Holiday Baseball Memories
"Well, beat the drum and hold the phone, the sun came out today.
We're born again, there's new grass on the field."
- John Fogerty, "Centerfield"
Mirty - oops, I mean Miriam, had a nice post yesterday about various memories that she associates with Sukkos. I responded there, but the topic also ties into a couple of posts I've been working on.
My last post started out simply as a birthday greeting, but sparked a comments mini-debate on baseball. Baseball happens to be one of my annual associations with Sukkos. In my childhood, it seemed like the Playoffs and/or World Series and this Yom Tov invariably conflicted, usually meaning that I had to miss watching ballgames just when they started getting exciting - and just when my team, the Yankees, were finally on TV in Maryland.
My biggest nisayon in this area was in 1978 and was actually not on Sukkos itself, but on Rosh Hashanah. Of course I'm referring to the one-game playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox, surely the quintessential moment in that greatest of sports rivalries. I passed the trial - sort of (OK, I did spend some time that afternoon at a friend's house who happen to have left a radio on...). And in reward - as my naive teenage self felt then- the Yankees went on to win the game, and then the AL Playoffs and Series - the latter two feeling somewhat anti-climactic. But at least I did get to see some of those games, in between yom tovim. In fact, I remember watching the final innings of the clinching World Series game with my dad, in one of his rare TV-viewing moments. I wanted to celebrate and we had no champagne in the house, so I improvised with Kedem malaga mixed with seltzer. For a frum, bookish teen like me, that was the life.
I remember another baseball / Jewish holiday connection from that same 1978 season - this one, unpleasant on both counts. Rewind to the afternoon of Tisha B'Av. The Yanks were playing at the Orioles, which meant a rare opportunity for me to listen to my team play - and a much-needed distraction to help me get through the grindingly long fast day. After six innings, the Yanks were behind 3-0, but scored five runs in the top of the seventh. And then it started to drizzle. The O's manager, crafty hall of famer Earl Weaver (who holds the AL managerial record for being tossed out of games, according to Wikipedia) deliberately "drayed out" the bottom half of the inning until the rain got bad enough for the umpires to call the game - thus wiping out the Yanks runs in the top of the inning and giving the O's the "victory". The Yanks protested the game, but to no avail. And to boot, it was one of Ron Guidry's only three losses that year, against 25 wins.
(So yes, Soccer Dad, I concede that the Jeffrey Maier incident was completely unfair - but I feel the scales are simply even now!)
Strangely and sadly, the next Tisha B'av was an infinitely worse day for Yankees. Thurman Munson died in a plane crash that day. At the time, I wondered if the Yankees were somehow encompassed by that Jewish day of tragedy and sorrow - after all, I reasoned, there are probably more Jewish Yankee fans than Jewish fans of any other team. But fortunately, there were no later, glaringly negative Yankee Tisha B'av milestones that I know of.
Then again, God works in mysterious ways. And the way it seems lately, the Yanks may need help from some of those Angels in the Outfield (and the infield, and the mound, and the plate...) if their postseason games are going to get a chance to conflict with my Sukkos holidays ever again.