Jewish World Review June 20, 2003 / 20 Sivan, 5763

Honor or Glory? Turning Opening Night into Sabbath

By Jonathan Mark | Every year, the Getzler family, owner of the minor league Staten Island Yankees, invites hundreds of friends to Opening Night at the ballpark. The other week, the Getzlers sent those friends a letter saying not this year — Opening Night is a Friday night, and the Getzlers are Orthodox.

Candlelighting is 8:12 p.m., game time (against the Williamsport Crosscutters) is 7:15 p.m., so being at the flag-raising is possible, but Josh Getzler, chief operating officer for S.I. Yanks, said no. It wouldn't be right. He explains it was an issue of "ma'aras ayin," the prohibition against doing something right if someone might witness it and assume you're doing wrong.

Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg famously sat out games on Yom Kippur, but has anyone in professional baseball ever sat out every Friday night and Saturday afternoon?

"I guess we're known for it," says Getzler of being Orthodox. His father, Stan, chairman of the team, is a former president of Manhattan's Lincoln Square Synagogue. Josh is a graduate of Manhattan Day School. "When we have games on Friday," he added, "I usually leave while it's still light, a few minutes after the gates open. That gives me enough time to get home [to Manhattan] for Shabbes. The people who work for us know when to kick us out of the ballpark."

Watching the pennant go up the flagpole is what every owner dreams of, says Getzler, "We thought about finding a place to sleep by the ballpark so we could be there, but ..."

Usually on Opening Night, it seems that every one the Getzlers ever said "Good Shabbos" to is invited to the ballpark. "It's like a family reunion," says Getzler. "When we opened the new stadium in 2001, maybe 750 [out of 6,800 fans] were friends and family of ours."

Several years ago, recalls Getzler, on Staten Island's first Opening Night, "several of our friends and family had to say Kaddish, so we decided to have a minyan. In the middle of our silent Amidah prayer the very first home run in our team's history was hit. There were sirens and there was cheering, the whole thing," but for the Getzlers the cheering came later.

It will come later for the Getzlers this year, too, as 750 of their nearest and dearest will be invited, instead, to an afternoon game against Brooklyn on the first Sunday of the season.

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JWR contributor Jonathan Mark is associated editor of New York Jewish Week. Comment by clicking here.


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