As with all walks of life, choices define who we are and what we stand for. Yearly, Jewish baseball players are faced with the difficult choice of observing Yom Kippur or October baseball as the playoffs heat up. Back in the day this choice came to define Hank Greenberg’s laudable dedication to his faith. In an October article in popular Hollywood news site, The Wrap, Aviva Kempner unravels the issue in our current sports and religious society and looks for a path forward to make it simpler for Jewish athletes to practice their religion while still playing ball, thus “covering all their bases.”
76 years ago a single crack of the bat reminded the Chicago Cubs that the Detroit Tigers and Hank Greenberg would not go gentle into that good night. Greenberg rocketed a homer against Cub’s pitcher Henry Ryse giving the Tiger’s a 3-1 lead in a game that they would ultimately win. The Cubs already had a one game lead after a tremendous 9-0 first game of the Series. Some credit this crack, Greenberg’s wicked powerful swing as the momentum that would eventually lead to the Tigers 4-3 Series victory over the Cubs and the beginning of the Curse of the Billy Goat, the longest running curse in the MLB. The Billy Goat Curse has become arguably the only superstition in baseball directly tied to a domesticated animal but many question the validity of such superstitions. Whether the kid who cursed the Cubs had hooves and straw in his mouth, or a cap one and hickory in his hand, tonight will prove whether the Cubs can break free from their 76 year curse, or perhaps, a Cleveland player will step into the shoes of Greenberg and send Chicago home packing yet again.
David Halberstam recently wrote a piece for the USAToday the detailed the ties between American baseball and Yom Kippur. He writes of the stark differences in the way Jewish people were treated in the U.S. in the two different years. He talks about effects of Koufax and Greenberg’s decisions to skip games on the holiday, and about what the decisions symbolize. He also makes mention of our film, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. Read the full article here: