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If It's Good Enough For Sandy Koufax, It's Good Enough For Me

Almost exactly thirty-eight years ago to the day, October 6, 1965 was to be the first game of the World Series between the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers.

And Dodger ace Sandy Koufax, perhaps the best-known Jewish athlete of his generation, was supposed to start.

But October 6 was also Yom Kippur, and though Koufax was not a very observant Jew, he felt it important as a representative of the Jewish people in the world of sports, a world in which Jews are a tiny minority, to set an example, so he went to services at a small suburban synagogue in Minneapolis.

And so, tomorrow, I too, though I am not a very observant Jew, will spend the Kol Nidre (that's the Yom Kippur evening service), perhaps the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, at services. Howard and Jon will join me, and only after that, will we see the end of tomorrow's decisive game five in the Division Series.

Oh, here's the kicker to the Koufax story. The Dodgers' other ace pitcher, Don Drysdale, who had won twenty-three games in the regular season, was tabbed to start the game that Koufax was missing.

In the third inning, the Twins blasted him for six runs, and losing 7-1, Dodger manager Walter Alston came to the mound to take Drysdale out.

"Hey, Skip," Drysdale told Alston. "Bet you wish I was Jewish today, too."

That World Series went seven games, and it was Sandy Koufax, throwing his second shutout of the series, who won the 1965 World Championship for the Dodgers.

May Koufax' example, both in baseball and the one I am following tomorrow, rub off on the Cubs and Kerry Wood, tomorrow night in Atlanta, scheduled for 6:30 CT, the very same time as the service is scheduled.

Today's agonizingly slow, three-hour, forty-minute, funeral-dirge of a game, a 6-4 loss to the Braves in game four of the Division Series, tying the series at two, didn't have to end that way.

On so many occasions today, Cub pitchers were within one pitch of getting out of an inning, and then disaster hit, and twice in the form of Chipper Jones two-run homers (By the way, did you know that Chipper's real name is Larry Wayne Jones? And that he positively hates being called that? So if you are going to tomorrow's game in Atlanta, make sure you yell "Laaaaaaaarrrrrrrry" at him real loud!), and that was it, for the most part.

Jones did become only the second player to homer from both sides of the plate in a postseason game (Bernie Williams for the Yankees in 1995 was the first).

Sure, I'm compressing this game which was played on an absolutely gorgeous fall afternoon -- even the sunset seemed to be a portent of good things to come in the Cub ninth inning, and even though John Smoltz was throwing 96 MPH on the Cubs' new speed-pitch meter (and I think that might be a mile or two slow), the Cubs seemed to be able to hit him almost at will. Even Sammy Sosa's last-out flyball to the warning track, was hit to the deepest part of the park.

Really, the bullpen didn't do a bad job, considering that the only poor performance was turned in by Mark Guthrie, who had to come into the game at the last minute due to Kyle Farnsworth slipping as he fielded Robert Fick's bunt (and threw him out anyway). It wasn't a bad move, either -- normally Jones has much more power from the left side (25 HR in 434 at-bats hitting lefty, only 2 HR in 121 at-bats hitting righty during the regular season, and that's pretty much his career pattern), but Guthrie got a fastball up on a 3-2 pitch, and even when it was hit, it didn't look as if it were going out, not right away, anyway.

We tried all the superstitions. Same spigot at the 7-11 for my Super Big Gulp (and trust me, those are NOT good ideas on cold days; you just have to keep running to the bathroom); same sweatshirt, cap and T-shirt as yesterday (yes, I changed underwear); Holly (who wasn't even supposed to be there, getting a ticket at the last minute from her friend Linda, who was very sick today) came by and said hello, which has been good luck every day since September 1; Trish passed out toothpicks again (and man, do those taste awful after nine long innings), and many people were seen in the bleachers wearing fake Matt Clement chin hair. By the time we got inside, everyone was all out of the chin whiskers, which would have looked stupid over my goatee anyway. I even saw a guy outside the park before we got in who had a full beard except for right on his chin -- kind of the anti-Clement look.

Plus, we have now determined exactly who Clement looks like. It's not Abe Lincoln.

It's either Fred Ziffel from the TV show "Green Acres" or, perhaps Maynard G. Krebs, as played by Bob Denver in "Dobie Gillis". Either way, it's a bizarre look, combined with the high socks that Clement always wears.

So of the stat that I quoted earlier today:

"...of the 30 pitchers who have started postseason games since 1999 on three days' rest, only four have won (4-16, 6.39 ERA)."

... well, caps off to Russ Ortiz, who became the fifth out of 31 such pitchers to win. He threw much better than he did on Tuesday, though I also think Cub hitters were a bit overanxious, and I'd rather have had just about anyone but Doug Glanville up to hit for Paul Bako when Ortiz was finally lifted for Ray King, and Glanville predictably hit into a DP, though the right side of the infield was wide open for a drag bunt. Let us hope that's Glanville's last at-bat in a Cub uniform.

I do not think Mike Hampton, who also qualifies under the three-days-rest scenario, will be as lucky, or as good, as Ortiz, and Kerry Wood, pitching on normal rest, has been almost as hot as Mark Prior. Though there may not be as many Cub fans in Atlanta tomorrow as there were last week, I'd still expect a fairly large contingent, and you can be sure they'll be vocal and loud, and if the Cubs can pounce on Hampton early in the game, that'll take the Braves portion of the crowd right out of the game. That's kind of what the Atlanta early rallies did to us today, plus the somnolent pace of the game; today's crowd somehow didn't seem as up as last night's, until the ninth-inning rally.

Mayor Daley was supposed to be at today's game. He was also at Wednesday's game in Atlanta, another loss. I have often written about the mayor here, and as you may know, I'm not that fond of him. But this has nothing to do with that -- my request here for him to stay away from the rest of the playoffs has to do strictly with the fact that he's an unabashed White Sox fan.

Mr. Mayor -- we know you love the city and want the best for it. To help us out, please watch the rest of the playoffs on TV. Thank you.

Mike said to me before the game, "I'm sick of drama, I want a blowout." Well, he almost got one, but for the wrong team. Just before the ninth, he said, "I've changed my mind, I'll take drama!" And, he nearly got it.

As for me, I'll take as many dramatic wins as it takes. My heart is strong. I can take it. We can all take it.

Carole & Ernie, who sat in the terrace last Saturday for the clincher, were down the LF line today. We figured that was safe, but with the loss, Ernie now has to be re-banned for the rest of the playoffs. Sorry, my friend. Take one for the team.

So will I, tomorrow. Magic is still in the air. Hope lives. Go Cubs. Let's win it.