Brookwrite

Columns - 2006

    The dog vays of summer

    In recent years, to increase August attendance at Major League ballparks, teams nationwide have started a series of Heritage Nights.

    You might have heard about the Florida Marlins' Jewish Heritage Night this season. They gave out Mike Jacobs paraphernalia. Jacobs was quoted afterward saying he's not Jewish. But he's a former Met, so we'll adopt him.

    In San Francisco this summer they had Heritage Nights labeled Irish, Italian, Mexican, and African-American. In New York, the legitimate team also had nights honoring the Greek, Asian, Korean (yes, separately), Polish-American (though not Polish), and Merengue. Meanwhile, at the older New York ballpark, every night is Stuck-Up-About-Our-Baseball Heritage Night.

    I have attended both years of San Francisco's Jewish Heritage Night. Now you both have the pleasure of reading about them.

    Each year, the street corners have had Star-bearing hat-wearers, handing out leaflets. This year's was titled, "Know the Score," last year's was "Meshugge or Messiah?" Yes, Jews for Jesus was in full force. You may ask, where were the actual Jewish groups and their outreach? I guess they all had tickets. Both years.

    The symbol of the evening was a baseball with its stitching modified into the shape of a Star of David.

    I wandered forty minutes and forty seconds to my seat in the upper deck past left field, which I hereby dub the Golan Heights. I was closer to Lebanon than home plate. Putting my Hebrew Mets cap to good use, I couldn't wear my newly acquired, sparsely Hebrew Giants cap (with no built-in beanie).

    In the finest Torah tradition, my seat was row 6, seat 13. I was in section 332, which I chose to believe is the number out of the 613 commandments that are "Good" mitzvahs. I didn't look it up for fear of being wrong and thus losing my anecdotal extension.

    Why is this night at the ballpark different from all others? On this night, we eat matzah. But I'll get to that.

    First, there was a klezmer band out front with a dance troupe. Last year they were stuck under the outfield bleachers. The ballpark has Hebrew National, so all the Jews enjoyed their chili cheesedogs with kosher franks.

    The Northern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame passed out information again. Techno versions of classic Jewish songs played between early innings, including "Hevenu Shalom Aleichem" in the first.

    The Giants' starting pitcher was named Hennessey, eerily similar to the upcoming annual encore of that Jewish hit song, "Hineni."

    A rabbi threw the first pitch. It was a strike! And they hardly had to move the plate two feet to make it one.

    Winn led off for the Giants with a homer, prompting Jackie Mason to appear on the scoreboard saying "Mazel tov."

    Barry Bonds, who's been needled by everyone lately, did not incur the dreaded Jew Boo.

    When Ranelle, the Giants' announcer, introduced a Chabad rabbi, she pronounced it "Shabad." I pointed out she was a day early, being Thursday night.

    The Giants led off the second with a double, which prompted a Chabad shofar rendition of "Charge!" Well, it was in the ballpark anyway. This was followed with a two-run homer, so you know it worked. The homer prompted the park's foghorn, which led to... nothing else good.

    I met a woman near me who remarked that when her rabbi, a big baseball fan whose eldest son I pledged AEPi with, announced the Heritage Night during services, people thought it was a put-on. It was as serious as when, after the next hit, the scoreboard showed Woody Allen with the caption, "My therapist tells me that's a hit."

    The Giants lost the lead, with the scoreboard sharing the Coffee Talk lady's woe, "I'm a little verklempt."

    The Giants pitcher who got the last out in the seventh was Kline. If the spelling doesn't tell you "no", how about that his scoreboard Q&A revealed he used to work at a pig farm in Amish country? I had drinks with him a few years ago after a game, actually, because a Jewish friend of mine grew up with him.

    (Today's Talmud lesson: When going for drinks with a major league ballplayer after a game, do not take him to a bar where they're likely to show replays of him allowing a home run to Bonds that night.)

    After a klezmer rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the seventh inning stretch got new meaning with the matzah eating contest. Three guys behind home plate. Forty-five seconds, a plate of matzah, and a water bottle. It wasn't pretty. Halfway through, we heard Ranelle say, "wow" through the speakers.

    The Reds' pitcher in the bottom of the eighth was Scott Schoeneweis. Sounds Jewish, but he helped keep the Giants down so we didn't look it up for fear of being right.

    Signs of note at the game included, "Jews for Giants" and "The Chosen Fans."

    Unfortunately, they weren't enough. The Giants fell behind. Three more shofar charges from the Chabad rabbi, looking his Lazar Wolf best on the video screen with the caption "Rally Rabbi" was insufficient. The Giants fell to the Reds, 6-3.

    But the Mets won and the Y*nkees lost, so all was right in the world. Except that a theatre friend of mine, knowing I was at the game, promised that if the Giants lost it would be my fault, and my ticket to his show that weekend would cost double.

    Just wait until next year.

    Doug Brook is and always has been a Mets fan. So there. For past columns, other writings, and more, visit his website at http://brookwrite.com/.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.