Jews intrinsically tied to baseball through the ages

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Nem mikh mit tsu der ball geym (Take me out to the ball game)/ Tsum oylem lomir dokh geyn (Take me out with the crowd)/ Koyf mir di nislekh un krekerjek (Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack)/ Vil ikh keyn molfun dort nit avek (I don't care if I never get back)

Harry von Tilzer (born Aaron Gumbinsky) will be loved forever for creating the melody to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." The Yiddish lyrics above are found at

?I23A34215 And like many of the game's greats, lyricist von Tilzer was Jewish. Herbert London tells his story at his html/10_3_tin_pan_alley_


Rabbi Richard Agler remembers how every year he would announce von Tilzer's yahrzeit with "considerable reverence" — www.cbibca.

org/rda/ 101196.html — when he was at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan. (By the way, the Yiddish lyrics came later, thanks to Henry Sapoznik.)

Today, more about baseball, Jews and Judaism on the World Wide Web.

As Shel Krakofsky pointed out a few years ago in the Canadian Jewish News — pastissues/98/may7-98/ feature/feature2.htm — one of the greatest baseball players of all time was also the "only player in Major League history to strike out in 12 consecutive plate appearances." Although his lifetime batting average was .097, he was the youngest player ever elected into the Hall of Fame. The player? Sandy Koufax.

Koufax, of course, because it was Yom Kippur, didn't pitch for his Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Sandor Slomovits captures the pride felt by every Jewish baseball-loving fan at the time in his article "Yom Kippur and Sandy Koufax: They'll Always Go Together" found at


Slomovits says Koufax's decision to sit out the game transcended the sport and even had an incredible impact on people who normally had no use for the game, like Slomovits' father. "To my father, baseball was still a stupid game, but all of a sudden, it was not played by only stupid people. Sandy Koufax did not hide his Jewishness. He took a righteous stand. And my father, along with millions of Jews, was proud of him. 'He's a good Jewish boy,' my father said. His highest praise."

Stay at the JewishSports Web site for several great baseball articles, including a look at how Jews made baseball "Our Own" and a review of Aviva Kemper's documentary, "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg."

And now, three special treats! Fans can download Professor Eric Solomon's essay "Jews and Baseball: A Cultural Love Story" —


OP08_Sport_and_Race.pdf — in which he argues that the game has played a crucial role in the evolution of Jewish society. (After that, you can read online, the entire book, "Jewish Baseball Stars" by Harold U. and Meir Z. Ribalow at

publication.asp?titleID=1) Want more? How about profiles of 168 Jewish baseball players — from Cal "Abie" Abrams to Eddie Zosky. Check out list.asp?sport=baseball

Lest you believe that the only Jewish players of note are in North America, check out the action in Israel —

israelbaseballsoftball — where Amit Megiddo, Yehuda Beinin and Sholom Menorah play on teams like Shomrot Triple T, Zion Tours and the Dimona Mean Judeans.

At jewishnews/980911/thrill.shtml Joseph Aaron of the Chicago Jewish News found special meaning in the famed home run derby between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa a few years ago, although neither is Jewish. Prior to the competition, baseball had been hurting because of absurd salaries, owner arrogance and the players' strike. So too with Judaism, "where organizational turf battles, lack of spiritual leadership, an obsession with fund-raising, communal rigidity and irrelevance all systematically turned Jews off."

Aaron points out that just as it took a contest between two talented individuals to bring attention back to the central values of the game, Judaism also needs to reassess its priorities. "Baseball, at its core, is what Judaism is at its core. Each person striving to do the best they can, to always improve, to work on themselves. And yet to do it in the context of a team, in the context of a community. Even the greatest player is nothing without his teammates. Even the greatest Jew needs to be part of a community to be most fully Jewish." (Note that this article was written prior to Sosa's corked bat problems from which, hopefully, both he and baseball will recover.)

But the most eye-popping article that I have come across is Reuven Goldfarb's Baseball Kabbalah at

Sport/baseball%20kabbalah.html In it, he provides indisputable parallels between the two mystical activities:

*The 10 players (nine plus batter) on the field correspond to the number of Sefirot (Divine Emanations) that constitute the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

*"What about the umpires? Easy. They're Dayanim (rabbinical judges). That's why they wear dark colors. Managers? Rebbes. Coaches? Gabbais."

*"And you've heard of the seventh-inning stretch? Does that sound like Shabbat to you?"

Vayls'iz eyns, tsvey, dray strikes, un oys (For it's one, two, three strikes you're out)/ Bay der beysball shpil (At the old ballgame)

Shpil ball! (Play ball!)

The writer is a Toronto-based television producer who writes, lectures and teaches about the Jewish Internet. He can be reached at

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