I’ve been remiss in not wishing our fellow Jewish readers a Shana Tova, a happy, healthy and sweet New Year, 5783. Truth is I’ve been distracted by a piece of writing I’ve never done before. Since my byline first appeared in the summer of 1965, in the Camp Impala Gazette newsletter covering the senior boys softball team, I’ve written hundreds of things: newspaper and magazine stories, speeches, blogs, books and even testimony before a Congressional sub-committee. However, I’ve never written a Kol Nidre Appeal until last week. For those not familiar, Kol Nidre is the evening before the day of Yom Kippur, our holiest day of the year, when we ask forgiveness for our sins and transgressions, cleanse our body and soul with a fast for 24 hours, and when the closing Shofar sounds we begin the new year refreshed. The Kol Nidre Appeal is an address the president of the congregation gives to encourage contributions and generosity to the temple. At Temple Sinai in Las Vegas somehow I became that guy. It’s a long story maybe for another time. The president’s role can be rewarding and the mission admirable or so I’m told. However, I was warned about the pettiness, 700 Jews having 1400 different opinions and temple politics being worse than a HOA meeting at the Seinfeld’s Del Boca Vista, Phase IV. Unfortunately, our temple board is not just a governance board but an operational one, too. Those are countless hours that wear down a retired guy who misses the golf course and just about anything he did prior to July 1. Now he gets lectured there were no sugar-free cookies at a temple social event. Or last Sunday, as I sat down in Allegiant Stadium for the Raiders and Broncos, I got a text that three temple youth group kids ran amok and tried to pull the women’s bathroom door off its hinges. I had a nice play on the Raiders minus two; the bathroom door could wait until Monday. Yesterday, Saturday morning, our rabbi called at 6:38 am to tell me there was no electricity in the building. I’m a guy that doesn’t know how to work a light switch, what was I going to do run right over with a tool kit I don’t own? Over and over I’ve been told being a temple president is a thankless position. That was put into perspective by David Berz, a companion on our recent Africa trip who is past president of a large temple in Washington DC. He told me, “You are the only fire hydrant in the dog pound.” Some days I think I can really honor my two year commitment and make a difference. Most days though I look at my email hoping counts of impeachment have been filed. My Kol Nidre appeal was long, about 18 minutes, and I’m still not sure of the fiscal impact to the temple, but as a temple president Andi now has another line for my obit.
Happy October birthdays to Chubby Checker, 81; Johnny Mathis, 87; the French bombshell Bridgette Bardot, 88; Angie Dickinson, 91; and especially to President Jimmy Carter who just celebrated number 98. Based upon current trends he is in the prime of his political life. The safest I ever felt on a treadmill was about ten years ago in the gym of the Peninsula Hotel in New York City with Mr. Carter on the treadmill next to me. His secret service protection kept an eye on me, too.
Reaction to the late Maury Wills blog (https://royberger.com/sunday-morning-coffee-september-25-2022-a-hall-of-famer-without-the-plaque/) two weeks ago was touching. If SMC readers were voting on Hall of Fame criteria, Maury would be a shoo-in.
I’m a baseball romantic. The game in the 1960s was larger than life for a not yet teenager; the players idolized; we didn’t recognize how simple everything was back then. This picture capsulizes the era so perfectly. It was Yankee Stadium, easily recognized by the scoreboard and the center field monuments. The date was October 1, 1961, and the message board, primitive by today’s standards, tells us Roger Maris just broke Babe Ruth’s home run record for a season. No fireworks, sparklers or animation. Just ten words smashed together in a skinny column. That’s left fielder Hector Lopez foreground who passed away last week at the age of 93. The lineup posted just above the Ballantine beer ad tells us Mickey Mantle (and Yogi Berra) had the day off, so Maris moved to center. I was 10 years old. I was not yet a Yankees fan; the Pirates were my team, but with no National League team in New York until the Mets the next year, I had no choice but to watch the Yankees. I surprised my 70-year-old self and by memory could recite every player in the line-up that day but one: Bobby Richardson led off at second, Tony Kubek at short, Maris in center, Lopez in left, Johnny Blanchard in right field, Elston Howard behind the plate, Moose Skowron at first and Clete Boyer at third. I had to look up #22 who was pitcher Bill Stafford. Richardson, 87 and Kubek, 86, are the only two still alive to turn a double play. The Red Sox were the opposition that day. The only players I knew were #8 Yaz in left and the pitcher was Tracy Stallard, who will always be remembered for giving up the Maris record breaker. I’m certain any Red Sox fan of the day could easily breeze through the rest of the line-up. I do remember watching the game and seeing Maris’ homer. I did not remember that it was the only run of the game. The game started at 2 pm and fifty-one minutes later was halfway through the fifth inning. Today it takes a good hour to complete three. I knew the crowd was small, actually 23,000 in an 67,000 seat stadium, because Yankees fans could care less about Maris breaking the record. If any Yankee was going to do it, they wanted it to be Mantle. I do remember a Brooklyn teenager named Sal Durate caught the ball and later sold it for $5K. The out-of-town scoreboard showed there were 16 teams, eight in each league; today there are 30. The score that mattered to me was the Pirates and Reds who were tied after three innings. (The Pirates won 3-1 behind pitcher Joe Gibbon. Yes, I cheated.) And perhaps the most innocuous message of all is on top of the scoreboard that says the World Series starts on Wednesday between the Yankees and Reds. No playoffs, just the winners of each league advancing. World Series games started at 1 pm Eastern, 10 am Pacific, which meant everyone in the workplace and kids in school had no opportunity to watch. Thus the transistor radio became a cherished commodity. Those were the days my friend.
I enjoyed watching Aaron Judge’s march to 62 home runs last week but honestly, considering baseball is measured by all-time records, nobody cares about American League or National League marks unless the media hypes it. The biggest injustice was to Albert Pujols of the Cardinals who deserved more recognition than his late season home run and RBI chase received. Judge’s 62 home runs in his seventh season became an all-time Yankees’ record but baseball still recognizes Barry Bonds’ 73 in 2001 as best. In between Bonds and Judge are Mark McGwire with 70 and Sammy Sosa at 66. Pujols played second fiddle to the New York media’s made-for-TV event of Judge’s pursuit. At 42 Pujols, the oldest major leaguer, hit 24 home runs this season to move into fourth place on the all-time career home run list with 703. His 68 regular season RBI moves him to second all-time behind Hank Aaron. Pujols seems every bit the quality guy that Judge is. The difference is one plays in media rich New York City, the other in St. Louis. Pujols got left behind in this deal but if I read him right, he could care less. He also retired from the game last night as the Cards were eliminated from the postseason.
Judge, the gentle giant at 6’7”, 280, did accomplish other great things: his combined home runs, extra base hits, runs scored and RBI total this season was the tops in the big leagues in over 66 years since Mickey Mantle did it in 1956. And the big guy’s 62 homers from this season are the most ever hit by a player whose first and last name didn’t start with the same initials (BBonds, MMcGwire, SSosa).
Talk about a bad beat. If you played the Toronto Blue Jays ‘over’ 92.5 wins this season you were on your way to the cashier’s window when Toronto, with 92 wins, took a 4-0 lead in the sixth inning over Baltimore on Wednesday, the season’s last day. Oops. Baltimore rallied for five runs in the next three innings to win 5-4 keeping the Jays ‘under’ for the season and the recycle bins filled with ‘over’ tickets.
I’m loving the expanded 12 team baseball playoffs this week. Every pitch matters.
If you are a football gambler or fantasy player, the Red Zone channel is a game changer.
One guy I don’t want surfacing in my neighborhood is Jim Cantore.
Looking to go into business? Tattoos are trendy with 1/3 of American adults having at least one.
Fifty years ago last week the animated Jetsons premiered as ABC’s first program broadcast in color.
I didn’t know this, but you probably did. Maneater, the Hall & Oates 1982 classic was not about a women, but instead, about New York City. She’ll only come out at night but watch out boy she’ll chew you up.
I normally don’t like shows that have a cult or sci-fi base, but Netflix’s Devil in Ohio was really enjoyable. Also on Netflix, you can skip Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Too much of it is unsubstantiated, except I’m assuming for the stubbornness, incompetence, racism and homophobia of the Milwaukee police who could have stopped this grisly killing spree early in the process.
Speaking of Yankee home run hitters, who are eight inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than Aaron Judge, I got a note and this picture last Sunday morning from Yankees hero and now friend through fantasy camp Bucky Dent. He reminded me it was 44 years to the day, October 2, 1978, of his life changing playoff homer against the Red Sox that carried the Yankees into the World Series. He captioned it, “Deep to left” just as broadcaster Bill White called it. Kiddingly, I texted back, “Hmm, never heard anything about it.” Bucky responded, “Some bow-legged little infielder who used his homie’s (Mickey Rivers) bat hit a monster HR over the Green Monster. Okay, it was really a fly ball that somehow made history.” Truth is on October 2, 1978, when it happened, I was on a flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale. When the captain told us about it over the PA, the passengers broke out in cheers. Oft forgotten is that Bucky wound up the MVP of the ‘78 World Series against the Dodgers.
I’ve done yoga twice, maybe three times in all my years at the gym prior to three weeks ago. I always hated it. About a month ago one of my gym rats suggested how beneficial it was. As every part of me begins to creak, I gave it another try. I am not in love, just in like. It’s okay except the kind of yoga I now do twice a week will never be found in an instructional video, except maybe to be used as the ‘before.’ For some reason the instructors get a kick out of whatever I do. I’m normally the only guy in a class of ten to twelve women so things could always be worse and hurt more.
And finally, Las Vegas sure knows how to throw parties but appears to be totally inept at victory parades. The first professional sports championship in the city’s history was the Las Vegas Aces winning the WNBA championship on September 18. Two nights later the city hosted a parade, that if you know Las Vegas Strip geography, stretched from Caesars Palace to the Bellagio. That’s exactly one block. Thirty-two years before, in 1990 when UNLV won the NCAA basketball championship, that parade started downtown on Freemont Street, went all the way up the Strip to the Flamingo Hotel, turned left and then headed for and ended at the Thomas & Mack Center on UNLV’s campus. Now that’s a king size parade fit for a champion. City officials will have plenty of time to work on the next one as the NFL Raiders are off to a slow start and the NHL Golden Knights are expected to be mediocre this season. The Aces are favored to repeat, and if they do, I can see a new, improved and less embarrassing parade route doubling from Caesars all the way down to Aria.