Columns - 2007

    Shofar, so good

    As reported last year in this space, Major League Baseball teams across the continent now, out of the goodness of their desire to ensure maximum attendance during the weakest weeks of the season, embrace various ethnicities and cultural groups through dedicated Heritage Nights at the ballpark.

    Indeed, last year for Jewish Heritage Night, the Florida Marlins gave away paraphernalia related to recent acquisition and former New York Met Mike Jacobs, who afterwards informed management that he is not Jewish.

    In a widening of this goodwill and large ticket bills, Heritage Nights have spread to the National Basketball Association and at least some of Triple-A baseball, including the esteemed newly-Mets-affiliated, New Orleans Zephyrs.

    This column last summer reported on the second annual San Francisco Giants' Jewish Heritage Night. This column this summer is reporting on the third annual event, with renewed zeal and several new, or at least repositioned, words.

    If you had read last year's column, you might have recalled the amusing accompanying photo of two fans with a "Jews for Giants" sign.

    You might also recall how a Lubavitch rabbi, in full black hat, black coat, and gray beard, blew the shofar during the game, in the first recorded attempt to play "Charge!" on a ram's horn. Upon his first attempt in the second inning, the Giants scored two runs to provide the last lead the Giants have held in a game ever since.

    Some scholars attributed this fluke of scoring power to Cincinnati's concern after the noise that their red uniforms might be the target of an imminent running of the rams.

    What you did not read, because it wasn't there, is what happened next. The Giants had arranged for this rabbi to attend and blow the shofar. The scoreboard showing him with the caption Rally Rabbi was entirely spontaneous, the entire ballpark erupted (in a good way) upon its display, and the moniker stuck.

    The Rally Rabbi made an appearance at the Golden State Warriors in March for their first Jewish Heritage Night. The Warriors ended Dallas' eighteen game winning streak that night, and went on to break the longest playoff drought in the league. He didn't copyright the name Rally Rabbi, so perhaps a local one will visit a ballpark near you.

    Despite reasonable conjecture, the Rally Rabbi is not the originator of the Jewish variant of The Wave: The Vay, in which standing fans sigh loudly and sit down in dismay after a catastrophic letdown. This phenomenon's origin was as a natural side effect of the Giants' recent woes, as well as Barry Bonds record-asterisking home run.

    This year the Rally Rabbi returned to PacificSBT&T Park not only in person, but in plural. Instead of a hat or shirt, this year's associated giveaway was a Rally Rabbi bobblehead doll (which I now dub "dahvenhead doll").

    The Rally Rabbi dahvenhead doll has him blowing a shofar, wearing a traditional black hat with Giants logo, and a traditional black coat with the number eighteen on the back. His head actually seems to bob in a more dahvening manner than other bobbleheads.

    It started like a typical Jewish Heritage Night, with a scraggly old man on the street with a cardboard sign, "Tzedakah Please." But very, very little was done during the game itself, except the Rally Rabbi himself, shofar in hand, shouting "Play Ball" in Hebrew.

    This year's game had additional luster, being the first game after Bonds broke Henry Aaron's home run record. At least Bonds-bashers can't associate it with the Jews. (This columnist was offered a ticket to the previous game that afternoon, but wasn't free to watch history. Figures.)

    A columnist claimed no malice in wearing a Hebrew Mets cap, but noted that its phonetic spelling is similar to the Hebrew word for "juice." Which is similar to "juiced." In honor of the cap, Bonds hit another record breaking, water-splashing home run in his first at-bat.

    As the Big G ensured goodness throughout the land, via a Mets win (over Atlanta) and Y*nkees loss (to anyone), Dothan native Matt Cain proved more than able for the Giants. He pitched six shutout innings and, as one writer reflected on Cain's anemic (11 hits in 112 lifetime at-bats) average, channeled his biblical namesake's hitting power into his first (and probably only) major league home run.

    Cain also held the Church (Nationals leftfielder Ryan Church) in check all night, and homered right over his head. And, in deference to the home crowd, former Wahoo Ryan Zimmerman went hitless and made a wide throw to first on a difficult play. All this led to a 5-0 Giants victory.

    One can only hope that a special limited edition Rally Rabbi baseball card will be given away next year, to go with the other Rabbi trading cards now available only on occasional eBay auctions. (Do you think bids are allowed on Saturday?) If you don't recall those cards, rent "Keeping the Faith" with Edward Norton and Ben Stiller, a film comedy that every Jew should see.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who thanks both his New Orleans readers for being such good hosts as his San Jose Sabercats won Arena Bowl XXI there; their third championship in six years. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.