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No Big Deal

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As a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the mid-1960s, my loyalty was to the New York Mets, ensconced in last place with such heroes as Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda and Cleon Jones. But my heart belonged to Sandy Koufax, who grew up in the adjacent neighborhood of Bensonhurst and later played for the Dodgers in sunny Los Angeles.

It was October 1965 and Koufax was scheduled to pitch the first game of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins in Bloomington. But that day fell on Yom Kippur and the lefthander said he would not show up for work.

“From what I’ve been told, there are no dispensations for this particular day,” Koufax said five days before Yom Kippur. “If I’m told it isn’t proper to pitch, then I won’t because I wouldn’t feel right about it.”

For Koufax, one of the greatest pitchers in the game, choosing G-d over baseball was no big deal. Although he did not describe himself as a religious Jew, his only place on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was in synagogue. Even during his erratic early years on the mound, Koufax set limits. In 1959, he skipped games to be with his family on Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

But many in the elite of the American Jewish community were in panic. The entire country was watching and Koufax’s decision could raise the ugly head of dual loyalty; the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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