A potentially pivotal game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox has been suddenly rescheduled, and now begins at 8 p.m. on the night before Yom Kippur. The change—motivated by ESPN’s desire to broadcast the match-up as Sunday Night Baseball—prompts the all-important question: will star Red Sox first baseman and Most Famous Current Jewish Ballplayer Kevin Youkilis play against his team’s archrival as it struggles to secure a playoff berth? The issue last arose prominently eight years ago, when Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Shawn Green elected not to play a crucial game that fell on the Day of Atonement. In 1965, as every Jewish boy has been reminded by his mother at one time or another, Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax refused to start Game 1 of the World Series, instead attending shul for Yom Kippur; Dodgers Don Drysdale got shellacked for a loss, and afterward quipped to his manager, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too.” On the other hand, when slugger Hank Greenberg’s Detroit Tigers had a crucial late-season game on Rosh Hashanah, 1934, he played; his two home runs lifted the Tigers to a 2-1 victory. By the time Yom Kippur rolled around, the Tigers had all but clinched a World Series slot, and Greenberg took the day off and entered his synagogue to applause.
One wants to see the hand of Adonai Himself in the uncanny timing whereby the High Holidays always fall smack in the middle of the pennant race and postseason, tempting the talented faithful. Anyway, given that the Sox are currently a mere 6.5 games behind the Yankees, we’d guess most New Yorkers are hoping Youkilis has so many sins that he has no choice but to Kol Nidre the night away.
An Unholy Move by ESPN [New York Post]
Green, Koufax, and Greenberg—Same Dilemma, Different Decisions [ESPN Classic]
Previously: Look, Jews in Baseball!
Yankees Trade For a Jew
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.