Yom Kippur and Baseball Memories

We had a small, light blue transistor radio in our house in Mexico City. The sight of my two brothers excitedly huddled around my father listening to game four of the 1963 World Series on that little radio, is deeply etched in me. I still remember their screams, with each run scored, and their sighs of disappointment when their player struck out. Gary was a Yankee fan because he loved Mickey Mantle, but my dad loved Sandy Koufax, and he and Dickie were Dodger fans. Though my father was not religious, he beamed with pride in his heritage when on that Sunday, during game 4 of the Series, his southpaw fellow Jew, Sandy Koufax won the series for the Dodgers, defeating the Yankees 2-1. Gary and Wikipedia filled me in on the play-by-play details of the game on that memorable day…
“The Dodgers scored first in the bottom of the fifth on a monumental Frank Howard home run. The Yankees tied it on a Mickey Mantle home run in the top of the seventh. But in the bottom of the inning, Gilliam grounded to Clete Boyer at third and got all the way around to third base when Joe Pepitone lost Boyer’s peg in the white-shirted background. Gilliam scored a moment later on Willie Davis’s sacrifice fly. Sandy Koufax went on to hold the Yankees for the final two innings, for a 2–1 victory and the Dodgers’ third world championship.”
My father lived and breathed baseball, the national pass time he had learned to love growing up in Brooklyn and The Bronx. Being a second generation New Yorker, he had brought with him to Mexico, his love for the game of baseball. He always managed the little league teams my brothers played on. The name of our team was Los Diablos, and our players wore bright red shirts and white pants. Dickie, was three years older than Gary and he was the stronger player. One day though, my daddy put Gary in the outfield and when the batter for the opposing team hit the ball straight to Gary, my father cringed and closed his eyes. He opened them to the screams of all of the fans. Gary had caught the ball and became a little hero that day!
Most of the kids on our team came from very poor families like one of our stars, our pitcher, Fernando Nava. Once my father organized an outing with our family and all of our team members. We all went to Cuernavaca, a resort town close to Mexico City. The players had never been so happy. They dove into the swimming pool over and over, and when they got tired of swimming they ate torta after torta (Mexican sandwiches) when they got out of the pool, forgetting for a time their difficult life circumstances.
I was never given the option of going out for the baseball team, the possibility wasn’t even a part of anyone’s consciousness. First I was too little and second, girls just didn’t do that in those days. Yet I was so happy selling the hot dogs and cokes on game day that I could care less about playing the game.
Each year, as Yom kippur approaches, and we are in baseball playoff mode, these fond childhood memories return, and I happily wallow in them for a good long while.

8 responses

  1. Even though I am not much of a baseball fan, I shared something with Sandy Koufax for having such conflict of playing a world series during the high holidays. My hope is that our choices would always be easy. (yes, I know). Gmar Hatima tova.

  2. This post brings back beautiful memories of a time when I was 12 years old and all that mattered to me was baseball. The catch I made on a ball hit by the mighty Victor Valtierra of the Ingenieros was an easy one, but everybody was so surprised that I caught it that it made me a hero for a day, and who doesn’t like being a hero for a day. Also, although my beloved Yankees and Mickey Mantle fell to the awesome Koufax, listening to those world series games on that little radio with dad and our brother is one of my happiest and most endearing memories. Thanks for this great post. Love, Gary

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