Bottom of the first inning of Game 6 of the World Series,
Irving and I sat in club seats behind first base in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
The Houston Astros’ third baseman, Alex Bregman, stood at the plate.
He rested his bat on his shoulder.
As Irv bit into a Hebrew National smothered in bright yellow mustard, onions and relish, I said,
“Irv, this 25-year-old Jewish kid hits homers. He got 41 this season.”
Irv swallowed the rest of his hot dog and washed it down with a sip of Colt 45.
“Mort, Hebrew National—the best kosher hot dogs in the world.
They snap when you bite into them.
What flavor and I love their tag line, ‘We answer to a higher authority.’
And I also love the Bregman kid. I’m a real fan.
I love him so much that I even memorized part of his bar mitzvah speech.
Twelve years ago, he gave this speech at Congregation Albert in Albuquerque.
‘I want to be a professional athlete who plays for the love of the game, never quits trying to give his best, and is a good role model for all of the kids who look up to baseball players.'”
“Great quote to memorize.
It kinda sounds like part of my bar mitzvah speech.
‘Now that I am a man,
I want to become a mensch as quickly as possible,
a mensch who loves life,
who never quits trying to give my best,
and is a good role model for all of the Jewish kids who want to become menschs.”
Irv laughed and with his hand, wiped away the mustard that clung to his upper lip.
“Mort, with those lofty goals, I’d say your batting somewhere between .250 and .333.
As a kid playing ball, I remember you being a mensch who sat on the bench.”
I laughed and wondered, “What is my mensch life-time batting average?”
Bregman swung hard.
I heard the crack of the bat against the ball.
The ball sailed well into the left field stands.
I yelled, “He hit another homer!”
Bregman headed to first base carrying his bat.
As he turned toward Second, he handed his bat to the Astros first base coach.
“Irv, that’s pretty weird!
I’ve been watching baseball for over sixty years and I can’t remember seeing a player run to first base holding his bat.
Isn’t the batter suppose to drop his bat after he hits the ball?”
“Of course he is.”
“Then is Alex Bregman sending us a message?
Is this role model subliminally sending us a message and if so, what is that message?
“Hell Mort, he’ll probably apologize for his baseball sin and say he got caught up in the moment.
A homer in the World Series, you can lose yourself.”
“Irv, I’m putting on my thinking cap.
G-d has been known to act in mysterious ways.
Sometimes the Almighty even uses messengers.
Didn’t Moses stretch out his hand with the staff to part the Red Sea.
Didn’t Moses’ Israelite army achieve victory over the Amalekites when he, Aaron and Hur held up the “Rod of G-d” during the battle of Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-15).
A staff or a rod, it’s kinda like a bat.
A Jew with a bat?
A message for those baseball-loving Williamsburg Hasidim?
Should these security-minded black hats walking the dangerous streets of Brooklyn carry black baseball bats bearing Bregman signature?
Mort, you’re meshuga!
You’re a crazy obsessive Jew!
Why not make the messenger the ghost of Rabbi Meir Kahane?
We’re here in Minute Maid Stadium, during the World Series, sitting in great seats, watching America’s favorite past-time, eating hot dogs and drinking beer and some Jewish player hits a home run, he runs to first base carrying his bat and you reference the Bible—Exodus no less—and you preach a message from G-d that Brooklyn’s orthodox Jews should carry baseball bats.
Mort, menschs don’t need thinking caps. Take it off.
Take a break from loving life so much.
For a while stop trying to give your best.
Stop being such a role model.
Return to being a mensch who sits on the bench.
We got eight more inning of baseball.
Loosen up, you can answer to a higher authority after the game is over.”