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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Testing the Koufax Curse

Last fall, I wrote about three Jewish players (Alex Bregman, Max Fried, and Joc Pederson) playing Division Series games on Yom Kippur, then offered tentative responses to the question posed by Armin Rosen of Tablet about why we focus so much on playing on Yom Kippur and no other days. Rosen also jokingly suggested that 2019 demonstrated the work of the Koufax Curse befalling players who fail to follow in Koufax's Yom Kippur footsteps.

In a draft paper on SSRN, I test the Koufax Curse by developing an explanation for our obsession with playing on Yom Kippur and by examining career statistics in Yom Kippur games by eighteen Jewish players, plus Rod Carew. This has been a fun piece to write. The abstract is after the jump. It emains a work in progress, and I welcome feedback.

October 8-9, 2019, the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, marked a unique moment in the history of baseball and American Judaism. Three Major League post-season games began between sundown Tuesday and sundown Wednesday. One team in each game featured a Jewish player as a star or significant contributor. Each Jewish player appeared in the game. Each team lost. One journalist labeled this result the "Koufax Curse" -- the curse of the Jewish player who plays on Yom Kippur, rather than following in the footsteps of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, who did not pitch Game One of the 1965 World Series when it fell on the holy day.

This paper empirically tests the Koufax Curse. Looking at 18 Jewish Major Leaguers since 1966 (the year after Koufax's career-defining game), the paper charts how the players and their teams performed in games played during any part of Yom Kippur. It also examines statistics for Rod Carew, the Hall-of-Famer who is not Jewish but enjoys a unique familial and cultural connection to Judaism. From this, we can measure whether players or teams are haunted by the Koufax Curse. And whether Yom Kippur 5780 was an anomaly or reflects a broader trend.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 13, 2020 at 01:54 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink

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