Eddie and the Pitcher

“The Left Arm of God”

“Hey, Jewboy, what’s wrong with your guy?” Back in the mid-1960s you could hear lines like that in a Texas Panhandle high school. Frankly, maybe you still can. This time it was aimed at my buddy Eddie.

From everything I’ve read and seen, my high school was fairly typical. There were just under a thousand kids in three grades (9th grade was at the Junior High) and they acted pretty much like most high schoolers act. The rich kids had their own clique and the rest of us had our groups It seems that “clique” was reserved for the “in-crowd,” so the rest of us were assigned to the nebulous title “group. No body had “posse” or “crew” in their groupthink vocabulary yet. My group was pretty eclectic, particularly religiously. There were two Dave’s, one Baptist, the other Pentecostal. Jim was Baptist; Mike a Catholic; Kretz was Lutheran; Wilbur was a Nazarene; Jon was Episcopalian; Bill was trying to be an atheist (I lost touch with him and never did find out if he made it or not) and Eddie was Jewish. That last caused a bit of a stir because there was some obvious and some latent Anti-Semitism in the school (there were all of two Jewish kids in the entire school, both male) and it did create a certain amount of animosity toward our group.

In 1965 most of the kids in the school who paid attention to baseball (which was most of the boys and a significant number of the girls) were Cardinals fans. Most of the rest were Yankees fans, not so much because of any pull toward New York but because the Yanks were winners (I was guilty of that in football because I was, and still am, a Packers fan–and have still never been to Wisconsin). But when the 1965 World Series began no one much knew there was a team in Minnesota named the Twins so they became, by default, Dodgers fans. Which brings me to Eddie’s problem.

Sandy Koufax was the Dodgers best player, he was Jewish (I didn’t know that and I’m not sure if Eddie did), the first day of the World Series was the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, and Koufax refused to pitch on the holy day. To a number of people around the school his stand was close to openly throwing the Series and somehow Eddie was at fault.

“How dare this guy put his faith ahead of his sport.”  “What kind of heathen is he?” I actually heard cracks like that. All of those type comments from people who were utterly horrified that you could no longer pray in school or at the football game (Our team was lousy, so I’m reasonably sure a lot of unanswered prayers were uttered during the course of the game). No one seemed to catch the irony of that.

All that hurt Eddie a lot. He was aware of being what most of the school saw when they saw someone Jewish. He was, for all intents and purposes, the view much of the school had of Jewish people. It was a tough burden to bear.

And then the Dodgers lost game one (the game Koufax would not pitch), then game two (a game he did pitch). Then over the weekend the Dodgers won games three and four to even the Series. Game five was Monday and much of the school hung on the transistor radios kids (and teachers) brought to school. Koufax pitched a four hit shutout to put the Dodgers ahead three games to two. They lost game six and Koufax pitched game seven on two days rest. Another shutout, this time giving up only three hits, gave the Dodgers the championship and Koufax the Series MVP.

The next day was a Friday and everyone was talking about the Series and Koufax’s pitching performance. While we were wandering down the hall, one of the biggest loudmouths in school wandered over to us and slapped Eddie on the back.

“Hey, Jewboy, your guy did alright yesterday.” And he was off.

Eddie told us he thought it was a step in the right direction. A small step, but a step.

 

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5 Responses to “Eddie and the Pitcher”

  1. Miller Says:

    You should make money from this gig. You are a phenomenal writer. This is just one more example. Really impressive.

  2. keithosaunders Says:

    Were there any Astros fans back then or was that too far to the east to inspire rooting?

  3. wkkortas Says:

    These stories of your youth and your time in Vietnam are a book waiting to happen.

  4. Thom Hickey Says:

    An instructive tale.

    Koufax may never be equalled.

    Regards Thom

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