There is something ancient about the National Pastime that evokes the spiritual, the other-worldly. I submit “The Natural” and “Field of Dreams.”
Now two friends of mine have written topical essays about the overlap between baseball and the Jewish holy days.
In New York, we are used to glorious weather for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Last Sunday, the rain stopped right around sundown on the Jewish New Year to let the United States Open begin, albeit three hours late. Tennis fans did not have to be Jewish to benefit from the cessation.
The baseball season is always in its crucial days when the holy days arrive. My friend Mendel Horowitz, rabbi and family therapist in Israel, who often contributes insightful comments on this site, has written about the intersection of the sacred and the profane. Here is the link from the Washington Post the other day:
And my friend Hillel Kuttler from Baltimore has written about an event half a century ago, when Sandy Koufax chose to not pitch the opening game of the World Series on Yom Kippur. Kuttler discusses the message Koufax sent to Jews (and others.) The link from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
I covered that World Series in Minnesota, when Don Drysdale, the second ace, was hammered. Kuttler repeats the anecdote that when manager Walter Alston came to the mound to take him out in the third inning, Drysdale said, "I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too." Everybody low-keyed that observance, including Koufax. He just never worked on that day. The Dodgers won the Series anyway.
Woe to people who ignore the holy days. In 1986, Major League Baseball scheduled a night game and a subsequent day game -- not one game but two -- within the 24 hours of Yom Kippur. In New York.
I’m not Jewish, but I know from chutzpah. My column on Oct. 1, 1986, predicted a deluge:
The Sunday night game was rained out. Of course. Mendel Horowitz and Hillel Kuttler understand.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.