Jewish Baseball Legend

Wouldn't Pitch On Yom Kippur

It’s been 50 years since Sandy Koufax became a hero to American Jews by refusing to pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur.

The stakes could not have been higher. On October 6, 1965, Sandy’s Los Angeles Dodgers faced the formidable Minnesota Twins in Game 1 of the World Series Championship.

Left-handed starter Sandy Koufax was the best pitcher in baseball, known across America as “the man with the golden arm.”

Yet October 6, 1965 was also Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and Sandy was a Jew.

Though not a religious man, Sandy was well aware that only twenty years after the Holocaust, assimilation was rising fast among American Jews.

Sandy took pride in his heritage, and made a legendary choice.

A humble man, Sandy would write in his autobiography, “There was never any decision to make because there was never any possibility that I would pitch. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish religion. The club knows I don’t work that day.”

Don Drysdale pitched instead, and the Dodgers lost 8-2. After the game, he told the Dodgers’ manager, “I bet you wish I were Jewish too.”

The Dodgers went on to win the Championship after Sandy pitched a shut-out masterpiece on short rest in Game 7.

Sandy was named World Series MVP, and won a permanent place in the hearts of American Jews.

For performing at the highest professional level while honoring the tenets of his faith, we are thrilled to honor Sandy Koufax as this week’s Thursday Hero at Accidental Talmudist.


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