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.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.