By Rachel Gross
Every baseball fan knows the seventh-inning stretch song: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” On May 31, it’s time to head out to the ballpark and root for the Rangers during the annual Jewish Heritage Day.
In its second year, Jewish Heritage Day began as a way to unite the Dallas Jewish community in a non-religious way. Last year, 600 tickets were sold in conjunction with this event and the goal for this year is 1,000 tickets. Prices begin at $15 and go up to $40.
There will be a kosher food stand, TJP Executive Editor Sharon Wisch-Ray will throw out the first pitch and all kids in attendance will have the opportunity to take photos with the team after the game. The Rangers will play the Oakland Athletics; the game will begin at 2:05 p.m.
Andy Silverman, executive vice president of sales for the Rangers, said this is a nice way for the Jewish community in Dallas and Tarrant County to come together.
“It is significant to reach out to the Jewish community and this allows for a nice bonding experience,” he said. “Bringing your kids to a baseball game is special. This is an opportunity for Jewish families to get together outside of the synagogue setting.”
Jewish Heritage Day is not uncommon in Major League Baseball. Other teams like the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have all done something like this and have drawn big crowds, due in part to the large Jewish population in each of those cities.
With the Jewish populations in Dallas and Tarrant County not being as large as some other places, Silverman said this shows people that the Rangers are taking the extra steps to reach out to the Jewish community.
“This is not just a baseball game; it has a much deeper meaning,” he said. “As a Jew, it makes me proud that I can be at a baseball game with people from other synagogues in the area. It is important to feel proud that you are Jewish.”
A portion of every ticket sold will benefit the Dallas Jewish community through the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and its partner agencies. All ticket prices include a free Rangers cap.
The kosher food stand will be provided by Simcha Kosher Catering, which is supervised by Dallas Kosher. Jeri Finkelstein, executive director of Dallas Kosher, said this allows everyone to feel welcomed and know they can enjoy an afternoon out without having to worry about finding a kosher meal.
“We want to be inclusive in our community and 99 percent of all Jewish organizations in Dallas have a policy that any kind of event with banquet service has to be kosher,” she said. “It’s part of the environment of our community to make anything in the Jewish community available to everyone. That’s the main goal.”
Available at the kosher food stand will be typical ballpark treats like hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage on a stick, all cooked on-site at the booth, which will be kashered prior to the game under Dallas Kosher supervision.
Lowell Michelson, owner of Simcha Kosher Catering, said many people came to the booth last year who didn’t even know the food was kosher. He wants people to know they have options at a baseball game and his goal is to provide good food.
“It’s my commitment to continually support the community and provide service that wouldn’t otherwise be available,” he said. “It gives me great pleasure and joy to see families coming out to enjoy a baseball game and be able to order kosher food at the same time … it’s a really good feeling. This is a great way to promote community unity and it is wonderful of the Rangers to initiate something like this. It’s nice to blend in instead of stand out.”
“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to participate in some way in a big league game,” said Sharon Wisch-Ray, TJP executive editor. “I have been a Ranger fan for as long as I can remember, and love to run the bases at the ballpark with my three boys, also avid fans. Now, I’ll actually be able to ‘take the mound and bring the heat.’ It is especially great that the Rangers have two of the top-performing Jewish major leaguers on their team this year in Ian Kinsler and Scott Feldman. Hopefully, they’ll have big days along with the rest of the team. It’s going to be a great afternoon at the ballpark.”
The deadline to order tickets is May 18. For more information or to order tickets, call Taylor Bergstrom at 214-234-1650.
My weekend in KC with George, Frank, Willie, David and Reggie
By Henry Sack
You know how marriage is full of compromises? When it comes to holiday weekends, it usually comes down to “my family” or “your family”; the twain, it seems, never meet. Well, after visiting my family in the warmth and comfort of Florida and Hotel Naomi (and at least one dinner of my mother’s homemade onion soup brisket) the last few years, I had agreed (almost compliantly) to go west and have “Passover at the Biltmore” with my wife Jana’s family this year. I believe there is some metaphor at play about Passover in the desert and wandering Israelites, but maybe not.
The day before the trip, Jana got an e-mail from the Kansas City Royals inviting her and Jill to be a part of the unveiling of a statue of their father, Dick Howser. But, we had long-made plans for Arizona. Which way to go, which trip to take? Well, it was obvious the KC trip was a once-in-a-lifetime gig, so we checked plane schedules, made the appropriate changes and away we went.
Skip forward two days — Friday, Opening Day — Royals vs. Yankees (boo!).
Opening Day in Kansas City and we’re at the ballpark three hours early. As we entered the new outer building housing the administration offices, the Yankee players’ bus arrived and the procession of Yankee players walking past us was amazing: real-life Mariano Rivera, Johnny Damon et al. As a Red Sox fan from way back, all I could say is, “Ugh.” Anyhow, we were taken upstairs to a conference room until everyone arrived. Who’s everyone, you ask? After waiting 15 minutes, the door opened and in walked (ho hum, happens to me every day) George Brett. Yeah, I know, George Freaking Brett — 3,000 hits, .305 career average including 1980’s amazing .390 season. George Brett. He greeted Jana and Jill and said his hellos all around. And Jana, my angel, did the best thing she’s ever done for me since the last time she was an angel — which is always. She introduced me to George Brett. We shook hands. I tried not to give him the “butcher” hand-squeeze and drop him. It was all very polite. Just as we finished shaking hands, I averted my eyes from his greatness and I looked down. And what did I see? George Brett wearing a sweet pair of purple velvet Gucci loafer/slippers. Only a Hall of Famer who had led the league in triples (you have to hit and have wheels for triples) could pull these puppies off. Wow. I was in awe.
Having barely caught my breath from the Greatness of George, I saw the door open again and in walked Frank White, former deft-fielding second baseman for the Royals. When you’ve won eight Gold Gloves, do you know what your handshake is like? Smooth as butter. No pressure, all feel. It was an honor, Mr. White.
OK, so they removed the ventilator and my head cleared. We were told to get on the van and were driven around the back of the stadium to the statues (remember the unveiling of the statue?) on the outfield mezzanine deck beyond the outfield wall. As we walked the 200 feet from the van to the statue, I ended up walking next to (I don’t know how else to type his name) George Freaking Brett. I must, I mean I MUST ask him something, right? Just to be hospitable, friendly, right? I wondered what to say. My mind locked up (as it often does) and I couldn’t pull a cogent stat or game memory out of my *##. Not even, “You trade Christmas cards with Tim McClelland?” So I went all milquetoast and asked, “How is it possible you can walk around inside Kaufman Stadium, fans all around, and not get mobbed”? (UGH! I’ll have to double up on Yom Kippur services atoning for asking such a stupid question.) Like a change-up hanging out over the plate, he swatted it back through the middle, replying, “Oh, these people are bored with me.” George (yeah, we’re on a first-name basis) was patient and allowed me to take a photo near his statue. A true gentleman.
OK, and now on to the main event: the unveiling. I’m not much for these presentations. They always seem forced, hokey and lacking genuineness. But as has been the case in the previous two situations in which Jana’s father was being given a public honor, his warmth, honor and sincerity were recalled in every speech.
Finally, the wrap came off the statue. I must give the artist his (her?) props. Not only did the statue look just like its intended subject, it didn’t look all interpretive either. The artist made a likeness without injecting his/her own ego. And the pose, one foot on the dugout step above the other, was perfect for a manager. Pictures were taken and interviews done, and we headed back to the van and then our seats in a suite near the press box (thanks, Royals!).
At this point, having not known what to expect from this weekend, I was blown away. Little did I know my day would get even better a little later.
You know how difficult it is to turn down the request of a child? Jana’s niece Michelle asked if she could go down on the field. Smart kid. So the Royals escorted us downstairs, through the stadium underground walkways and into the tunnel leading to the dugout and the field. As we were about to walk up the stairs into the dugout, Royals Manager Trey Hillman was walking down. Everyone was introduced and Trey, an hour from the first pitch in only his second season, took a good 10 minutes talking to Jana and Jill. A quick picture and then we headed back upstairs for the start of the game. Except, along the way, we came across a Royals alumni gathering (they were about to be introduced pre-game) and I was introduced to centerfielder Willie Wilson. Years ago, Bill James, in the third or fourth edition of his “Baseball Abstract,” made the case for Willie Wilson as one of the most productive two-way outfielders ever. Impressive stuff. Thank you, Mr. Wilson.
Finally we were upstairs watching pre-game and the first pitch. As you know, Andy Pettitte rolled and Sidney Ponson stumbled, but it was a good game. The Yankees won on a couple of Jorge Posada hits.
The fun came later, after the game. Since it had been a long day, we decided to go back to the hotel and chill. After dinner in the hotel restaurant, we were winding our way through the bar back to the elevator and I spotted David Cone. Coney. Owner of a perfect game, a Cy Young and nearly 200 wins. Since he pitched for Jana’s father, I introduced him to Jana and Jill and he was thrilled to meet and chat. In fact, he asked for a piece of paper and a pen. I obliged and he proceeded to volunteer his personal phone number. No sh*t! “Call and come to New York sometime,” he said. “In the new Yankee Stadium there are photos everywhere, a couple of your [Jana and Jill’s] dad.” And then, unbelievably, he wrote down his e-mail address. “E-mail me sometime,” he said. Ha! Like I’m going to trade e-mails with David Cone.
This doesn’t happen to me very often. Wow. I reflected on who I had met that day. One Hall of Famer, two guys with their own statue, about 10 total Gold Gloves, an MVP or two and Cy Young. I was blown away.
What a great start to the baseball season, I thought. But the best was yet to come.
We finished bothering Coney and as we spilled out of the bar into the lobby, I noticed a guy wearing a fedora. It wasn’t 1925 and men wearing fedoras are rare, so I took a second look and B-I-N-G-O! It’s Reggie Jackson. No *^%$!. Before I could get Jana’s attention, Reggie turned towards her and she said hello. As soon as Reggie heard her last name he was surprised and happy. Also, contrary to public perception, real quiet. He told of how crazy it was being in the middle of the Bronx Bombers of the mid to late 1970s but how Jana’s father was a calm and friendly influence. So we talked for a few minutes and left him alone. The weekend had just started and was already one of the most amazing ever.
So that’s it. Pretty cool huh? I think 2009 is going to be a wonderful baseball season for me. It already has been.
And you know what the moral of the story is? That’s easy. I married well. Right, Jana?
Henry Sack is married to Jana Howser, daughter of Dick Howser and trustee of the College Baseball Foundation.
By Rachel Gross