Hank Greenberg and Yom Kippur
Sunday evening begins Yom Kippur, considered by many to be the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” and it is a chance for Jews to atone for their sins against God. Many Jews who do not consider themselves observant, and who do not attend synagogue at any other time of the year, will participate in this holiday.
The following poem is excerpted from the book Jews in America by Hasia R. Diner. It recounts the tale of Hank Greenberg, a baseball legend, who put his religion before baseball when he went to synagogue instead of playing the Yankees in 1934.
A Poem by Edgar A. Guest
The Irish didn’t like it when they heard of Greenberg’s fame
For they thought a good first baseman should possess an Irish name;
And the Murphys and Mulrooneys said they never dreamed they’d see
A Jewish boy from Bronxville out where Casey used to be.
In the early days of April not a Dugan tipped his hat
Or prayed to see a “double” when Hank Greenberg came to bat.
In July the Irish wondered where he’d ever learned to play.
“He makes me think of Casey!” Old Man Murphy dared to say;
And with fifty-seven doubles and a score of homers made
The respect they had for Greenberg was being openly displayed.
But upon the Jewish New Year when Hank Greenberg came to bat
And made two home runs off Pitcher Rhodes—
They cheered like mad for that.
Came Yom Kippur—holy feast day world wide over to the Jew—
And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true
Spent the day among his people and he didn’t come to play.
Said Murphy to Mulrooney, “We shall lose the game today!
We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat,
But he’s true to his religion—and I honor him for that!”
…Journalist and poet Edgar A. Guest composed this poem about the event that appeared in the Detroit Free Press in 1934.