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Archive for the ‘Sports and religion’ Category

 

What Yom Kippur dilemma?

Posted on: September 25th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

It’s not just the Jewish ballplayers who have to deal with how to handle the High Holy Days (also happy to note that my main man, Tony Kornheiser, did not appear on Pardon the Interruption on the Day of Atonement).

Received an email from Jeremy Rosenberg, a 19-year-old ballboy for the Detroit Tigers, who made the decision to “honor his religion,” as they said about another Tiger, back in the day. I invited Jeremy to supply a guest entry. Here’s his story.

Being passionate about different things is great and can lead to countless opportunities. But what do you do when you have to choose between those passions? Sometimes one is just that much more important than the other.

I’m Jewish and I also happen to be a ballboy for the Detroit Tigers.

This fall, I was scheduled to work quite a few games, sitting on the first- or third-base lines or working in the clubhouse. Once August ended, I took a look at the September schedule and noticed my name was penciled in for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

What was I to do? I thought about it and remembered that there had been great men in a somewhat similar situation before me: Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax. Greenberg, a member of my own team, had taken the day off during a pennant race, while Koufax abstained from his scheduled start in Game 1 of the World Series in 1965. Certainly I could miss a couple days of retrieving baseballs that are already out-of-play.

Honestly, it wasn’t a hard decision for me. I was obviously going to ask my boss for those days off so I could go to services with my family like I do every year. That being said, it did feel good to momentarily group myself with Jewish Hall of Famers who had done the same thing.

This wasn’t the first time that being a ball boy and my Judaism had come together. The first game I ever worked was erev Pesach and on that day I had the nerve to invite Ian Kinsler and [manager] Brad Ausmus to a seder that I wasn’t even hosting. They both said no, but it was cool to be able to ask.

Hopefully I’ll be back with the team next year, and though I might need to sit out again, it would be even more fun to see guys like Kinsler, Alex Bregman, Ryan Braun, Joc Pederson, Kevin Pillar, and others take a day off in observance of the holiday. You never know!

YKD 2018

Posted on: September 12th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

As in “Yom Kippur Dilemma”…

It happens every year. We wonder if/hope that any of the Jewish Major Leaguers will mimic ancient heroes like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax and refuse to play on the Day of Atonement which this year runs from Tuesday night, Sept. 18, through Wednesday, the 19th.

Image result for yom kippur , baseball  Image result for yom kippur , baseball

There are several teams in the hunt for a post-season berth. That could conceivably have an impact on yea-or-nay. Here’s the breakdown. All times are local:

The Boston Red Sox seem like a lock to finish in first place in the AL East so Ian Kinsler could take the time off. But wait: the Sox are scheduled to play the Yankees in New York at 1 p.m. Deference to the holiday? The Wednesday game takes place at 7:05 the next night. So his decision, if any, seems moot.

The first-place (AL West) Houston Astros play host to the Seattle Mariners at 8-ish on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The ‘Stros are currently three up on the second-place Oakland A’s. What will MVP candidate Alex Bregman do?

Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers are close in the NL Central. They host a night game on Tuesday against the visiting Cincinnati Reds.

Joc Pederson has seen limited playing time of late, so he could sit when the second-place LA Dodgers host a Tuesday night game against the Colorado Rockies, currently in front of them in the NL West.

The Philadelphia Phillies are still in contention for the top spot in the NL East (barely). Would manager Gabe Kapler consider handing the reigns over to a coach for the Tuesday night game against the visiting NY Mets?

With the expanded rosters, the Atlanta Braves — tops in the NL East — could do without the services of Max Fried for their games against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.

The Toronto Blue Jays are out of it so their exciting rookie, Rusty Tellez, and wily veteran, Kevin Pillar, could get the time off without upsetting anything. Same for back-up catcher Ryan Lavarnway (Pittsburgh Pirates) and reliever Robert Stock (San Diego Padres).

Of course, none of the JMLs has shown any evidence of religious observance in the past, so there’s no need to get too excited. But it’s nice to dream.

Where have you gone, Hank Greenberg (and Sandy Koufax)?

Posted on: September 19th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0409/images/haven_14.jpgThe baseball-loving Hebrew nation turns its lonely eyes to you (woo-woo-woo).

Over/under: Zero JML will not play on Yom Kippur, which begins the evening of September 29. That means just one would have to take the day off specifically for that reason to make the cut. Very doubtful, although teams could easily rest some players since it’s the last series of the regular season. On the other hand, you want to please your fans by having your stars in the lineup.

The breakdown: The Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and LA Dodgers are all in. The only regular on those clubs is Alex Bregman, who’s battling a hamstring issue so the Astros might want to rest him for the playoffs. Joc Pederson has played sporadically and might not even be on the post-season roster. Craig Breslow hasn’t pitched in almost two weeks for the Indians and might not be in the Tribe’s plans.

Wild card issues: The Milwaukee Brewers are still in the hunt so they might require the services of Ryan Braun if it comes down to the wire. The Toronto Blue Jays and Kevin Pillar still have an outside shot. Danny Valencia has not been a regular since the Seattle Mariners acquired Yonder Alonso. Ryan Sherriff is a rookie and probably doesn’t figure in the St. Louis Cardinals’ plans.

Ian Kinsler and the Detroit Tigers are toast so he might he on his farewell tour.

Naturally, I’ve written on all this before. Here are a couple of items for your amusement

 

Shameless self-promotion: Upcoming Hank Greenberg events

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

I’ve been looking to participate in Gelf Magazine’s “Varsity Letters” program for years. The dream comes true July 24. Hope to see you there. Here are the details:

Varsity Letters logo Baseball Night

Varsity Letters is back at The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge on Monday, July 24, with four authors of recently released books about baseball:

• Sports Illustrated writer Jay Jaffe, author of The Cooperstown Casebook: Who’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Who Should Be In, and Who Should Pack Their Plaques

Ron Kaplan, author of Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War

• MLB.com executive reporter Mark Feinsand, author of The New York Yankees Fans’ Bucket List

• Faith and Fear in Flushing blogger Greg Prince, author of Piazza: Catcher, Slugger, Icon, Star

Graphics by Mister Lister.

Event Details:

The Gallery at LPR (Official site, map)
158 Bleecker St. (between Sullivan St. and Thompson St.)
New York, NY 10012
Blocks from ACE/BDF/MNR/1/6 trains

Doors open at 7.
Event starts at 7:30.
There is no admission charge.
Attendees must be 21 or older, as per Le Poisson Rouge rules. (Email varsityletters@gmail.com if you are under 21 and would like to attend. The farther in advance, the better; no guarantees.)

Baseball Hall of FameThen, on August 16 at 1 p.m., I’ll be serving as “closer” for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Annual “Author’s Series.” From the Hall’s announcement:

Our Authors Series brings noted baseball authors to Cooperstown for special lectures and book signings during the summer months. These programs are included with the cost of admission.

On Wednesday, August 16th at 1pm, the Hall of Fame will welcome author Ron Kaplan as he talks about his new book, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War.

From his first day in the big leagues, Hank Greenberg dealt with persecution for being Jewish. The Hall of Famer always did his best to shut out the bigotry, but in 1938, that would prove more difficult then he could have imagined.

Author Ron Kaplan examines Greenberg’s 1938 season in incredible detail. While Greenberg was battling at the plate, the Jewish people overseas were dealing with a humanitarian crisis. Adolf Hitler had taken direct control of the country’s military in February of 1938 and then began a methodic takeover of all neighboring countries, spreading Nazism and the Holocaust.

Hank Greenberg in 1938 chronicles the events of 1938, both on the diamond and in the streets of Europe. As Greenberg took aim at Babe Ruth’s home run record, Hitler’s “Final Solution” was beginning to take shape. Jews across the United States, worried about the issues overseas, looked to Greenberg as a symbol of hope. Though normally hesitant to speak about the anti-Semitism he dealt with, Greenberg knew that he was batting for so many of his own people, particularly those living with life and death on the European continent.

The program includes a presentation in the Bullpen Theater, followed by a book signing in the Library Atrium. Presentation at 1 pm. Book signing at 1:30 pm.

For more information call (607) 547-0362.

The White Shadow had one Jew; did he have to be a stereotype?

Posted on: January 3rd, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Some TV shows hold up well over time, others don’t.

I recently read David Bianculli’s The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific and am currently going through TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Seitz. Both feature the seminal cop show Hill Street Blues. I happened to catch an episode the other day and marveled at how it doesn’t hold up. Mind you, this came out in the 1980s and at the time was a giant leap forward. But in retrospect, with the advent of cable TV, it is woefully lacking in good writing, good acting, and believability, IMO.

What the heck are you talking about, you might ask? What does this have to do with Jewish sports?

Well, another show of the era was The White Shadow (1978-81), about a former pro basketball player who whose career was cut short by injury. With little to fall back on, he turns to teaching in an inner-city school in Los Angeles (if I recall correctly). The team is the usual conglomeration of urban youth: Most of the team is black, with an Italian, a Mexican, and a Jew tossed in for good measure.

http://i.ytimg.com/vi/3YNQ-fxpzjQ/0.jpgThe Jewish kid is Abner Goldstein (why not just name him Jewy McJew?). He is basically a bench-warmer and is considered the outsider. He’s socially awkward, a good student, and very sensitive; I’ve even seen one source which referred to him as having Aspbergers. Even the coach seems to have no patience for the poor schlub.

Goldstein, as played by Ken Michelman, was given two episodes as the central character. One of these was “Little Orphan Abner.” You see Abner lives with his very Jewish grandparents for some reason that’s never explained. I’m not sure if they were supposed to be survivors, but the were obviously European in origin. They are decidedly old-world and old-school and very unhip but Abner, being the nice Jewish boy, doesn’t mind it at all and seems perplexed when the guys make jokes about the situation.

Abner is a “good boy” — he has Shabbos dinner every Friday night and all that stuff — but he wants to be one of the cool kids. Naturally, it doesn’t work out. From the IMDB blurb for the episode: “Goldstein’s shyness makes him the forgotten man on the team. When his grandfather takes ill, the players show him partial compassion. But only til his grandfather comes home. Goldstein must grow out of his shell and command respect.” The “partial compassion”

http://a.espncdn.com/media/pg2/2002/1004/photo/shadow6_i.jpgOf course, everything is nearly resolved within the 48-minute confines of the show. Here, watch it for yourself.

My main problem is, why can’t a Jew be cool? Why does he have to wear glasses, live a quiet life, be the brunt of jokes because he loves his family? Why can’t a Jew be the star of the team and get the girl? To be fair, Goldstein did end up joining the Marines in the Season Two finale, turning down a scholarship. But even so, did they have to make him such a nebbish?

The same thing could be said for another portrayal of a Jewish athlete: Rudi Stein. You may or may not recall him from the original Bad News Bears. Like Goldstein, he was an outcast on a whole team of outcasts. This kid was basically the guy who kept the score book. Because he was such a poor batter, his coach ordered him to get hit by a pitch in order to get on base. Needless to say, Stein didn’t appreciate his role.

On the other hand, there were a couple of Jewish athletes who were actually good. There was an episode of the old Bill Cosby show, where he played a phys ed teacher in — wait for it — an inner city school in Los Angeles. In one episode he was the coach of another lousy youth baseball team. A new kid who just moved to town joins and is immediately the star. The problem is that he’s Jewish and can’t play in the games because they take place on Saturdays. Here, the life lesson is, there are more important things than sports. (I wrote about that episode a few years ago.)

A New York invitation to Boston Marathoners

Posted on: October 24th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Brought to you as a “public service announcement” as per Peter Berkowsky, founder of the International Minyan for NYC Marathoners.

Tragedy interrupted the most recent runnings of the two most famous long-distance races in America.  The bombing at the Boston Marathon in April shook the entire nation.  And the New York City event last fall was canceled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  In a gesture of solidarity, a longstanding institution at the NYC Marathon is reaching out to honor its visitors from Boston on Nov. 3.

The 43rd New York City Marathon, with its field of 48,000 entrants, is expected to attract as many Jewish athletes from around the world as participate in the quadrennial World Maccabiah Games.  And for the 30th straight year, the International Minyan for NYC Marathoners will be there to accommodate them.  The outdoor morning services are held in a designated tent at the Fort Wadsworth staging ground on Staten Island, just minutes from the Verrazano Bridge starting line.  The Minyan has become a tradition at the five-borough road race, and is now the oldest religious service at any sporting event in the world.

The inaugural service, in 1983, drew 26 participants, and over the years, the Minyan has attracted thousands of Jewish runners from all across the United States and six continents.  As many as 200 runners are expected to participate in three services this year, scheduled for 7:15, 8:15, and 9:15 a.m., to accommodate those assigned to the four starting waves of the race.

This year, for the fourth time in our history, the NYC Marathon will be run on Rosh Chodesh, a semi-holiday marking the start of the Jewish month.  This will necessitate a longer service, to include reading from the Torah.  Minyan organizers have announced that aliyas and other service honors will be offered first to mourners, and then to anyone who ran in this year’s Boston Marathon.

The NYC Marathon was previously run on Rosh Chodesh in 1986, 1993, and 2010, and this will be the last time this century that the first Sunday in November will coincide with the beginning of a Jewish month.  1986 was also the year the NYC Marathon was moved from October to the first Sunday in November, a switch made by Fred Lebow, the late President of the NY Road Runners Club, at the request of our Minyan, to avoid a conflict with Simchat Torah that year.  The later date for the event has remained a fixture ever since.

The Minyan tent is located just two blocks inside the entrance to Fort Wadsworth, and is identified on all the site maps and in the race program.  Runners are encouraged to bring their own prayer books, tefillin, and prayer shawls. Because Marathon officials now offer an incentive for runners not to check baggage with them at the start, JRunnersClub, the logistical manager of the Minyan, will provide its own checking service, respectfully transporting these personal religious items to a secure location in Manhattan, close to the finish line.  (This service extends only to religious items, and not to items of clothing or other personal belongings.)

The pickup location will be at Cong. Shearith Israel, the famed Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue at the corner of Central Park West and West 70th Street.  Continuous minyans for minha (the afternoon service) will be available for runners on the portico of the synagogue facing Central Park.

Join this truly unique experience for Jewish runners at the NYC Marathon, in celebration of the historic 30th International Minyan, and help to salute those who ran in the Boston Marathon this year.  For more information, contact Minyan founder and director Peter Berkowsky (fud42@comcast.net, 973-992-6775) or JRunnersClub in Brooklyn (info@jrunnersclub.org).

 

A Yid by any other name

Posted on: October 3rd, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

This falls into the category, “This is my ethnic group/demographic/etc. I can say what I want.”

Tablet reports on the Tottenham soccer club’s fans and their penchant for using the “Y-Word.” Not unlike those who think there’s no problem with the Washington Redskins. Dave Zirin writes about this at EdgeofSports.com as he calls out formerly-funny sports columnist Rick Reilly.

Yom Kippur dilemma, 2013

Posted on: September 13th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Peter Ephross, author of Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words, contributed this piece on the near-annual bane of the MOT players’ existence, for the August issue of Hadassah Magazine.

Yom Kippur comes especially early this year and as the Day of Atonement falls on a Friday, the 13th (for an extra superstitious whammy) and Saturday, the 14th, every team will be in action (as opposed to more lightly-scheduled Thursdays or Mondays).

So let’s take a look, just in case the boys feel like taking a page from Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax and being “true to their religion.”

There are basically two situations for JMLs: those whose teams are locked into their spots, either on top of their division or out of contention; and those who are still vying for the post-season. The Boston Red Sox (Ryan Lavarnway, Craig Breslow), Toronto Blue Jays (Kevin Pillar), NY Mets (Josh Satin), and Houston Astros (Josh Zeid) fall into the former category. In the other belong the Tampa Bay Rays (Sam Fuld), Texas Rangers (Ian Kinsler), Baltimore Orioles (Scott Feldman, Danny Valencia), Oakland As (Nate Freiman)

Josh Satin and the Mets host the Miami Marlins (Ike Davis doesn’t have to worry about playing “thanks” to his injury). This is an odd part of the year. The Mets were officially eliminated from contention the other day, so they’re just finishing the string, so manager Terry Collins might offer Satin a pass. But as a young player trying to establish himself, Satin may feel pressure to play and make an impression, especially since he’s not an everyday guy.

Scott Feldman pitched for the Orioles Wednesday, so unless, for some bizarre reason he’s called on to pinch hit (highly doubtful with the expanded roster), he doesn’t have to worry. Third baseman/designated hitter Danny Valencia, on the other hand, may well be needed as the Os battle for a wild card spot.

Like the Mets, the Blue Jays are going nowhere, so rookie Kevin Pillar, who has been the starting left fielder for most of the past month — with little offensive success — may get the holiday off.

The As are leading the AL West but Bunyonesque slugger Nate Freiman — like Satin and Pillar, a newcomer — has not been starting for the most part. It would be ironic if now he was put in the starting lineup. But the As are visiting the second-place team, the Rangers for a crucial series, so how would Freiman respond? Likewise, Rangers veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler. He’s been playing with injuries, so would manager Ron Washington give him an easy out, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Or are the Rangers desperate enough to play him?

The Rays are also in the hunt for a wild card spot. Defensive standout Sam Fuld seems to get into more games than many his landsman, albeit as a late-inning insertion, but there are plenty of other guys who can be used instead.

Unlike Feldman, who knows in advance when he will be pitching, reliever Craig Breslow has no such indications as an integral part of the Red Sox’s bullpen. The first-place Sox will host — who else — the NY Yankees that weekend. Back-up catcher Ryan Lavarnway can easily be replaced for a game or two

The Astros are mired in last place in the AL West so rookie reliever Josh Zeid could easy get a “pass” when his team hosts the Los Angeles Angels.

Out of the picture: Ryan Braun the suspended outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers; Jason Marquis (San Diego Padres), recovering from arm surgery; and, unless he makes a miraculous recovery and rejoins the NY Yankees, Kevin Youkilis.

And while there are no pro football games to worry about, remember that Friday nights and Saturdays are when the majority of high school and college games are played, creating hard choices for whatever Jews are members of the team. I recall a conversation I had with Josh Miller, then the punter for the New England Patriots, who said there’s a lot more pressure in football — especially for “skill” positions — since you play just one game a week.

Ryan Braun's teshuva

Posted on: September 9th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Is it just a coincidence that Ryan Braun has apparently been calling Milwaukee Brewers’ season-ticket holders to apologize? Adter all, this is the time of year when we ask for God’s blessing for a new year through acts of teshuva — repentance — as well as tefilla (prayer) and tzedaka (charity).

Clean sweep

Posted on: August 5th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Going through the mailbox to clean up the dust-bunnies that accumulated during my trip to the SABR convention (more on which later).

MACCABIAH

* Maccabiah Games close in Jerusalem with Israel topping medal count (Cleveland Jewish News)

* After accident, athlete returns to Maccabiah triumphant (JWeekly.com)

* SoCal athletes find fulfillment at Maccabiah Games (Jewish Journal)

* For ESPN broadcaster, Maccabiah ends just as it was getting started (St. Louis Jewish Light)

BASEBALL

* Enough Of Ike Davis — New York Mets Should Let Josh Satin Start Everyday (RantSports)

* Ike Davis Is Batting .317 Since All Star Break, But… (MetsMerized)

* Ryan Braun, Disgraced Jewish Baseball Player? (ReformJudaism.org) Personally, although this is a shande and fodder for those anti-Semitic knuckleheads who live for this stuff, I think Braun’s religion is totally irrelevant. Few seem to bring that up for Andy Pettitte, a self-proclaimed Christian who admitted using HGH and testified at the trial of former teammate Roger Clemens.

* A pitch to report cyber hate (Jewish Week)

* Op-Ed: A Tisha B’Av Message for the All-Star’s (IsraelNationalNews) Still interesting, even though I overlooked posting this at the appropriate time.

* Ryan Braun is a Major League Baseball Star. So, Why Haven’t Jews Embraced Him? (Tablet) The same can be said for this piece, which fell through the cracks prior to Braun’s suspension.

FOOTBALL

* Listen to Gabe Carimi (JoeBucsFan)

* Carimi pushes for spot on Bucs line (Tampa Bay Times)

* Bucs OL coach helping Carimi with transition (Tampa Tribune)

* Tempers flare at Jets camp (Newsday re : Antonio Garay). To use the name of a regular Pardon the Interruption segment, “something or nothing?”

* Bengals’ strong safety position up for grabs? (NBCSports re: Taylor Mays)

* Schwartz faces ‘different’ pass-rush moves (ClevelandBrowns.com)

* Bears rookie punter faces daunting challenge (Chicago Tribune, re: Adam Podlesh)

BASKETBALL

* The Dallas Mavericks want Gal Mekel to show up to camp early, and Israel’s coach isn’t happy (Yahoo Sports)

* Mekel chooses to sit out EuroBasketl (Jerusalem Post)

* Israel national coach Arik Shivek blasts Mavericks for putting Gal Mekel in impossible situation (Dallas Morning News) Hey, at least it’s not a Yom Kippur dilemma thing.

* New Maverick Gal Mekel not worried about transition to the NBA: Basketball is basketball (Dallas Morning News) “A rose is a rose…”

* Growing up as the ‘Jewish Jordan’ (ESPN.com re: Tamir Goodman)

BASKETBALL
* Soccer star Lionel Messi visits Western Wall on ‘peace tour’ (JTA)

* Egyptian agrees to play in Israel for Swiss soccer squad (JTA)

MISC

Jews and Cricket (Jerusalem Post)

* German industrialist (and IOC member) Berthold Beitz dies at 99 (ESPN.com)

   
 

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