).

Perhaps the documentary’s greatest revelation is Rosen’s role in helping George Steinbrenner purchase the New York Yankees in 1973. (The two men had been part of a failed effort to acquire the Indians.)

Rosen later worked for Steinbrenner as the Yankees’ president and chief executive officer, and was there for the team’s 1978 World Series title. Rosen went on to run the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants, leading the latter to the 1989 World Series (a loss). He is still the only person to have won an MVP and been named Executive of the Year (in 1987, with the Giants).

Rosen retired from the front office in 1992. Were he heading the Milwaukee Brewers now, Rosen told JTA he’s not sure how he would have handled Braun, the son of an Israeli Jewish father and Catholic mother. The film came out before the suspensions of Braun and other players were announced. Rosen recalled that one of his Giants players had a cocaine problem.

The suspensions are “a terrible blow for baseball,” Rosen said. “I feel badly that it happened, I feel badly for baseball and I feel badly for the players. There will always be a tarnish on all [their] accomplishments.”

He added, “It’s not only Ryan Braun but many other fellas. But I know one thing: If I were a player today, I wouldn’t take anything without a doctor saying so and without a written note from the doctor.”

Rosen, the only living member of the starting lineup of the ’54 Indians, occasionally sees some of his contemporaries living nearby, including Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner, an Indians teammate. He follows baseball with great interest, and said he’s particularly impressed by the performance of the Tampa Bay Rays and their manager, Joe Maddon.

And he’s technologically hip. Rosen follows international affairs closely — he includes three or four Jewish newspapers in his daily online reading — and stays in contact with his widespread family by Skype. All the Rosen households — he and his wife Rita have five children, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter — have received a DVD of the film.

“That’s one of the things that makes me happy,” Rosen said of the documentary. “It’ll be something the kids will have.”

Opinion: The bad, the worse and the ugly

A painfully unappealing, unemployed woman in her late 30s with sumo wrestler thighs who wears 10-inch heels and a micro skirt to push around a pink stroller in which she carries her pair of Chihuahuas; a less unattractive, also unemployed woman in her late 30s who wears 10-inch heels and sequined tops to (I’m not kidding) target practice; a short, fat,  bald real-estate developer who builds cheap houses and expects to sell them in the instant for millions of dollars; a gay real-estate broker with a thick black mustache who touts the extraordinary vigor of his “Persian” male organ; a (we presume) heterosexual (what else?) real estate broker with gelled hair, swollen biceps and a nose job badly in need of a nose job.

The sumo girl insists in every scene that she “refuses” to get married, though evidence of any prospects is entirely absent; the gunslinger shares with the camera her hatred of “ants and ugly people,” and HGH (human growth hormone) man sprays cologne inside his shorts and tells tall tales about how he used to be a millionaire.

That, ladies and gentlemen, about sums up the first episode of the much-dreaded “Shahs of Sunset,” purportedly about Los Angeles’ Iranian-American community, due to premiere March 11 on Bravo. To say that it’s “Bad” would be a redundancy, given that it’s a so-called “reality show.” These days, even the most trusting television viewer knows there’s nothing “real” about reality TV. As Time magazine put it six years ago, “Quotes are manufactured, crushes and feuds constructed out of whole cloth, episodes planned in multi-act ‘storyboards’ before taping, scenes stitched together out of footage shot days apart.”

Everything — from the characters’ wardrobes, to their speech, to their relationships, and even their homes and cars and purported millions — is dreamed up by “story editors” (read underpaid, non-unionized writers) and show producers. Reality television is just a more cheaply made, hastily manufactured and badly acted soap opera. It’s meant to appeal to the audience’s basest instincts — racism, voyeurism, willingness to suspend intelligent thinking — and to remind its critics that viewers get what they deserve. If it’s possible to lower that bar, this show surely does it.

The “Worse,” in the case of “The Shahs,” is that the producers have gone out of their way to put together a cast of unattractive, unsophisticated, unproductive and — you’re going to have to believe me on this — most unrepresentative-of-the original characters possible. It’s true that this is one program, and therefore just one creator’s point of view, and that no single creation can be fairly expected to reflect the entirety of a community that, like any other, is varied and complex and multidimensional. But it’s also true that this is the first mainstream production about Iranians in Los Angeles; for it to succeed, viewers would have to believe that it’s a close-enough rendition of the lives of average Iranians. And it consists entirely of every negative stereotype floating around this city about the community. All the women here are vain, stupid and spoiled; all the men are vain, stupid and spoiled. To see these characters, one would never imagine that an Iranian could engage in any profession other than selling real estate, or speak about anything other than looks, money and sex. We all go around wearing a floor-length, black and gold lamé dress with long sleeves and ruffles on a Saturday morning when we’re just kicking back in our tiny apartment; we travel to a friend’s pool party with our wardrobe consultant, hair dresser and makeup artist in tow; we gouge the eyes out of anyone who dares suggest that we shop at H&M; and when our mother calls us at work, we interrupt a meeting, put her on speaker phone and let everyone in the room listen in on our conversation about Shabbat dinner.

As for the “Ugly”…

I’ve thought long and hard about this — whether I’m so reproving of the show because it displays a truth I do not like to see, or because it makes our younger generation feel embarrassed about their parents’ community and cultural background. Our children know, as well as anyone, that there’s a great deal of antipathy on the part of non-Iranians in Los Angeles toward the rest of us, that the entire community is often blamed for the mistakes of one, that our accomplishments and contributions are frequently overlooked and our shortcomings amplified and exaggerated. Portrayals such as the one in this show will only exacerbate such tensions.

But what offends me so much about “The Shahs” is not that it reflects a reality that may be difficult to acknowledge; it’s that it makes such an obvious effort to cast its characters in the worst possible light. Granted, these actors might not have needed much persuading; we all know that some people will do anything, even humiliate themselves, just to be on television. Then again, this may be understandable, or at least forgivable, in someone with little education and no other means of making a living or finding self-worth. In people who have been given every kind of opportunity, including, as all these characters assert, a Beverly Hills High School education, a warm and supportive community, and parents and grandparents who have moved mountains, escaped war and disease and revolution, given up their ancestral home and reinvented themselves and their lives so that children can make something worthwhile of themselves — in these people, such abdication of grace and elegance is, I’m afraid, plain old ugly.

Gina Nahai is an author and a professor of creative writing at USC. Her latest novel is “Caspian Rain” (MacAdam Cage, 2007). Her column appears monthly in The Journal.