By Larry Gordon

Next week, or if you are reading this after or on the second days of yom tov, last week, is what we usually refer to as a long chol ha’moed. That means that the yom tov days fall out on weekends, providing us an almost full, uninterrupted week of intermediate days of chag where we do not deal with most of the Shabbos- or yom tov-like restrictions.

If yom tov falls out that way, then the number one question is—what are we going to do with the kids who are off from school all week? Back in the 1960s my parents apparently had the same question and dilemma. For sports fans, Pesach generally occurs at an interesting sector on the annual sports calendar. This year the basketball playoffs are getting underway, and the always well-anticipated baseball season is beginning.

Actually for New York Mets baseball fans, chol ha’moed Pesach this year arrives as a bonanza of sorts. The Mets will be at home at Citi Field for four consecutive games all against the San Francisco Giants. A few days ago, we went ahead and bought 28 tickets for the game. We are assured that they are fairly good seats with a good view of the action on the field. While most of these kids and adults are Mets fans—except for at least one—it will be even more enjoyable if the Mets win.

Not that one thing has anything to do with the other but the Mets, for the last year or so, are now owned by hedge fund kingpin, Steve Cohen. And now for the first time ever there will be kosher for Pesach food available at the usually kosher food vendors and stations sprinkled around the stadium concession areas. How kosher will it be? Will it be gebrokts or not? Those are issues we can deal with later. You can rest assured that we will be bringing our own snacks to munch on, if needed, over the evening.

My father was not a baseball fan like most of his kids were back then. As you may know from a recent article that appeared here, he came to this country from Belarus (we all know where that is now thanks to Vladimir Putin) so baseball was not on his radar in any way whatsoever.

But he knew that my brother Yossi and I were avid fans, holding on to the results of each game and studying statistics in the daily newspapers on a regular basis. It must have been about 1963. We were very young kids but chol ha’moed Pesach arrived and somehow, he bought tickets for the three of us to a Yankee game at the iconic stadium in the Bronx.

Maybe the Mets team, which came into existence in 1962, was too new for him to consider, but then again perhaps he didn’t even know that the National League added a team.

I suppose that it is important to note that the idea of a kosher food stand at that point in time wasn’t even a thought in anyone’s head yet. But my dad knew that because it was Pesach we couldn’t even buy something packaged that might have been kosher or even a can or cup of Coke.

So my mom packed up plenty of shemurah matzah and a bunch of hard-boiled eggs in a large plastic bag. The Yankees were playing the Baltimore Orioles. Mickey Mantle was in centerfield and Roger Maris in right field. Elston Howard was the catcher and Tom Tresh was the shortstop.

The Yankees won 3–2. Mantle hit a two-run home run in the first inning but we missed that because we were trying to figure out where to park. At least later I was able to say that I was at a game in which The Mick homered.

The matzah and the eggshells made a big mess on us and on the cement floor under our seats. I’m not sure which was a bigger mess: cracking open peanuts at other games when it was not Pesach or those eggshells and matzah crumbs.

We must have had drinks with us but if we did, I don’t recall what it was. What you could consume on Pesach back then did not even have a faint resemblance to what we dine on and eat today. Not even close.

The Mets website that reported on the kosher for Passover food says that next week Citi Field will feature hot dogs, burgers, and sausages, served with matzah or Pesach rolls. I know you probably have a lot of questions on the hechsher, what type of matzah, and so on. For our part, we are going to have dinner before going to the game. As a last resort, in case you miss dinner, there is always shemurah matzah and hard-boiled eggs—that’s the safe way to go.

Let me add a few things about that game we went to at Yankee Stadium more than a half century ago. My father really did not care or understand the nuances involved in a major league baseball game. It seemed to me at the time that he was enamored by the large crowd, the beautiful greenery of the expansive playing field, and more than anything else, the possibility of his kids catching a foul ball.

We were sitting along the third baseline, about midway between third base and the outfield. It was an area where it was not unusual for right-handed batters to hit foul balls. At one point, shortly after our arrival at the game, a ball was hit a few rows behind us. Everyone in that area of the stands rose to their feet and made a collective noise as if the ball was directed exactly at them. My dad liked that furor so much that he cupped his hands around his mouth and started chanting, “We want a foul.”

Oh my, I thought to my little self at the time, who in the world screams out for a foul ball to hit? I nudged my dad and told him that people don’t usually do that. Yes, it’s nice to catch a foul ball and go home with a genuine souvenir but that is not the central focus of the game, I gently explained. I told him we want base hits and home runs and that is what we really wanted to see. He looked like he understood but I could tell that he still wanted more foul balls and he really wanted them for me and my brother.

Later on that year we went to another game and this one was in the Polo Grounds where the Mets played before Shea Stadium was built. The Mets lost 3–0. It was a game against the Cincinnati Reds and Joe Nuxhall pitched a great game for the Reds.

Gil Hodges was playing first base for the Mets, Choo-Choo Coleman was the catcher, and Duke Snider was somewhere in the outfield. And this is the thing I remember most: 18-year-old Ed Kranepool was playing right field. I was enamored by that because I thought that major league baseball is played by grown men in their 20s and 30s, but there was a guy on the Mets less than ten years older than me and he was on the field.

It doesn’t matter to me anymore who wins or loses games unless of course, FanDuel is involved—but that’s another story entirely. Part of me still gets a slight lift when I hear that the Mets won a game. I told my wife the other day that I’m looking forward to next week’s chol ha’moed game at Citi Field, not because I need or want to see another game but because I want to watch our grandchildren all together watching the game.

I know that it will be more memorable if the Mets win. I’m not sure where our seats are but I do hope that a ball is hit in our direction and one of the kids catches it. But I won’t be yelling for foul balls and I’m not going to be breaking up pieces of matzah or peeling any eggs. 

Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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