The Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians agreed to change the time of their upcoming September 25th game from evening to afternoon after an outpouring of requests from fans who observe Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holiday that begins at sundown on that date. This will help Chicago’s chances in the game because, as ESPN reports, the White Sox’s recently-acquired third baseman Kevin Youkilis has abstained in the past from playing baseball during Yom Kippur. During a 1934 playoff run, Hank Greenberg, baseball’s first Jewish star, sat out from an important game during Yom Kippur, a decision that disappointed his fans but also instilled in them a respect for Greenberg’s faith. This decision is integral to the Greenberg legacy and depicted with humor and reverence in The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.
Youkilis in the White Sox dugout
Photo credit: Joe Bielawa, (flickr)
Years later, Sandy Koufax chose to skip a World Series game rather than play on Yom Kippur. This year Youkilis won’t have to make the decision that Greenberg and Koufax did and Chicago fans will be able to watch Youkilis and the White Sox try to hold on to their slim lead in the American League Central Division. Other teams with evening games on the 25th, however, are sticking to their schedule for now, which is unfortunate for observant Jewish fans of teams with playoff hopes (such as the Washington Nationals).
The conflict of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah with MLB’s playoff season is a perennial one. Peter Ephross made an interesting point about the controversy for George Mason University’s History News Network. For Jewish baseball players who are still trying to make a name for themselves, skipping a game can be a lot harder to get away with. If you don’t have the clout of Greenberg or Koufax, your manager might not be so understanding about observing a Jewish holiday. Youkilis has taken heat from commentators in the past for even considering staying in the lineup during Yom Kippur. He’s been on championship teams in the past, but he’s not exactly a superstar. Does the decision of whether to play on Yom Kippur present different complications for Jewish players who have less national stature than Greenberg and Koufax?