As our life gets more complicated, more busy, more digital, we often struggle to find time for spin classes, yoga, and religion (not in that order). You could fill a three-page pamphlet with the title of "Great Jewish Athletes of the 20th Century". (Don't start an email avalanche, we know there were plenty, it's a humorous line ).
Tops among hall of fame pitches in the last century was Sandy Koufax. Kofax was as a great a pitcher you will ever see. Koufax, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden, Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton. Take your pick. But Sandy Koufax was Jewish, and in 1965 his Dodgers were in the world series, often referred to as The October Classic, because it occurs in October. Sometimes Yom Kippur falls in October, like in this year.
We let Judge Hirsch and his Constitutional Calendar take it from here......
But for freedom of religion to exist in fact, and not merely in contemplation of law, what is required is acceptance and even support in the general community for those whose religious practices differ from those of the general community. Such acceptance and support cannot be imposed by legislative fiat. Either they exist as an expression of the American spirit, or they do not exist at all.
On October 6, 1965, Sandy Koufax, the ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching staff and almost certainly the greatest pitcher in all of baseball at that time, declined to pitch in the first game of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Koufax was Jewish, and the game fell on Yom Kippur, one of the most solemn religious observances in the Jewish calendar.
Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, even with all he had riding on the World Series, backed Koufax’s decision. “I won’t let Sandy pitch on Yom Kippur under any circumstances,” O’Malley told the press. “I can’t let the boy do that to himself.” (O’Malley joked to the press that he’d “ask the Pope what he can do about rain on that day.”)
"Nobody said a word. Nobody thought a bad thing about [Koufax],'' said Wes Parker, the Dodgers’ African-American first baseman. "We respected him because he was doing it because of his religion. He was being true to himself.''
"Most people admired Koufax for putting his religion before his job,'' Hall-of-Fame Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said. "It was his decision, and everyone respected it. They understood.''
In Koufax’s absence, the Dodgers gave the ball to Don Drysdale. But Drysdale didn’t have his stuff that day. He coughed up seven runs in less than three innings. When Dodgers manager Walter Alston went out the mound to take out his starting pitcher, Drysdale quipped, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish too.”