As a young boy, this time of year I enjoyed post-season baseball. I loved going to games with my Dad. We also spent hours playing on the ball field taking turns pitching and hitting. I remember imitating the greatest hitter of that era, Mickey Mantle. Another one of my heroes was a lefty pitcher with a wicked curve ball. Sandy Koufax was the best I had seen and the best Jewish baseball player ever. They were both the best at their craft, but their approach to life could not be more different.
Mickey, an individual with gifted talents was self-destructive. I had the opportunity to meet Mickey in person in 1986. He was not the man I had idolized. His vulnerability was more apparent than his greatness. Bob Costas said in Mick’s eulogy that “Mickey was a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting it defied logic”. I was content that I had realized years earlier that my true hero was my father. As we mature, we strengthen our character and internalize the values we gain through family and religion.
Unlike Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax has been involved in a lot of community service, and participation in charitable events after retiring from baseball. Sandy signed a baseball for me when he volunteered at a Pediatric AIDS Foundation Benefit. Sandy is grounded, and has a strong commitment to social action. This is the example that we should all strive for. He is a true role model. In a tribute printed in Sports Illustrated, Sandy was described as “an aristocrat in spikes, with a gentleman’s carriage and an assassin’s arsenal – his fastball and curve…He slipped into private life fundamentally no different from his days as a beloved public icon: unfailingly true to his ideal. He always put team before self, modesty before fame and G-d before the World Series.”
Sandy is also actively involved in Joe Torre’s foundation, Safe At Home. Its goal is to raise awareness and develop educational programs aimed at ending the cycle of domestic violence. You and I can be equal to Sandy Koufax when we participate in the many social programs here at Temple Beth Sholom. You may be interested in volunteering in the Chesed or Mitzvah Committees. Many of our members find it a rewarding experience when they directly help individuals within the TBS family. The Social Action Committee enriches the lives of those throughout the greater New Haven community. Programs range from providing food, clothing and bedding to local families, to volunteering at soup kitchens and shelters. Even a monetary donation helps sustain the many programs that we support, thus keeping Diane Kaplan’s dream alive. Please help make this year a rewarding year in our effort for Tikun Olam.
When we celebrated Yom Kippur, we realized that the emphasis is both personal and communal in our relationship and covenant with G-d. The sacrifices of the Jewish people as a community became clear when Sandy Koufax showed the world the importance of Yom Kippur over pitching Game 1 of the 1965 World Series.