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Sunday, October 13, 2019

When is it ok to miss an important ballgame?

On the heels of three Jewish players playing in late or elimination games on or after Yom Kippur comes a new controversy: Nationals reliever Daniel Hudson missed Game 1 of the NLCS (where he was not needed, as starter Anibal Sanchez took a no-hitter into the 8th inning) to be in the hospital for the birth of his daughter. Critics came out in force, not only from the Twitter cesspool, but from mainstream-media types and from former Marlins exec David Samson. Teammate Sean Doolittle defended Hudson with what should be the final word on the subject: "If your reaction to someone having a baby is anything other than, ‘Congratulations, I hope everybody’s healthy,’ you’re an asshole."

The criticism of players missing games in baseball and other sports to be there for childbirth (which my colleague Kerri Stone wrote about a few years ago) is fairly constant, at least if the game is important enough. So what would happen if a Jewish player did miss an important post-season game because of Yom Kippur? We assume that the player would be honored as Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg were (not only by Jews, but by all fans), but perhaps not. It is easy to reframe ESPN's Jay Greeson's tweet as "But if you're making $5.5 mil a year and your team needs you to close in the NLCS, well, I'd say go get 'em mom Rabbi."

This could go either of two ways.

Sports people are both religious and misogynist. So the trolls might forgive a player for missing for religious reasons (even a non-Christian religion) but not a player for doing the "woman's work" of being present for childbirth. Both Samson and Greeson qualified their stupidity by saying that if there were health problems with either Hudson's wife or the baby, it would be ok to miss; otherwise, this was a woman's job (never mind that childbirth, by induction, is a major medical procedure) and no reason for Hudson to be present.* Baseball also is steeped (some say stuck) in history. Koufax sat for Yom Kippur in 1965 and Greenberg sat in 1934 (and other years), so it would be consistent with that history for Bregman or Fried or Pederson to sit in 2019. But no one in 1965 or 1934 missed games to be with their wives during childbirth, so it is unique and new and unprecedented and scary and immasculating for anyone to do it in 2019.

[*] No one offered even a nod to a different need--taking care of his two extant children while their mother is in the hospital.

On the other hand, Greeson's touchstone was that Hudson's $ 5.5 million annual salary imposed an obligation to team uber alles. There is no reason to believe that obligation supersedes a player's commitment to his wife and children but not his commitment to his religious values. Or I would love to see Greeson and others twiste themselves into knots distinguishing the two. That we are living in a time of increased anti-Semitism does not help, especially on Twitter.

None of the current Jewish Major Leaguers appears especially observant (neither were Greenberg or Koufax) and none has shown an inclination to sit on the holy days. That is, of course, their choice. But if one did, I increasingly wonder what the public reaction would be.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 13, 2019 at 12:15 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


"Sports people are both religious and misogynist."

Let's throw the challenge flag on that one.

David Samson tweet criticizing Hudson: 53 retweets, 282 likes.

Michael Young response to Samson, supporting Hudson: 473 retweets, 7,200 likes.

Ryan Fagan tweet quoting Doolittle: 4,100 retweets, 30,000 likes.

"Daniel Hudson faces criticism" makes for a clickable news story. "Fans Tweet David Hudson well-wishes" less so. "Most fans aren't even on Twitter" will certainly never make the news.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Oct 15, 2019 10:45:42 AM

Huddy pitched a shut down inning in the playoff game the day he came back from leave. This suggests that the sort of athletes with the perspective to take time away for important things off the field are the ones with the right stuff to perform well on the field. The Nationals have the reputation of treating players well, respecting their health and lives. This might also create a positive culture in which the whole team plays better. Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: Charlie Martel | Oct 15, 2019 9:26:06 AM

" No one offered even a nod to a different need--taking care of his two extant children while their mother is in the hospital."

Posted by: clicker heroes | Oct 15, 2019 12:00:23 AM

No, that one I understand. I was just curious why my previous comment was deleted. I didn't intend it to be snarky per se and I think it was on topic.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Oct 13, 2019 6:16:01 PM

I allow, encourage, and welcome comments on my posts. Provided they are relevant to the post and not some snarky attack on someone or a long opinion about something unrelated to the post. If someone responds to a post about athletes missing games with some snark about Greta Sundberg, I will delete the comment.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Oct 13, 2019 6:03:34 PM

I actually have a question, Howard. Why do you refuse to allow comments on your posts?

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Oct 13, 2019 5:21:48 PM

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