Recently I came across an article from the Jewish Exponent depicting Kevin Youkilis, infielder for Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox. Former baseball greats Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg were known to take off for Yom Kippur, and in Sandy Koufax’s case, it meant missing the opening game of the 1963 World Series. The million dollar question was: would Kevin Youkilis play on Yom Kippur?
According to Youkilis, “I don’t put religion into sports. I consider religion entirely different, so I don’t bring it to the field… I’ve never played on Yom Kippur… Hopefully if we were playing, it would be a night game, not a day game.”
He acknowledged a “lot of pressure” from the Jewish community not to play. “But you have to stick with your beliefs (sic). You can’t worry about people who aren’t influential in your life who say things or tell you you’re wrong. I know Shawn Green had a tough time with it. It just depends upon the community. In Boston, they probably don’t even care. They’d want you to play.”
This was once a kid who grew up in Cincinnati rooting for the Reds, who dutifully went to Hebrew school through Bar Mitzvah (“It was a long Haftorah,” he recalls), before his parents allowed him to concentrate on baseball, playing in Boston has both its perks and drawbacks.
While you’re an instant celebrity everywhere you turn, it also means you don’t have much privacy, including at synagogue.
“Boston’s not a town where you go unnoticed,” said the 6-foot, 1-inch, 220-pound Youkilis, whose grandparents immigrated from Romania. “Synagogue is no different… People want you to go to their synagogue. But sometimes it can be a little difficult. People approach you and sometimes get star -struck…You just have to pick and choose where you go. You just hope people realize what you’re there for.”
I honestly have no words to describe my disgust for Mr. Youlikis, and all other non-committed Jewish sports players, here. Boston is no different than Los Angeles in 1963, with Game 1 of the World Series no less. Youkilis’ excuse seems to be that Koufax was not nearly as noticed. However, I still remember reading in 1996, Jesse Levis, the Brewers’ reserve catcher, said that Koufax had more leverage when it came to his excuse for playing on Yom Kippur. “It’s not like I’m Sandy Koufax,” Levis told reporters after a game in Baltimore, referring to the former Dodgers pitcher who missed a World Series game one year because of Yom Kippur. “I don’t have that kind of leverage. I hope God forgives me.”
Just one more: Ron Blomberg was the first designated hitter ever, in 1973 when he played for the New York Yankees. He also was a Jew. When asked about Yom Kippur, his reaction was like “Yom what?”
In short, players like those are to me as kosher as a ham sandwich.