Yom Kippur begins at sundown next Friday, and with that, writes Newsday’s David Lennon, the Mets’ Shawn Green must once again negotiate “a balancing act of obligation to his Jewish heritage and baseball.”
This is only the third time in 13 major-league seasons that Green can remember having to make a choice, and twice before – in 2001 and 2004 – he took a one-day leave from the Dodgers in the middle of a pennant race to observe the holiday.
Why only one? That’s the compromise for Green. Yom Kippur should require being away from the ballpark for two nights, depending on the schedule. But Green, who did not have a Bar Mitzvah, believes that splitting the days is the best way to remain true to himself and his own values.
“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” Green said. “I didn’t grow up very conservative or really religious. But at the same time I did want to acknowledge it. So I just figured I had to do what was most consistent with my personal beliefs because that’s what everybody really does when they observe holidays.
“I think it would have been hypocritical to miss both games or play both games. I played one and missed one because I’m not conservative to the point where I would need to observe both days. And if I played both days, it wouldn’t have been consistent with what I feel like I represent. I felt good about it.”
For Green, the decision has not come without sacrifice. In 2001, Green had the longest active playing streak in the majors at 415 games before he chose to sit Sept. 26 against the Giants. In 2004, Green was faced with the prospect of having to miss consecutive games for the first time because of Yom Kippur – and the Dodgers held a 1 1/2-game lead over the Giants at the start of that weekend’s series in San Francisco.
Green could feel himself being pulled in different directions. But after talking with friends and teammates, he opted to play Friday night, the onset of Yom Kippur, and drilled a two-run homer in a 3-2 win over the Giants. The Dodgers lost the next day without Green but won the series and ultimately finished two games ahead of San Francisco for the NL West title.
“It was a bigger deal than I thought it was going to be,” Green said. “A lot of people wrote articles about it. Most of them were favorable. Some thought it was hypocritical for me to do it that way. That’s when I really came to grips with what was most consistent for my beliefs. I felt really good about it.”
The irony is that even as Green embraces his religion, his celebrity still keeps him at a distance. On that Saturday, Green fasted for Yom Kippur but remained in the hotel with his wife, Lindsay, rather than attend services in San Francisco.
“It’s kind of hard to go to synagogue,” Green said. “A lot of Jewish people know baseball and I didn’t want to be a distraction, so I stayed in.”
On behalf of Jewish Mets fans everywhere, I’d like to see Green — who seems like a terrific guy — take as much time as he needs to observe this important holiday, even if that means sitting out the entire postseason in favor of Lastings Milledge.