Columns - 2008

    The Chosen Game

    by Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice columnist

    Baseball might be America's Game, but it's also The Chosen Game.

    If you don't believe me, get a copy of The Chosen from Netflix. The scene where the boys meet because of an on-field accident was a baseball game. I know. It's the only thing I remember about the movie. I should open the DVD and watch it; it's been twenty years.

    As I find my chisel so I can open the shrinkwrap and safety labels, I'll remind you of the other ways that baseball has a Jewish heritage. But this won't just be another litany about Moe Berg or Sandy Koufax, not that there's anything wrong with them.

    As mentioned before, ever since it was first published in 1996 this column has been a fan of the Israel Baseball League.

    The IBL started play in 2007 and currently has six teams: the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Tel Aviv Lightning, Modi'in Miracle, Netanya Tigers, Ra'anana Express, and Petach Tikva Pioneers.

    This column does not have the budget to travel to any games, but the following are several unique aspects we expect to find at an IBL game that would make it a unique baseball experience.

    Stealing bases is not allowed. After all, "thou shalt not steal."

    Sacrifices are not done. In their place is a quick Musaf service. Because most Israelis throw faster than they pray, runners rarely advance on the play.

    No designated hitter. Just because it's the stupidest invention in baseball history.

    No games on Friday nights, or Saturdays until after sundown.

    There are three umpires. All calls must be agreed upon by at least two of the three, as is traditional for any Beit Din when rendering judgment.

    Because English is left-to-right yet Americans have first base to the right of home plate, in the IBL first base is to the left of home plate instead.

    Despite having the traditional nine players on the field, at least ten players must be used in every game to ensure a minyan for both teams.

    All waves perpetuated by fans in the stands must go right to left.

    The league each season awards the individual with the most RBIs and the team with the most Rabbis in attendance.

    Cheese to put on your hot dog is very hard to find.

    Sandy Koufax is not the only player who doesn't play on Yom Kippur.

    Unlike American games, you can count on one hand the number of players who are NOT Jewish.

    Everyone gets all the words to the National Anthem right.

    There are no Y*nkees fans in the stands.

    When Hava Nagila is played during the game, people actually know what it is.

    In the stands you'll hear stories about the greatest game ever played, where the relief pitcher who was only supposed to be good for one inning lasted for eight innings.

    Instead of putting mustard on the ball, pitchers are said to put some horseradish on it.

    The "free pass" in American baseball, also known as the intentional walk, is called the "Pass over."

    Despite there being no teams currently based in Jerusalem, the pitcher's mound is referred to as the Temple Mound.

    The All Star Game doesn't determine home-field advantage for the World Series.

    Despite stringent rules against gambling, dreidel is still allowed in the clubhouse.

    There's no Jewish Heritage Night, because there's no need for a Jewish Heritage Night. Every night is Jewish Heritage Night.

    During the Omer, the seven-week period of semi-mourning between Passover and Shavuot, games are still scheduled and played. However, players do not shave or get haircuts, live music is not played, and there's no excessive celebration on the field. Except on Lag B'Omer, the thirty-third day of the Omer on which the rules are lifted.

    Concessions at all ballparks are sold by Lubavitchers who move through the stands selling their wares. Of course, they are known as Chasidic Diamond Merchants.

    The outfield wall in left-center where the first championship home run was hit is known by locals as The Wailing Wall.

    But for one major aspect of the game, we have no clear expectation. We want to, but it's a puzzler. After hours of thought and intellectual debate, this column has no prediction about whether the boxscores and scoreboards show the innings from left to right or from right to left. Well have to discuss travel budget with the editor.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who will attend his final games at Shea Stadium all too soon, then return to San Francisco just in time for the fourth Jewish Heritage Night. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.