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Articles > It's to Laugh: Jewish Sporting Tales

NBA Hall of Famer Kevin McHale was the featured speaker at a B'nai B'rith dinner. Commenting on a visit to the local JCC, he wondered about the sign on the basketball court which read: "No dunking". "Tell me," said McHale to the audience, "is that sign really necessary?"

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It is a highly celebrated event that Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax did not pitch in the opening game of the 1965 World Series as the game fell on Yom Kippur. Don Drysdale, who pitched in Koufax' place, gave up 7 runs in 2 and 2/3 innings.

"I bet right now you are wishing that I was Jewish, too," Drysdale is said to have told Walt Alston when the Dodgers manager pulled him from the game.

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Rabbi Goldberg ran into Herb Schwartz at the mall a couple of days before Yom Kippur. After exchanging pleasantries, Rabbi Goldberg wished Mr. Schwartz a gut yontif.

"See you in Temple," said the rabbi.

"Well, rabbi, I have a bit of a problem," said Schwartz. "After all, the World Series kicks off that very night."

"You know, my friend, that's what VCR's are for," answered the rabbi.

"You mean I can tape the Kol Nidre service?" the congregant responded.

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Earlier this year, in a discussion of fantasy camps around the country, ESPN The Magazine included the "METS KOSHER FANTASY CAMP in Port St. Lucie, FL. Said the column of the $3,400 experience, "Batter up with ex-Mets Mookie Wilson, who might even join you at three kosher meals a day and prayer services."

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A priest, a minister and a rabbi were playing golf at a local country club. While they enjoyed one another's company, they did not enjoy the fact that the foursome ahead of them was taking forever.

At each hole there was a long wait. Finally, after 9 holes they decided to call it a game, and headed back to the clubhouse. Over drinks, they expressed their frustration at having to play behind such a slow foursome.

The club president happened to walk by and heard their complaints. "You have to understand," he told the three clergymen, "this group has been playing together for years. Unfortunately, each of them has lost his eyesight, but they continue to play together whenever they can."

"What an amazing story," exclaimed the priest. "Still playing golf though blind! When I get back to the cathedral I am going to light candles in honor of their sainted souls."

The minister added, "This Sunday in my sermon, I am going to share their inspiring story with my congregation!"

"All I want to know," said the rabbi, "is why can't they play at night?"

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In his self-published memoirs, Marvin Smith of Palm Springs wrote about his group of octogenarian golfing companions. Of one he wrote, "he is a better fisher than he is a golfer…..he would rather find a nice ball than have a good shot."

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The head of a yeshiva decided that having a rowing team would be good for the young men of his institution. He recruited members for the team. The first year, they lost all their races.

Unable to fathom what happened, the rosh yeshivah assigned his assistant to go and find out what the best teams did. Some weeks later, the assistant returned and told the head rabbi that he had discovered the secret to sporting success. At the winning school, he told his boss, 10 men row and only one shouts out directions.

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Legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach was well-known for his famous "victory cigar". He explained in the recently-published "Let Me Tell You a Story" by John Feinstein:

"It has always bothered me to see coaches who are up twenty or thirty points jumping up and down and screaming with two minutes or a minute to go. I see coaches do it today and it drives me nuts……My attitude was, when we had a game in hand, I'd get the subs in, sit down on the bench, and relax. Let people know I wasn't trying to embarrass the other team…. But I'd kind of sit there and not know exactly what to do. Then I noticed that Joe Lapchick [then the coach of the Knicks] always smoked on the bench. Back in those days you could do that. So I decided that if we had a game comfortably in hand, I'd smoke too. That ended up becoming the signal to people that we'd won the game, so guys started calling it my victory cigar.

"The it became a big thing. People waited for me to light the cigar. I never did it on the road – never. That would have been rubbing it in. Of course one night we went into Cincinnati and I found out they'd given out 5,000 cigars and told the fans when the Royals won the game they should all light up. I said to the guys in the locker room before the game, 'If you don't win this one, I'll kill you.'"

P.S. The Celtics won the game.

Elsewhere in Feinstein's book, Auerbach recounted an idea to attract a good crowd to a Sunday afternoon game in the old Boston Arena. "The idea was to sell every ticket in the building for a dollar. First come, first serve, no reserved seats. It would give people who might not be able to afford an expensive ticket a chance to see the game up close if they were willing to wait in line for a little while.

"I'm walking into the arena a couple of hours before the game and the first two guys in line are two bellhops from across the street at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. I'm thinking, 'This is perfect. These are the kind of guys we want to get the best seats, front row, center court.' Just before the game starts, I look up and I see the owner of the Ritz and his son walking in. They take the two front row seats the bellhops are in. I find out later, the guy had the bellhops wait in line to hold the seats for him and his son. They didn't even get to go upstairs and watch. They had to go back and finish their work shifts."

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