A kosher look at Judaism in baseball   

Updated: April 2, 2007, 12:44 PM ET

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Why is today different from all other days?

Uni Watch
First, it's Opening Day for most MLB teams (don't even get Uni Watch started on Opening "Day" games that take place on Sunday night). And sundown this evening marks the beginning of Passover. So with the calendar offering a rare confluence of the chosen game and the chosen people, and given Jews' long-standing prominence in the schmatte trade, Uni Watch thought this would be a good time to check out the uniform stylings of Jewish ballplayers past and present. So grab a kosher hot dog, have the usher save a seat for Elijah, and check out these sultans of Semitic swat:

Mike Epstein: Eppy had a nice little career with the Senators, A's, and Angels, and these days he runs a hitting school. But his shining moment, both as a Jewish ballplayer and as a subject for Uni Watch scrutiny, came back during his minor league days with the Rochester Red Wings, when he drew the Star of David onto his glove. You know that had to make his parents proud.

Shawn Green: Routinely referred to as the game's most prominent Jewish player (although that may change if his production keeps declining and Kevin Youkilis keeps swatting matzo balls off the Green Monster at Fenway), Green has two interesting uni-related quirks: First, his cap tends to fall off when he's trotting in for a fly ball or chasing a double in the corner (maybe he should get one of these). Fortunately, this scandalous lack of head coverage is mitigated by Green's other uni habit: After hitting a home run in his home ballpark, he'll pick out a kid in the stands and toss the kid his batting gloves. Such a nice boy. (As an aside, the "Y" on Green's jersey appeared to be badly misaligned during last night's season opener against the Cards. His wife lets him dress like that?)

Gabe Kapler: On Sept. 27, 1999, the Tigers played their last game in Tiger Stadium, with players in the starting lineup wearing the uniform numbers of great Tigers of the past. But Kapler's jersey was blank (as you can sort of see here). What, did they get him a bargain knockoff on closeout or something? No. The real story is that Kapler was wearing Ty Cobb's number -- which, since Cobb played in the era before uni numbers existed, was no number at all. The larger irony: Cobb was a notorious anti-Semite. Uni Watch wonders if anyone at Tigers HQ thought of that when choosing Kapler to represent the Georgia Peach.

Sandy Koufax: Koufax is a hero to Jewish people because he refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series, which fell on Yom Kippur. And he's a hero to Uni Watch because he wore the most consistently perfect stirrups in baseball history, compiling an unblemished record of hosiery magnificence that endures as an inspiration to this day -- even to the goyim.

Scott Schoeneweis: When Schoeneweis made it to the bigs with the Angels, they assigned him No. 60. What, you're gonna change a good number like that after winning a championship in it? What are you, nuts? So Schoeneweis kept the number during his stints with the White Sox, Blue Jays, and Reds. But when he showed up in Mets camp back in February, he found that he'd been assigned No. 36 -- what kind of cockamamie number is that? Naturally, he was a little verklempt, but don't worry, bubelah -- he talked to some people and got it all straightened out.

But the most interesting intersection of Judaism and baseball uniforms is when a Jewish player suits up for the Indians (as Lou Boudreau, Barry Latman, Jesse Levis, Scott Radinsky, Al Rosen, and Richie Scheinblum have all done, among others). After all, how many people can say, "I'm a member of the Tribe" and have it count two different ways?

News Flash: Clue Train Finally Makes Stop at MLB Offices

Just as Uni Watch had predicted, the brouhaha over Craig Biggio's cap pin had a happy ending. Biggio, ever classy, is charitably characterizing the whole thing as a "misunderstanding" -- yeah, as in, "The MLB dullards misunderstood how they were acting like complete idiots on this one, and embarrassing themselves to boot."

Speaking of cap pins, it turns out that several members of the 1983 Giants were wearing orange pins on their caps. For the full story behind that one, look here.

Paul Lukas cooks up a mean batch of matzo brei. His Uni Watch blog, which is updated daily, is here, his answers to Frequently Asked Questions are here, and archives of his columns are available here, here, and here. Got feedback for him, or want to be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted? Contact him here.


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