Autumn is a great season if you are a baseball fan like me. Even if your favorite team isn’t in the World Series, you still get to see plenty of quality playoff baseball and to reminisce. I remember my father and grandfather talking about their favorite players and the best Jewish ballplayers they had ever seen.
Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg was a powerful slugger for the ages, and Al Rosen was known as a premier clutch hitter. But the greatest Jewish ballplayer of all time was Sandy Koufax, a pitcher who dominated baseball in the mid-60’s, leading the Dodgers to three championships while winning multiple individual awards. And when his turn to pitch a World Series game fell on Yom Kippur, Koufax put faith before profession and sat out the game.
We were Cincinnati Reds fans when I was a kid, but our hero was Sandy Koufax. Mom liked that he played for her childhood favorite, Brooklyn (she never acknowledged the Dodgers' move to L.A.). Dad liked his fastball and precise control on the mound. My sister was thrilled that, like her, he was left-handed (and Jewish). She planned to marry Sandy when she grew up. Yet what really made us proud of this man we never knew was that he was a mensch – an exemplar of our faith in the realm of sport, which had few Jewish stars. That pride still endures for many Jewish baseball fans, and flickers back to life each year as the leaves begin to fall.