Sandy Koufax, Yom Kippur and all that

A Sporting Symbol of Multiculturalism

The four-time Cy Young Award winner who sat out game 1 of the 1965 World Series due to Yom Kippur and later pitched two complete-game shoutouts to secure the title for the LA Dodgers

With the baseball post season overlapping the Jewish High Holidays it is always a pleasure to recall the legendary Sandy Koufax and his monumental impact on Jewish American life. In a nutshell: The three-time Cy Young Award winner and widely considered the greatest of his generation, sat out game 1 of the 1965 World Series due to Yom Kippur. The Jewish left-hander later pitched two complete-game shoutouts on two days rest against the Minnesota Twins in Games 5 and 7 to secure the title for the LA Dodgers.

Two interesting things stand out in Sandy’s decision. The first is that he does not explain his decision with high values of faith but in plain practical terms: “The Dodgers know I don’t work Yom Kippur.”. For generations of Jewish Americans struggling to receive their religious rights at the work place this was a revelation. A plain employer-employee practice to respect the Jewish worker and his religion. The second is the lasting impression Koufax’s decision made on general American life as a sporting symbol of multiculturalism.

One can feel it 44 years later in this speech by President Obama at the White House –

One can also see, in this home video, the immense love to Koufax by Dodger fans – nearly four decades after his retirement –

In a TV documentary Bob Costas, the great TV sports announcer, gave his recollections as child of the 1965 World Series: “Every Jewish boy at my school stood a few inches taller”.

Koufax – a full documentary

By Libi