Archive for the ‘Sports on religious holidays’ Category


More YK, too

Posted on: October 6th, 2011 by Ron Kaplan

The Los Angeles Daily News published this piece about members of a high school team who are encountering the YK dilemma for a Friday night game.

The kicker: These are Jewish kids who are attending a Catholic school.

This part got to me:

Mor Milo, a senior tight end, has decided not to play in the game.

“I come from an Orthodox family,” Milo said. “I’m not going to be here Friday. It wasn’t too big of a decision because I don’t play too much anyway. Still, it would be hard to play on one of the highest holidays of the year.”

While I’m certainly in no position to discuss Halacha, etc., I am curious: If the family is Orthodox, how do they send the kid to a Catholic school? I know there are powerhouse schools that recruit outstanding players regardless of their religion (see the underappreciated film School Ties), but this would seem to present a bit of a dilemma for the parents. Just sayin’.


Now read this: Review of new Greenberg bio

Posted on: September 26th, 2011 by Ron Kaplan

The Jewish Review of Books (shouldn’t that be Review of Jewish Books?) ran this review of Mark Kurlansky’s recent biography, Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want To Be One.

The piece begins with a reference to Mark Helprin’s short story, “Perfection,” which “re-imagined Bernard Malamud’s “Natural” as an adolescent Holocaust survivor whose otherworldly ability to hit home runs every at-bat comes from understanding the spiritual balance of God’s creation.” For those of you so inclined, you can download Helprin’s story (Word document) here.

JML baseball bonus, July 7

Posted on: July 7th, 2011 by Ron Kaplan

An extra look at JML news.

* Already? The Jewish Exponent ponders whether Kevin Youkilis would play on Yom Kippur. I know this decision takes a lot of consideration, but come on, it’s only July. Let’s see the Sox get there first. Yom Kippur falls on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7-8, during what would probably be the first round of playoffs. The article quotes the Red Sox third baseman: “I’ve never played on Yom Kippur,” Youkilis added. “Hopefully if we were playing, it would be a night game, not a day game.”

* The Philadelphia Phillies will host a Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia Jewish Heritage Night on Aug. 18 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Neither team currently has a Jewish player on its roster. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Seating will be located in the Terrace Deck (sections 412-429) at $28 per ticket with net proceeds from tickets sold through this offer benefiting the federation.

* This site makes a case for Ian Kinsler as the Rangers’ first-half MVP. On the other hand, this item is less complimentary.

* The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz features Kinsler in this story about possible JMLs who could play for the national team in the World Baseball Classic.



Now hear (and read) this: Jewish baseball books for Opening Day

Posted on: March 31st, 2011 by Ron Kaplan

I know it’s not ideal weather, but the baseball season is hear at last. In that spirit, the following appears in this week’s print edition of the New Jersey Jewish News.

* * *

It’s not quite one of the Four Questions, but Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell devoted an entire best-selling collection of his columns to explain Why Time Begins on Opening Day. For long-chilled fans, time begins again today, baseball’s earliest start ever.

Several new books of particular interest to Jewish fans will help fill the time between innings and during those interminable pitching changes.

This year marks the 100th birthday of Hank Greenberg, the sport’s first Jewish superstar. Two titles recall his life and achievements, albeit from markedly different perspectives.

Right off the bat, the first pages of Mark Kurnlansky’s Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want to Be One (Jewish Lives) (Yale University Press) seem to shatter a notion cherished by Jewish fans for more than 70 years: that the Hall of
Famer had an agenda when he decided to skip a crucial game to attend Yom Kippur services.This story — the stuff of legend and even poetry — has often been used by parents to teach their children the meaning of priorities.

“In 1934, Hank Greenberg observed Yom Kippur, possibly for the only time in his adult life,”writes Kurlansky. (The use of “possibly” excuses the author from producing further evidence to back up that assertion.)

Kurlansky — whose work includes Few and Chosen: The Resurrection of European Jewry — presents his book as more scholarly than popular. He splits the story of the Jewish icon with the cultural history of Jews in America following their flight from the pogroms of Eastern Europe. If they thought they were free of anti-Semitism in the Goldene Medina, they were wrong.Greenberg had the dubious honor of playing almost all of his career with the Detroit Tigers, a team based in the heart of anti-Jewish sentiment, with Henry Ford and Father Coughlin leading the charge in the years leading up to World War II. Rare was the day some opposing player or heckler in the stands didn’t torture  Greenberg with racist invective. But at a solid six-feet, four-inches, he was a “tough Jew” and not one to back away from a fight — another source of pride for his people.

“Greenberg never sought to be an important Jew,” Kurlansky writes in the prologue. “Rather, he wanted to be an important baseball player.”Perhaps that was true at one point, but in Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg, (Calkins Creek), a biography geared for young adult readers, Shelley Sommer offers a different scenario.

“It’s a strange thing,” Greenberg said in an interview he gave toward the end of his life (he died in 1986). “When I was playing, I used to resent being singled out as a Jewish ballplayer. I wanted to be known as a great ballplayer, period. “I’m not sure why or when I changed, because I’m still not a particularly religious person. Lately, though, I find  myself wanting to be remembered not only as a great ballplayer, but even more as a great Jewish ballplayer.”

In her book, Sommer, a middle-school literature teacher, features positive tales of overcoming adversity — and  without the sex, drugs, and other vices so prevalent in contemporary biographies.

Greenberg was not the first Jewish ballplayer, Sommer concludes, but the first to command such national attention,  both from a Jewish and an ecumenical fan base.

The ‘real’ first

Before there was Greenberg — way before — there was Lip Pike, the subject of Richard Michelson’s young children’s book, Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King, (Sleeping Bear Press). In this large-format picture book (with wonderful illustrations by Zachary Pullen), Michelson tells how young Lip grew up in mid-19th-century Brooklyn, attending school and helping around the family haberdashery, all the while dreaming about playing baseball. By sticking to his goals, he got his chance, making his pro debut with the Troy Haymakers in 1871 and leading the  fledgling National League in home runs for three straight years.

Of course, his totals of four, seven, and four, respectively, don’t even add up to Greenberg’s worst full season, but as  Michelson reports, it was vastly different game in Pike’s era.

All of these books share a common element: that most immigrant parents looked upon sports as a waste of time.  Children were expected to hit the books, not the baseball. Excelling academically and finding a good profession were the equivalent of making it to the Major Leagues. Ultimately, however, Greenberg’s and Pike’s parents gave in, realizing that this was one way for their sons to “become an American.”

Here’s the Korner interview with Michelson:

Interview with Michelson

Heavy hitters

Other new books of note:

Souvenir NHL yarmulka? That's a kipa.

Posted on: December 3rd, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

This item comes courtesy Rabbi Jason Miller.

It’s become expected that there will be some sort of a giveaway at sports events. Fans leave the stadium or arena with everything from posters of the star player to bobble-heads and t-shirts. Every once in a while, a team gets a little more creative.

And that’s exactly what happened in Florida. According to Greg Wyshynski in a Yahoo! News article, the Florida Panthers are scheduled to have their Hanukkah celebration during next Tuesday’s home game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Panthers are publicizing the game as “the biggest Hanukkah party in South Florida.”

So, what does it mean to have a Hanukkah party at a pro hockey game? Using jelly donuts for the pucks would pose some obvious logistical problems. I’m sure they’ll be lighting a menorah at some point in the game, but what is sure to make news is the Florida Panthers’ choice for a Hanukkah giveaway at Tuesday’s game.

The official Florida Panthers yarmulke, or kippah, will be handed out to all ticket holders before the game. No word on whether the NHL team is egalitarian in this regard and will be giving the kippahs out to the ladies as well.

I know from experience that these round, black leather kippahs will fly like a frisbee when thrown. And that’s exactly what the home team will do if a Panthers player scores three goals for a Hat Trick. Although, on this night it would be a Kippah Trick of course.

Who knows if the fans will even wait for a Hat Trick to throw the yarmulkes on the ice? I suppose it’s better than throwing a live octopus on the ice like Detroit Red Wings fans throw come playoff time. I mean those things aren’t even kosher!

While “Hanukkah Night” at the hockey game sounds like fun, the Florida Panthers deserve to go to the penalty box for the kippah giveaway, which just sounds to me like a High Shtick!

Students want new date for Yom Kippur game

Posted on: September 28th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

From the JTA:

Jewish students at the University of Texas are working to change the date of next year’s football game against rival Oklahoma because it falls on Yom Kippur.

The university’s Student Government voted unanimously last week to call for the rescheduling of the Oct. 8, 2011 game, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

At least 1,200 people have signed an online petition urging the rescheduling of the game.

More than 4,000 University of Texas undergraduate students are Jewish.

The Texas-Oklahoma game, widely known as the “Red River Rivalry,” is traditionally played each year at the Cotton Bowl during the Texas State Fair.

The game has been played on Yom Kippur five times in the past, the first time in 1940 and most recently in 1997, the Statesman reported. The 2014 game also is scheduled for Yom Kippur.

The online petition reads: “Next year, Texas-OU weekend falls on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day dedicated to fasting and repentance. The event is more than the game itself. It is the state fair, the fried foods, college GameDay, and the atmosphere of a neutral site game that cannot be duplicated. Over ten percent of undergraduate students at the University of Texas (as well as countless alumni, season ticket holders, and other supporters) are Jewish. For them to be forced to choose between the holiest day in Judaism and the biggest day of the year for Texas football (and the events surrounding the game) is unfair.”

Why should this event be different from all other events?

Posted on: March 25th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

From the JTA:

Seder conflict sending hockey team to sidelines

A midget league hockey team in a Montreal suburb will forfeit a key game because it conflicts with the first night of Passover.

At least 10 of the 15 players on the Dollard-des-Ormeaux Midget B Civics are Jewish and unwilling to miss the first seder, the Montreal Gazette reported.

“The kids are very disappointed,” said team manager Eva-Lynn Gross, who appealed to the municipality and the Lac St. Louis hockey league. “They should work around stuff like this,” she told the Gazette.

Games cannot be rescheduled during regional match-ups, Lac St. Louis league executive director Sylvain McSween told the newspaper.

“There are 700 hockey matches in less than three weeks, and we can’t have any changes,” he said. “One special case leads to another and another. There’s nothing we can do.”

Organizers would not allow the team to switch places with another squad that had offered its spot so the Civics’ game would not conflict with the first seder, which falls on Monday night.

Faith first

Posted on: February 26th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

Here’s another of the problems of accommodation. Damned if you do (you’re accused showing favoritism, bending the rules, etc.), damned if you don’t (you’re insensitive; too cold-hearted; unwilling to accommodate; think of the the children who have worked so hard to get here, etc.).

The girls basketball team at Northwest Yeshiva in Mercer Island, Washington, made it to the Class 1B tournament, but was ultimately unable to play because their game was scheduled for Feb. 24 — the Fast of Esther. As such, they would not be able to hydrate before, during and after the contest, which would put them at risk. As Scott Sandsberry reported in the Yakima Herald-Republic,

Short of being able to move the game time — an accommodation the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association wasn’t willing to make — Northwest Yeshiva school leaders opted to forfeit today’s game.

Sandsberry goes on to report

Northwest Yeshiva school leaders had appealed to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association board to adjust the tournament schedule so the team could avoid playing during the fast. The school indicated it would be willing to play at a non-SunDome site, even on the home court of its Eastern Washington opponent, if that would resolve the issue.

WIAA bylaws allow for tournament schedule adjustments for teams that recognize the Saturday Sabbath. But making game-time changes in this case, WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said, would be unfair for the other teams whose schedule would be affected.

It would force championship-bracket teams to play early games on less rest, for example, and possibly without the morning shoot-around practice typically held at available high school or middle school gyms by teams playing in the evening bracket.

The girls took the decision very well:

“It’s really cool to be here, first of all. We worked really hard to get here, to qualify for state,” said sophomore Julia Owen, one of the team’s top players. “But we’re also very happy to be able to show that our religion is very important to us. Although it’s hard because it would be great to get the chance to continue, we’re not wishing we could ignore the fast and play, because observing the fast is important.”

Happy Birthday, Sandy Koufax

Posted on: December 30th, 2009 by Ron Kaplan

The poster-boy for Jewish sports of the boomer generation turns — wait for it — 74 today! Hard to believe he’s been away from the game for more than 40 years, but his legacy goes on. Even today, parents invoke the Hall of Fame pitcher: “If Sandy Koufax could miss the World Series for Yom Kippur, you can skip the movies for a day.”

And don’t you think all the Jewish pro athletes who followed are peppered by the press come High Holy Day time with questions about their plans to play or sit?  Must get a bit tiresome.

There are thousands of articles you can read about Koufax, but here are a few of books to get a hold of:

  • Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, by Jane Leavy
  • Koufax, by Edward Gruver
  • You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?, Jonah Winter (juvenile)
  • Then there’s Koufax’s eponymous book, written with Ed Linn in 1966, following his retirement. Haven’t read it, but willing to guarantee it’s nothing like the tell-alls of today.

Here’s Jimmy Durante’s musical tribute to Koufax:

Kornheiser and Marquis, together again for the first time

Posted on: December 24th, 2009 by Ron Kaplan

Paraphrasing here, but Kornheieser, in addition to his gig on PTI has a radio program on the Washington ESPN station (980 on your Am dial), mostly sports (duh). So when it came to the news that Marquis had signed with the Nationals, he said, proudly. “He’s one of my people,” and that he was looking forward to having him over for latkes.

The season hasn’t even started, and already the folks in the Yahoo Jewish Sports Collector’s group are speculating whether Marquis will play on Yom Kippur, which falls out this year on Friday night-Saturday, Sept. 17-18. A quick look at the Nationals’ schedule has them playing the Phillies in Philadelphia. Of course, the rotation hasn’t been established yet, so there’s no way of knowing if Marquis will be set for either game.

Here’s an article from the Oct. 7, 2004 L.A. Times about what he did when that situation arose in 2001 when he was with the Atlanta Braves.

“Baseball, family and religion are on the same level to me,” Marquis said. “I’m not going to put one on the back burner. I don’t see why you can’t combine them.

“Some people may view that as wrong. That’s what I decided to do, and I’ll stand by it.”

Yom Kippur extends from sunset to sunset. Marquis, then playing for the Atlanta Braves, elected to pitch in the evening, during the first few hours of the holiday, then attend religious services the next day. He honored the tradition of fasting, as he does every year, so he pitched without so much as a sip of water or Gatorade.


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