Derek Jeter’s final regular season home game as a New York Yankee is fast approaching, and for some Yankee fans, it’s a major event. But it happens to fall during another major event: Rosh Hashanah. The Sept. 25 game against the Baltimore Orioles falls on the second night of the High Holiday (which begins at sundown Sept. 24), and while for Jews who only observe the first day of Rosh Hashanah it’s not an issue, it does present a potential conflict for more observant Jews.
It’s a reverse Koufax—at least according to former Major League outfielder Gabe Kapler, who after seasons of being asked by reporters whether he would be sitting out games on Yom Kippur, is gleefully turning the tables, asking Jewish reporters if they’ll be covering the big game.
While he admits, “The likelihood of my being in the lineup on any given Jewish holiday was roughly the same as the odds of a left-handed pitcher (or Kent Bottenfield) being on the mound,” Kapler, who played for the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays, among other teams, says reporters posed the annual question regardless.
That didn’t stop the reporters from asking. “Gabe, what’s your plan? Will you play?”
My reply was always the same.
“I’m ridiculously proud of my Jewish heritage. I have a Star of David tattooed on my body for that reason. That said, I don’t practice Judaism. It would be awfully hypocritical for me not to be available to my manager and my team if I wouldn’t be attending synagogue. I’m just as likely to be setting my fantasy football lineup as reading from the Torah.”
(According to Jon Wertheim, writing in Tablet this spring about the appeal of Jewish baseball players, Kapler also has the phrase “Never Again” inked on his right calf with a flame and the dates of the Holocaust.)
While Kapler’s question is provocative, it’s likely to be less of an actual issue. But for Jews considering a trip to the Bronx for the 7:05 p.m. game, it very well may be. That is, if they can even get tickets.