Genesis: Sandy Koufax as Model Minority
Ep 1: Baseball, Yom Kippur, and what it means to be a Jewish athlete in America—then and now
Sandy Koufax is a Jewish hero less for his Hall of Fame talent on the mound than for the one day he stayed off it: Yom Kippur, 1965. His decision to sit out Game 1 of the World Series, in his prime and with America’s eyes on him, is a Genesis moment. And so our series begins with Sandy: Who he was, how he became an avatar for Jewish Americans, and what his legacy means today.
A half-century later, on Yom Kippur 2019, three Jewish baseball players—Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros, Joc Pederson of the LA Dodgers, and Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves—took the field in an MLB Playoff game, and inspired fevered speculation about a so-called “Koufax curse.” But each player’s decision to play was significant beyond whether they won or lost, and tells us a lot about the state of Jews in sports, and Jews in America, today.
Episode 1 features interviews with Koufax biographer Jane Leavy, author of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, Tablet staff writer Armin Rosen, Florida International University law professor and sabermetrics enthusiast Howard Wasserman, and The Athletic senior writer Jeff Schultz.
Over the course of this series, host Meredith Shiner will be exploring how Jewish culture, American culture, and sports culture intersect. She’ll talk to journalists, athletes, amateur and professional sports nerds, and fans who have spent as much time obsessing over these topics as she has.
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