Yom Kippur – Remembering the sermon on the mound

It’s been 50 years since the Sermon on the mound. Unbelievable. The Jerusalem Post reminds us:

This Yom Kippur marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most seminal moments in postwar American Jewish life, an event – or, to be more precise, one that did not occur – that had a profound impact on how US Jewry came to feel about itself and its place in society.

In 1965, the Day of Atonement coincided with October 6, the date on which the Los Angeles Dodgers were going up against the Minnesota Twins in the first game of baseball’s World Series.

The Dodgers’ best pitcher, Sandy Koufax, was expected to lead the charge for the team. With a dazzling overhand curveball that seemed to defy gravity and a blazing fastball that was virtually unhittable, Koufax was dubbed by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks “the greatest pitcher I ever saw.” Or, as Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci once wrote, “Koufax was so good, he once taped a postgame radio show with Vin Scully before the game.”

But Koufax wasn’t just a baseball superstar.

He was also a Jew from Brooklyn, and a proud one at that. And although he was completely secular, he found himself facing a dilemma: stand by his teammates and play, or respect the sanctity of the day.

Koufax chose the latter, sitting out the first game (which the Dodgers went on to lose). His choice caused a sensation among an entire generation of American Jews, from the most observant to the least active. It underlined that Jews need not feel discomfort about their identity while taking part in American public life.

One of many such examples, but one of the most famous and enduring.

As we head in to this Yom Kippur, it remains only for me to say:

“G’mar chatima tovah 5776”

An easy fast to one and all taking part.