• Art S.

Sandy Koufax Sits Out World Series to Observe Yom Kippur, 1965

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: October 6, 1965

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGA_ZmFlxDw/

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#onthisday, 1965, Jewish-American baseball legend, Sandy Koufax, sits out of starting game 1 of the World Series to observe Yom Kippur.

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The 1965 World Series matched the Los Angeles @dodgers against the Minnesota @twins with Game 1 scheduled for October 6th at Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota.

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On any other day, the pitching match-up would have pitted the Twins Jim “Mudcat” Grant against Dodger great, Sandy Koufax. Koufax had won 26 games and would win the 1965 Cy Young Award.

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Yet, Wednesday, October 6, 1965 fell on Yom Kippur and the Jewish Koufax said he would sit out Game 1 out of respect for his faith. It was not the first time a great Jewish ballplayer had sat out during the Day of Atonement. See our Hank Greenberg post on 9.14.20.

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Given the importance of the game and Koufax’s pivotal role on the weak-hitting Dodger team, his decision not to play was unprecedented. Unprecedented except for Koufax himself.

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The Dodger ace had already chosen not to pitch on Passover in 1959 and on Rosh Hashanah in 1961 and 1963. Still, this was the World Series.

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Some mystery surrounds where Koufax spent the day. He was definitely not in the dugout or the clubhouse and despite rumors that placed him in shul, it is more likely he spent the day in his hotel room.

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Wherever he was, his replacement that day, Don Drysdale, winner of 23 games that year, got shelled by the Twins' powerful offense, giving up seven runs in two and two-thirds innings.

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Baseball lore has it that when Dodger manager Walter Alston went to the mound to remove Drysdale, the big right-hander said, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish too."

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It’s a quip worthy of Jewish self-deprecation. Koufax would take the mound for Game 2 and although he only gave up two runs in six innings, he lost to Twins lefty Jim Kaat.

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The Dodgers would ultimately take the Series, in large part because Koufax pitched a nine inning, three-hit shut-out in Game 7 on two day’s rest later in the series.

. Perhaps this teaches us that Jewish heroes are made and not born. Sandy Koufax did not grow up in a devoutly observant home. But his decision to respect the holiest day on the Jewish calendar made him a role model for observance and a hero, in the modern day, of Maccabean proportions.

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Text Source:

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/sandy-koufax

Image Source:

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/29352958/tim-kurkjian-baseball-fix-trying-hit-sandy-koufax-was-drinking-coffee-fork

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