Kevin Youkilis and Jewish Tradition

Before going to temple last night, for Rosh Hashanah, our Jewish New Year of 5773, I was checking the Sox schedule for the remaining 2 weeks.  I wrote every game on my kitchen calendar, and noticed that the Tuesday, September 25th game was at 1:00 pm.  Curious, I thought – a Tuesday afternoon game.

I was quite happy at the moment, after watching  Detroit’s Valverde meltdown in the 9th inning to the Indians.  I loved the replays of Fielder arguing with the IB umpire while Cleveland’s player rounded third and scored.

Then I gave a 2nd glance to the calendar and noticed the 25th was Yom Kippur eve – Kol Nidre, the holiest of all Jewish holidays.

Fabulous, I thought. I could cook all afternoon for the meal we eat before the traditional 24 hour fast, and watch my White Sox play the game.  And know that Youkilis would be playing too.

Kevin Youkilis does not play baseball on Yom Kippur, as reported by Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.  9/13/12.  The White Sox changed their schedule to accommodate fans, our 3rd baseman, and Jerry Reinsdorf.

So Youk is following in the Jewish tradition of Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax. Makes me proud.

I never thought teams would actually do this – change their schedules for my holiday.  I mean, how many NFL and NBA games are actually scheduled on Christmas?  Plenty!  So what makes this different?  I don’t really understand.

A few years back, the New York fans were in an uproar that the Jets v. Giants were playing their football game on Yom Kippur eve, so they changed it to a day game.  I was shocked, and even told my son who lives in NYC.  Must have been the season ticket holders’ uproar, I thought.

And today v. Detroit, Steve Stone is observing Rosh Hashanah, so we get the ultimate pleasure of having Tom Paciorek, our “Wimpy,” call the game with Hawk, instead.

I’ve learned that people make their own religious decisions regarding what is important to him/ her.  So who are we to judge? At least St. Peter won’t be meeting me at the Pearly Gates.

Long before Koufax’s decision of not playing on Yom Kippur , 1965 for Game 1 of the World Series, Hank Greenberg of the Tigers, in 1934, anguished over whether or not to play on Rosh Hashanah.  At that time, the Yankees and Tigers were in a heated pennant race, and Greenberg’s bat was carrying the team. Of any group of fans, the media asked all the Detroit area Rabbis for their opinions.  Finally, the Detroit News ran a headline saying “Talmud Clears Greenberg for Holiday Play.”

Greenberg hit 2 home runs that day and the Tigers beat the Yankees 2 – 1. When he did not play on Yom Kippur, and showed up at temple, the congregation cheered him.

So Youk, we need you buddy.  If 78 years of rabbinical decision is worth anything, I assume you’ll say a few prayers this morning and go play your game.

I’ll finish with a personal story, one which truly defines how I handled my own dilemma. And almost paid some dire consequences.

Rosh Hashanah, 5766.  White Sox calendar, 2005, Game 1 v. Boston Red Sox, 2004 World Champs.  No way will I miss the Sox game, I say. “No way will WE miss the game,” say our sons.  “No way will I miss temple,” says my husband, given that his father was the Rabbi of our congregation, before he died, a few years back. Plus, how will that look, as the “Rabbi’s family, of not going to shul?”

So we go to temple, and after the new Rabbi’s sermon, head for the doors. We run. Heads turn by all congregants. I don’t care. We fly to the car.  My oldest son drives – definitely not my husband.  I'm sitting shot-gun, as I did in my father's taxi cab as a little girl. Flying down the Edens on our way to the game, we change into our Sox gear/ shirts. Clothes are flying all over seats and windows.  As the traffic stops at the junction, our son, the driver, begins changing his clothes, with me helping pull off his suit and tie.  All the way to the ballpark, the radio is turned as high as possible, and I’m screaming to go faster.  I can’t handle this.  Too intense.

We get off at the Dan Ryan 31st St. exit, assuming we’ll park in a lot close to the ballpark. I’m an emotional wreck. I’m screaming at the traffic cop who steers us away from the parking near The Cell, towards the Lake.  I get out of the car with our younger son and start giving my “two cents” to the officer while he’s trying to direct all the traffic.  The cop starts telling me to “knock it off.”  My son has to pull me away.  He sits me down on the corner and I start crying, uncontrollably.

It’s the White Sox. They are in the playoffs.  And in temple today, all I can think about is:  Joe Crede hitting a 3 run HR when we were in a losing streak, to break our fall and propel us to go on to win. Juan Uribe and Iguchi making double plays.  Buehrle and Garland and Jenks pitching.  Jermaine Dye. And Paulie.  I just spent 2 hrs. in temple praying the entire time for the Sox to win the World Series. I could think of nothing else. God understands. He knows this woman inside and out.

Being lucky enough to know a few people, we get fabulous seats right next to the left field bullpen.  For the entire playoffs. And the only person to have a picture of the 4 of us sitting in these seats that day is Marcos Breton, Sacramento Bee Sportswriter. Another fan took that picture with my Costco camera, I had it 'developed" the old fashioned way, 2 copies made, one sent to Marcos, and the other lost.

So that’s my Rosh Hashanah story. One for the record books. Our Jewish tradition. One crazy South Side Sports Chick. Who thankfully didn't get arrested.  And God answered her prayers that day, that series, and all the way through October.

Thank you Hank, Sandy, and Kevin. Regardless of what Charles Barkley says, you ARE role models.

Filed under: Religion, Sports Commentary

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    Youkilis is a great player with a Jewish soul. He is one of the subjects of the new children's book Modern Day Maccabees about athletes like Kevin who keep use their Jewish values to excel on and off the field.

  • Steve Rosenbloom brought up on The SCORE Youk being a landsman, shortly before Rosenbloom described his recipe for bacon wrapped pork sausage. Someone texted "some Rabbi on the North Shore is now crying," except that the program was Saturday morning, so if the Rabbi cared, he shouldn't have been listening.

    Rosenbloom also brought up Ryan Braun, the "Kosher Butcher of Left Field."

    I had mentioned on Art of the Pale Hose that since the Detroit game was rescheduled to Rosh Hashana, Youk would not be there, but he was.

    I also noted that since the rescheduled game for Yom Kipper was against Cleveland, that would also accommodate Jayson Kipnis, but the Internet says he isn't Jewish, even though, for starters, he grew up in Northbrook. At least he'll have the night off to visit his family.

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    Dr. Janice Gagerman

    My brother put a mitt in my hand at 5 years old, and the rest was history. Grew up on 89th and Clyde near CVS. I sat shot-gun in my father's taxi cab, listening to Sox and Bears games on the radio. Taught my 12" softball womens' teammates how to slide into 2nd base like Aparicio. Been a Professor for 25 years but never lost my love for Sports. Raised a family, and work in my garden and orchard. I can't stand technology, but have adapted.

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